Cotton initiative supports an additional 1.5 million people in Africa

CmiA farmers from CameroonAfter successfully completing verification, more than 226,000 smallholder farmers in Cameroon are for the first time growing cotton according to the CmiA standard and are now part of the CmiA initiative. Including the family members of the smallholder farmers, this means that over 1.5 million people will now benefit from the program. Cotton made in Africa has thus been able to further expand its cooperation with smallholder farmer families in Sub-Saharan Africa to round about 660,000 and currently helps over 4.8 million people.

The most important pillar of the Cameroonian economy is agriculture which lies almost entirely in the hands of smallholder farmers. Cotton is traditionally considered one of the main sources of income with which the families in the rural regions of the country earn their livelihood. However, they haven't been able to fully tap the potential of cotton growing to improve their living conditions until now. This is an issue CmiA is dedicated to. By joining the CmiA system, families in Cameroonian families can now also benefit from the income from license fees which are used to pay for CmiA cotton and are reinvested in the project regions. Training programs on modern, efficient, and sustainable cultivation methods assist them, for example, in improving the quality of their cotton, yield higher crops, and thus earn a better income. CmiA works together with the cotton company Sodecoton at the local level. 

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AbTF takes stock of its work in Africa

In 2011, the National Opinion Research Institute (NORC) laid the foundation for measuring the development and success of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) by conducted field studies in five project countries. Based on these studies, the initiative evaluated the effectiveness of its work through the use of representative surveys in Zambia and Zimbabwe: The result is positive.

The representative surveys show that the harvest results in the CmiA growing area increased by an average of 23% compared to the baseline in 2010. Only through boosting yield can the smallholder farmers increase their financial income in the long term and thus improve their living conditions on their own.

CmiA invests in school infrastructure as part of social projects and awareness-raising. Some 80% of children in the CmiA growing regions now go to school. In 2010, this figure was only 65%. In addition, measuring the initiative's effectiveness provides in-depth insight into the acceptance of training measures CmiA offers in cooperation with the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) and local partners. The farmers use at least two methods to improve soil fertility accordingly: Beyond using organic fertilizer, 80% of the farmers are increasingly focusing on crop rotation. These and other cultivation methods are not only ecologically useful but also pay off through higher crop yields for smallholder farmers.  

Read the: Yield Assessment Methods in COMPACI 2014

Independent Auditors Verify that all CmiA Partners in Sub-Saharan Africa Grow Cotton According to CmiA Standard

According to the latest results of the independent verification companies AfriCert and EcoCert, all six CmiA partner countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have successfully completed verification according to CmiA criteria in 2013. Beyond adhering to exclusion criteria, the verification certifies the partners significant improvements in implementing sustainability criteria.

"The positive verification results are a great success for everyone involved. They illustrate that cotton companies as CmiA-partner attach significant importance to a constant improvement and a fair cooperation with the CmiA smallholder farmers as well as its employees in the cotton gins," said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. The auditors verified the considerable success in training in field activities for all six cotton companies. In 16 cases, cotton companies showed improvements in meeting individual CmiA criteria compared to the previous year. Through regularly conducted on-site training in sustainable cultivation of cotton the participating smallholder farmers are increasingly implementing social and environmentally friendly practices in their farming. Approximately 90% of smallholder farmers already observe soil and water conversation. Roughly 8 of 10 cotton companies received verification that the smallholder farmers plant cotton crops in rotation with other staple foods.

A large majority of partners now meets the maximum requirements of the CmiA standards for pesticide management. However, the handling and storage of pesticides continue to be a problem in some regions, despite promotion of safety measures through e.g. protective clothing. On-site inspections suggest that in some countries, the smallholder farmers do not correctly implement the instructions provided in training sessions. This is one important field of activity for Cotton made in Africa in 2014. The cooperation between smallholder farmers and cotton companies shows itself as all around positive and fair. All CmiA smallholders now have written agreements. Cotton companies additionally provide smallholder farmers with transparent information on prices for inputs and cottonseed. After delivering their cotton, all smallholder farmers are paid after no later than 30 days. Furthermore, a total of 21 cotton ginneries were evaluated as part of the CmiA verifications. The result shows that almost all employees of the cotton ginneries, both full-time and seasonal employees, have written contracts, their pay is at least the national minimum wage, and they are free to assemble. Thus, 435,000 smallholder farmers and ten cotton companies received a renewed license to sell cotton with the CmiA seal of approval. The complete verification report can be found here: Aggregated Verification Report 2013

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CmiA supports international day of action aiming to change the fashion industry

Fashion Revolution Day 2014Cotton made in Africa supports Fashion Revolution Day taking place on Thursday, 24th of April 2014. The action day that has been created in memorial to the Rana Plaza tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh encourages people to start asking 'who made my clothes?'. Fashion Revolution Day has been initiated to create human connections throughout the supply chain. It focuses not only on the textile industry in Asia but also on cotton producers in other regions e.g. in Africa.

