In many parts of the world cotton is artificially irrigated. On global average, cotton uses more than 2,100 litres of water per kilogram.1 Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) does it differently. CmiA is sustainable cotton from Africa that is cultivated with the exclusive use of rainwater. Through the volume of cotton traded as CmiA in 2017, approximately 63 billion litres of water have been saved – enough to supply about one million people in Germany with water for an entire year. This amount is about the population of Munich.2
“In conventional farming cotton is sometimes watered heavily,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “This can have extreme consequences for our ecosystem and for the availability of water as a vital resource – especially in regions that are already extremely arid. Through rain-fed cultivation, Cotton made in Africa plays a significant role in protecting the environment”, continues Stridde.
In a global comparison, CmiA-certified cotton saves more than 2,100 litres of water per kilogram of cotton, since only rainwater is used in cultivation. This corresponds to about 500 litres of water per T-shirt.
In order to provide additional support for people in the CmiA cotton growing regions, Cotton made in Africa realises projects to foster the availability of clean drinking water, hygiene measures and sanitary facilities. Illness caused by contaminated drinking water is a frequent problem, as Melisiana Machibia reports. The cotton farmer from Tanzania says: “Before the borehole was built, we had to walk 4 kilometres to the nearest water station every day. During the rainy season, we only got water from contaminated water sources and often got ill.”
Germany has plenty of water, and clean drinking water is always available. Many parts of the world however suffer from extreme aridity. Water is a luxurious good and clean drinking water is rarely available. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to clean drinking water.
 Source: PE International
 Daily water consumption in Germany in 2016 was 123 litres per capita (source: statista).
To promote sustainable cotton cultivation and improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is providing grant funds of up to 8 million euros over a period of 4 years. This money will be used to finance support measures for 1.2 million smallholder farmers in 16 African countries. These measures will be carried out by the Cotton Expert House Africa (CHA), a nonprofit organization founded by the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and the GFA Consulting Group (GFA).
left to right: Jan Sass, Cotton Expert House Africa | Tina Stridde, Aid by Trade Foundation | Federal Minister Müller
- Credit Florian Gaertner
“Fair fashion needs to be a priority; environmentally-friendly and fairly compensated cotton does not automatically mean expensive clothing. Initiatives like ‘Cotton made in Africa’ are leading the way here. They allow us to jointly establish better prospects for smallholder farmers and their families. Our clothing should be worth at least that much to us,” stated Federal Minister Müller, announcing that the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will be providing financial support for sustainable cotton cultivation and the improvement of living conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa. The goal of this support is to increase the share of sustainable cotton produced in Africa, and to integrate more sustainable cotton into the textile value chains.
The BMZ has been funding state and private-sector initiatives to promote sustainable cotton production for many years, in part as a basis for developing the African textile industry. This support builds on a long-time partnership with the Aid by Trade Foundation and its sustainability standard, Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA), which has successfully been established on the market as part of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI). As the largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa, Cotton made in Africa supports 780,000 smallholder farmers in 10 countries. “The Cotton made in Africa program provides a training system for smallholder farmers and creates an alliance of more than 30 companies and brands that demand certified CmiA cotton for their products,” explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “We are pleased to be building on COMPACI’s success with the Cotton Expert House Africa as our implementation partner in Africa, and we continue to work on strengthening the capacities of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.”
As a social business, the Aid by Trade Foundation directs its income generated from the licensing fees paid by companies and brands back into the African project areas, financing further education measures for smallholder farmers as well as projects supporting village communities and nature conservation. In his announcement on the funding program, Minister Müller emphasized the importance of private-sector participation in the funding, with which a total financial volume of up to 20 million euros is to be realised.
The African cotton and textile industry makes an enormous contribution to economic, social and ecological development in the rural regions of Africa. In Africa, cotton is largely produced by smallholder farmers and serves as a cash crop – about 20 million people are supported directly or indirectly by cotton production.
Hunger and unemployment shape everyday life in Simbabwe. After almost 40 years under President Mugabe, the East African country's once flourishing agriculture lies broken. Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) has joined forces with OTTO Österreich (Austria) and Welthungerhilfe, a German NGO for humanitarian aid, to realise a water and hygiene project in rural Zimbabwe. Started in 2015, the project aimed at supporting especially the rural citizens. The project has now successfully been completed. A total of 20 villages have gained access to clean drinking water, and schools have been fitted with urgently needed sanitary facilities.
