Wear a bathrobe and take a stand for cotton farmers in Africa
Wear a bathrobe for a good cause – that’s the motto of the Bathrobe Challenge from Cotton made in Africa (CmiA). On August, 30th CmiA partners, friends and more celebrated the kick off of the Bathrobe Challenge with an exclusive event in Berlin. Namika performed as a Live Act and stars like Merlin Leonhardt or Samuel Bartz, textiles companies such as OTTO, HUGO BOSS, bonprix and REWE Group or NGOs such as WWF and CARE got together to take a stand in a bathrobe.
For the second time, the initiative founded by Dr. Michael Otto uses the bathrobe as a catchy symbol for sustainable fashion. With a great deal of fun and little effort, everyone can get involved. By simply wearing a bathrobe and posting the selfie on Social Media tagged with #bathrobechallenge and #cottonmadeinafrica during the Bathrobe Challenge in September 2018, everyone can take a stand for Cotton made in Africa – and thereby support over a million cotton farmers in Africa, their families and the protection of nature.
The bathrobe exemplifies how much cotton is used in our clothes. The African smallholder farmers who sustainably grow the raw material for millions of textiles are usually just as rarely present in the public eye as bathrobes are - outside of a wellness holiday. That’s something that the Hamburg-based initiative CmiA, which campaigns for sustainably produced cotton in Africa, aims to change with the support of prominent ambassadors, influencers, textile companies and non-governmental organizations.
Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Initiative Cotton made in Africa, explains: “By taking part in the Bathrobe Challenge, everyone can have fun and raise public awareness for the African cotton farmers who are not usually in the spotlight, but who stand at the very beginning of the fashion industry.” Since the foundation of Cotton made in Africa by Dr. Michael Otto in 2005, CmiA campaigns for the cotton farmers and their families, so they can produce this valuable raw material under better working and living conditions. „With the Bathrobe Challenge, we and numerous supporters who join CmiA, set a positive sign for the one million cotton farmers in Africa we are working with“, continues Stridde.
Celebrities - including CmiA ambassador and TV juror Motsi Mabuse, Revolverheld frontman Johannes Strate, singers Maite Kelly and Namika and actresses Marie Nasemann, Valentina Pahde and Minh-Khai Phan-Thi – already sported a bathrobe in 2017 for the first Bathrobe Day.
Further information can be found on www.bathrobechallenge.com
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) was founded in 2005 by Dr. Michael Otto as a social business to protect the environmental and to support smallholder farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2017, a record sum of some 90 million textiles bore the CmiA quality label. More than one million African cotton farmers benefit from every single textile by cooperating with the sustainability initiative.
For the first time, Cotton made in Africa cooperates with more than one million cotton farmers, 17 percent of whom are women. Dr. Michael Otto, founder of CmiA, says delighted: “Africa is close to my heart - both personally and as a businessman, I feel very connected to our neighbouring continent. When I founded the Cotton made in Africa initiative back in 2005, I was very aware about the fact that our future also depends on overcoming the big challenges in Africa. Here, CmiA offers solutions and a chance to positively touch the lives of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
On average, a CmiA smallholder farmer has a crop area of just under 1.5 hectares. In addition to farmers, more than 11,000 factory workers in the African cotton processing industry are part of the initiative. On an area of 1,620,000 hecatres, around 496,000 metric tons of ginned cotton from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda have been produced according to the CmiA sustainability criteria in 2017. This accounts for around 49% of smallholder cotton production in sub-Saharan Africa. The label for sustainable cotton stands for environmental protection and training in sustainable and modern cotton cultivation. The training enables smallholder farmers to improve their working and living conditions through their own efforts. In addition, CmiA certifies the work in the so-termed ginneries, the first step in the further processing of cotton.
In total, CmiA achieved a record amount of around 90 million textiles which bore the CmiA label in 2017. This is a 79 percent increase compared to the previous year. “We achieved a record of about 90 million CmiA labelled textiles. Sustainability is not a niche product anymore”, stresses Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “Every textile that bears the CmiA label is a step in the right direction. Because every CmiA labelled product protects the environment and supports millions of people in Africa in creating a new perspective for themselves in their home country”, Stridde continues. For each textile wearing the CmiA certificate, a license fee flows back into the project areas. Instead of transferring donations, the initiative has thus chosen a market approach. A total of 36 companies and brands currently order CmiA cotton - among them the Otto Group with Bonprix and OTTO, the Rewe Group, Tchibo, Aldi Süd, Jack & Jones and Asos. Smaller fair fashion brands such as Hiitu and Cooee from England also use CmiA certified cotton to set an example in the industry. Due to the increasing demand for CmiA cotton by the textile industry CmiA is largely backed by income from licensing fees paid by partnering retailers and brands who demand and process CmiA certified cotton. The initiative thereby puts its mission - aid by trade - into practice.
Read more about CmiA's work and impact in the Annual Report 2017 you could access here.
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).
International Expansion with New Partners
As the world’s largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) now certifies around 40% of the cotton produced by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Demand from the textile industry for CmiA cotton is up on the previous year by around 79%. And the trend is set to continue in 2018. Additional companies now on board with Cotton made in Africa include Tendam Global Fashion Retail from Spain, Vlisco from Holland and Gudrun Sjöden from Sweden. Around 1,033,500 smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are currently working with CmiA and growing cotton in accordance with the CmiA sustainability criteria.