„Under the slogan ,Who made your clothes?‘ we do not only approach the catastrophic working conditions in the producing countries. We simoultaneously want to show alternatives and positive examples. Because we know that fashion can also be produced in accordance with human beings and nature,“ explains Carina Bischof, Upcycling Fashion Store Berlin and member of the German committee of Fashion Revolution Day. For the first Fashion Revolution Day, people worlwide are asked to wear their clothes inside out in order to change the way they look at the clothes they wear.

Cotton made in Africa helps smallholder cotton farmers and their families help themselves through trade in order to improve the social, economical and ecological living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through training programs, Cotton made in Africa teaches the cotton farmers about modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly cultivation methods that help them improve the quality of their cotton, yield higher crops, and thus earn a better income. Partnering textile companies purchase the CmiA cotton and process it further. With each purchase of CmiA-products you can make a valuable contribution to Africa’s long-term future and to a sustainable cotton production. 

The aim of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is to verifiably and transparently provide improved living conditions for the smallholder cotton farmers and their families in Sub Saharan Africa. The analysis of production data and representative surveys in Zambia and Zimbabwe show the first qualitative results such as increases in yield for CmiA smallholder farmers by 23%. However, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) like other organizations faces some challenges in measuring the success of development policy work.

In order to contribute significantly to reducing poverty and to environmental protection, the initiative focuses on measurable improvements in social, environmental, and economic standards of living. For example, sustainable farming methods such as measures for maintaining and improving soil fertility, pesticide management, or education are measured, among other things. Another key factor is the development of the crop yields.

In the majority of program countries however, there is no reliable production data because the shape and size of a smallholder cotton field can be very irregular. The prerequisite for a valid measurement of effectiveness are precise hectares sizes because only then can the crop yields and the income of farmers be determined. CmiA has now introduced wide-scale use of GPS devices to resolve this issue. Another problem is that the quantities produced per hectare often are difficult to record. In many cases, the farmers sell their cotton to different dealers or pass it on to other family members to avoid repaying the loans to the cotton company. Their yield data are thus often led by their interests and can only be verified with difficulty. Depending on the context, the yield can therefore only be determined reliably by professionally trained harvest appraisers.

Since word about the attractiveness of the CmiA program has spread, for example, in Zambia, that almost every farmer benefits from the training program and about continued support by CmiA, the selection of appropriate control groups has become a major challenge. Further difficulties lie in the comparability of the control groups, for example, by different climate zones or different seed qualities. Roger Peltzer, Program Director of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI), which works closely with CmiA in implementing and evaluating the program, explains: "Offering reliable information about the impact of our work for such a broad-based project is the result of a learning process spanning many years. Having gone through this process, we can now gather substantial results based on the representative surveys up to the end of 2014 conducted in all participating countries. In the future, it will therefore be possible for us to provide annual information on cotton production figures, socio-economic data such as school boards in the CmiA cotton production areas as well as on the implementation of sustainable CmiA cultivation techniques."

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Cotton made in Africa becomes cooperation partner of “Platz schaffen mit Herz”

Logo Platz schaffen mit Herz

The Hamburg-based company OTTO will today launch its new clothing donation system through courier delivery called “Platz schaffen mit Herz”. The aim is to turn clothing donations into valuable donations with the proceeds exclusively benefiting non-profit organizations including the Cotton made in Africa initiative

The OTTO company has launched a new sustainability project as part of its “Initiative Future”. Operating under the name “Platz schaffen mit Herz”, OTTO will offer its customers the opportunity to send in sorted clothing, footwear, and home textiles as a clothing donation for free by courier. What is so special about this project, in addition to the new method for donating clothes by courier instead of a drop-off box, is the distribution of funds. This means proceeds from the resale of the textiles will be used exclusively for social and environmental purposes.

The Cotton made in Africa initiative, which has been working together with OTTO for years to improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in Africa, is one of the recipient organizations. “We are delighted to be working with “Platz schaffen mit Herz”. The proceeds we will receive will mainly be used to co-finance our community projects in the cotton growing areas. This will help us further strengthen our commitment to the families of cotton farmers,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. Other non-profit organizations involved are the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e. V. (NABU) (German for German Society for Nature Conservation), and die Welthungerhilfe (German for World Hunger Relief). In addition, proceeds from clothing sales will be invested in new technologies for fiber production.

“In dealing with the important issues such as the conservation and utilization of resources, we started a few months ago to focus our attention on the collection of old clothes. Most important to us was to create transparency in a sometimes very opaque market,” explains Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO, the driving force behind the campaign. “That's why we work together with certified specialists who in turn have long-standing and open business relationships with their buyers.”

The launch of the nationwide collection campaign is scheduled for March 17 with initial donation results projected to be published in the spring of 2015.  

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