A supply of clean drinking water directly from the faucet is something we take for granted. In sub-Saharan Africa however, over 30% of the population has no access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Primarily women and girls spend a total of 40 billion hours per year fetching water. What is more, due to the frequent lack of adequate sanitary facilities at schools, older schoolgirls do not attend classes during their menstruation. “We at Cotton made in Africa have been working in partnership with the cotton company Alliance in rural Zimbabwe for years. The lack of access to clean drinking water and toilets is a major obstacle when it comes to improving living conditions. That is why, back in 2015, we initiated the project together with our partners OTTO Österreich and Welthungerhilfe,” explains Alexandra Perschau, Project Manager at Cotton made in Africa. The population in the Gokwe-South region is particularly affected by an insufficient water supply and poor sanitation: Roundabout 60 percent have access to clean water and a mere 18 percent have access to adequate sanitary facilities.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the project and ensure a long-term benefit, the local population was involved in the project and trained in hygiene and clean drinking water. “One of our priorities was to train around 10,000 schoolchildren in 20 villages to become ‘hygiene ambassadors’. Their role is to make sure that the newly acquired knowledge is passed on to their village communities and families, even after the project has ended”, says Dr. Iris Schöninger, Policy Advisor at Welthungerhilfe.
“On our way to using 100% sustainable cotton, we largely rely on the Cotton made in Africa label. In using CmiA certified cotton, we are protecting the environment, saving more than 500 liters of water per T-shirt, and supporting the local communities. We are delighted that our joint water and sanitation project is providing access to clean water, especially for the girls and boys in the cotton growing regions,” says Harald Gutschi, spokesperson of the Management Board of OTTO Österreich.
Female smallholder farmers in Africa play a key role in the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. These strong women work hard to create prospects for themselves and their families in rural regions of Africa, and they need to be true multi-talents – as mothers, smallholder farmers and small entrepreneurs. This is where CmiA comes in, providing training and financial support to give women in the CmiA cotton farming regions equal access to education and economic independence.
The world needs strong women. Strong women, whose self-confidence is steadily growing thanks to a special support program, are a key part of creating sustainable development in rural Africa. This is where Cotton made in Africa is active and cooperates with numerous female smallholder farmers. Female smallholder farmers are responsible for raising children and ensuring the well-being of the entire family, while they also handle the planting and harvesting of the cotton crops. This involves many tasks that require a great deal of strength, and which the Cotton made in Africa initiative picks up on by offering a wide range of support.
For instance, agricultural trainings are specifically tailored to the needs of female smallholder farmers. One of these farmers is Juliyana Kabugho, from Kasese in West Uganda. Since joining Cotton made in Africa and participating in agricultural trainings, she has altered her farming methods considerably. She now cultivates her cotton fields more sustainably and according to ecological, economic and social standards. “Due to my cooperation with CmiA, I have gained knowledge on good agricultural practices,” says Kabugho. “After participating in the training, my cotton yield has increased from 200 to 500 kgs per acre. I am happy that last season I earned enough money by selling my cotton, so that I could start building a house,” she continues.
“By supporting women in the CmiA farming regions, we can help to significantly improve living conditions for female CmiA smallholder farmers, their families and entire communities,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “With our support, female cotton farmers gain more independence, and that directly impacts their families,” explains Stridde.
In the training sessions, Juliyana has learned all about the principles of good agricultural practices – including, amongst others, how to efficiently use fertilizers and how to create organic fertilizers. Since the CmiA standard prohibits artificial irrigation, Juliyana has adjusted her cotton farming schedule to correspond to the rainy season. This so called method of rainfed agriculture was one of the things she also learned in the farmer training. Compared to usage levels worldwide, this method can save more than 2,000 liters of water per kilogram of CmiA cotton.
International Women’s Day on March 8 was officially established about 100 years ago and is being celebrated all over the world today. It is one of many occasions that shed light on the fight for gender equality.
With an exclusive event, Dibella Group Ltd and the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative celebrated their successful partnership at the Heimtextil Trade Fair in Frankfurt last week. On the occasion of their one-year anniversary, Laura Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, has created an exclusive bed linen set made of Cotton made in Africa certified cotton. At the Heimtextil Fair, she personally presented the original to the public for the very first time. The bed linen featuring a zebra pattern was produced by Dibella.