New international partners have joined the Demand Alliance for CmiA cotton, adding further strength to the backbone. Tendam Global Fashion Retail, formerly Grupo Cortefiel and one of the leading fashion retailers in Europe, is the first CmiA partner in Spain to sell shirts for men and women with the CmiA seal under the Springfield brand. Beyond using the sustainably grown cotton, the company goes one step further - all CmiA labelled products are manufactured in Ethiopia according to the HIP system. The Hard Identity Preserved (HIP) system ensures complete transparency at every step in the textile value chain. The cotton can be traced all the way from the cotton field to the finished product.
In addition, Vlisco Group, the Dutch creator of original, high-quality textiles for the Central and West African markets, is now an official partner of the initiative. Vlisco Group's factories in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire already use significant quantities of CmiA cotton in the production of the Uniwax, GTP and Woodin brands; the Dutch-produced Vlisco brand will follow suit as of 2019. “Working with CmiA fits perfectly with our strategy of doing more in Africa, for Africa, not to mention giving us a unique opportunity to make real a difference with regard to corporate social responsibility”, said Fiona Coyne, Director Sourcing and CSR at Vlisco Group, clearly delighted by the partnership.
Gudrun Sjöden from Sweden, a fashion brand which combines natural materials, diversity, sustainability and creativity for women of all ages in its colorful clothing, has also signed up. As an international brand Gudrun Sjöden has branches all the way from the USA to England passing through Scandinavia.
Demand for CmiA cotton is greater than ever – according to figures for the financial year of 2017. More than 30 retailers and brands from the textile industry purchase and process the sustainable raw material. Almost all of them have exceeded their targets for 2017. Around 90 million products with the CmiA seal of approval were launched on the market in 2017 in total, representing an increase of 79 percent in comparison to the previous year. Income from license fees paid by partnering retailers and brands to use the CmiA brand was also up by 14 percent on the previous year at EUR 1,696,000. The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) was therefore financially self-sufficient, managing entirely without public subsidies for the first time. This means that the foundation is putting its mission – helping people to help themselves through trade – into action.
Among the top buyers in 2017 were the Otto Group with market leader bonprix, the REWE Group, ALDI Süd and Tchibo. Other major customers purchasing CmiA cotton include Engelbert Strauss, Ernsting’s family, ASOS, BESTSELLER, Armani, s.Oliver and HAKRO. Smaller fashion labels like HIITU from Germany, Cooee from Great Britain, Weaverbirds from Denmark and Abaana from Uganda are also making an important contribution by selling an exclusive selection of products made from Cotton made in Africa cotton, ranging from children's clothing to high-end fashion textiles.
“Our partners are demonstrating that sustainable cotton can be used worldwide on a very broad basis in the textile industry. With Cotton made in Africa, textile companies can reconcile sustainability with profitability and contribute to the protection of the environment and to better working and living conditions for African smallholder farmers and their families,” said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of Cotton made in Africa, explaining the success of the initiative.
In the TV-show “Let's Dance”, Motsi Mabuse has been inspiring audiences since 2007. As an ambassador of the initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), the 36-year-old is now campaigning for cotton farmers in Africa. By working with the sustainability initiative, the native South African above all aims to support the women in cotton farming and give them a strong voice in public.
Born and raised in a small village in the South African province, Motsi Mabuse is today a successful professional dancer, juror of several TV formats and owner of her own dance studio. As new face of Cotton made in Africa, she wants to give something back to her home country, to which she still feels very connected: “With my commitment to Cotton made in Africa, I wish to draw attention to the strong personalities in Africa who are at the beginning of the fashion industry. To especially help the female cotton farmers build a better life for themselves through their own efforts is a matter very close to my heart. Instead of donations, Cotton made in Africa is based on the principle of helping people to help themselves and works on eye level with the cotton farmers - a great initiative, which I am thrilled to be part of!”
On the path to more independence and autonomy, women play a key role in cotton farming. Motsi Mabuse, a self-made woman with an energy and passion she normally reserves for the dance floor, wants to build on just this: “I stood on my own two legs early on in life. My mother has always been a role model for me in this regard. I would now like to be such a role model for other women. With Cotton made in Africa, I can draw attention to a very important fact: By promoting and training female cotton farmers in Africa and enabling them to have their own income, I can help improve the quality of life for the entire family. That is why I am working with CmiA to further strengthen the role of women in the society and I am already looking forward to my first trip to Africa to visit these powerful ladies.”
“Motsi Mabuse is a powerful woman who gives strong women in Africa a public voice. Together we look forward to connecting two worlds even more closely - the world of cotton farmers on one hand and the world of consumers on the other,” says a delighted Tina Stridde, Managing Director of CmiA.
Women in cotton farming play a central role for Cotton made in Africa, the biggest label for sustainable cotton from Africa. Through women's cooperatives, CmiA supports women in the cotton-growing regions in gaining more independence, thus strengthening their role in society. In addition, the initiative supports projects intended to make women’s everyday lives easier. In trainings, village communities are sensitized to the issue of gender equality. Important measures, also in Motsi Mabuse’s eyes: “I came to Germany when I was 18 years old and greatly appreciate that I can have my own opinion, earn my own money and be independent. In Africa, where most of my family still lives, the world looks different for women. That’s why I work with CmiA so that I can help to give women in Africa the same opportunities.”
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.