“Laura Chaplin, our partner Dibella, and Cotton made in Africa all have one thing in common: the aim of raising global awareness for sustainable cotton from Africa as a raw material for textiles, thereby giving the people from growing regions a face in international trade,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, which funds Cotton made in Africa. “We are taking a stance in the industry - for sustainability and textiles that put a smile on everyone’s face - from smallholder farmers to consumers - with this exclusive bed linen set created by Laura Chaplin,” states a delighted Ralf Hellmann, Managing Director of Dibella Group Ltd, founded in 1986. “We feel it is an honor to be able to present this exclusive bed linen set together with Laura Chaplin and Cotton made in Africa,” continues Hellmann.
Just recently, in October 2017, Laura Chaplin discovered the origin of Cotton made in Africa-certified cotton when travelling to Uganda, one of the 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the sustainable cotton initiative operates. During her trip, she followed the cotton on its way from the cotton field via the so-called ginnery, where the cotton fibers are separated from the seeds, all the way to the textile production company Fine Spinners in Kampala. “Africa inspired my designs - with its magnificent nature and colors, the earth, the wildlife and the people who I met there,” reports Laura Chaplin upon her return. As a Cotton made in Africa ambassador and designer, she wants to give something back to the local people and nature, which provided her with so much inspiration. Her exclusive bed linen set is launching her mission.
In order to check whether the cotton in the bed linen set by Laura Chaplin is made of Cotton made in Africa, Hellmann and Chaplin checked the original live at the trade fair using the latest scanning method. This method allows them to retrace that the product contains Cotton made in Africa certified cotton, thereby uncovering the source of the bed linen original.
Besides Dibella, Cotton made in Africa currently cooperates with more than 30 textile companies and brands. With their demand for CmiA certified cotton, companies create added value for more than 780,000 smallholder farmers in 10 African countries and protect nature.
Fashion Brands and Textile Retailers Back Cotton made in Africa
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) cotton is more in demand than ever before. Around 50 million textiles displayed the Cotton made in Africa seal in 2016 alone. The biggest buyers include the Otto Group with its frontrunner bonprix, Tchibo and the REWE Group.
Some 30 companies and brands use CmiA cotton for their textiles. The top customers 2016 include the Otto Group, with bonprix as the biggest buyer within the company group, Tchibo and the Rewe Group with its sales channels REWE, Penny and Toom Baumarkt. Additionally, Engelbert Strauss, Ernsting’s family, Asos, Aldi Süd and BESTSELLER rank among the biggest buyers that support through their demand for CmiA cotton. Smaller fashion labels such as Hiitu from Germany, Cooekid from Great Britain, Weaverbirds from Denmark or Abaana from Uganda also made an important contribution by purchasing Cotton made in Africa cotton. They offer an exclusive selection of products made from Cotton made in Africa cotton, ranging from children's clothing to high fashion textiles.
Cotton made in Africa cotton is used by internationally operating textile companies and small fashion labels alike. The partners thereby show that sustainable cotton from Africa is a strong part of their procurement and can be used in a versatile way. Christian Barthel, Director Supply Chain Management, underlines: “In view of the many heterogeneous buyers of Cotton made in Africa cotton, it is clear that sustainable cotton from Africa can be used for a number of different product groups.” This means that consumers can fall back on a wide range of CmiA textiles and do something good without paying more. With every sale or purchase of a CmiA textile, companies and consumers make a contribution towards environmental protection and better working and living conditions for Africa smallholder farmers and their families. “Sustainable cotton can be used for a very wide basis in the textile industry. Our partners successfully show that Cotton made in Africa cotton can lay a sustainable foundation for many branches,” continues Barthel.
Cotton made in Africa cotton is grown by more than 780,000 smallholder farmers in 10 countries of sub-Saharan Africa and in accordance with the ecological and socio-economic criteria of the CmiA standard. More than 320,000 tons of CmiA certified cotton were harvested in 2016 and processed further by textile producers in Asia, Europe and Africa. More than 100 partners in the textile value chain work with Cotton made in Africa across the globe, to implement the principle of helping people to help themselves through trade.