14 days in BeninFor decades Albert Watson has been one of the most successful fashion and portrait photographers in the world. Until now cotton farmers in the West African country of Benin had not numbered among his typical models. For the Aid by Trade Foundation and its Cotton made in Africa Initiative, he braved unknown territory to photograph African smallholder farmers and their living environment. The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is showing the "Albert Watson: 14 Days in Benin" exhibit from April 28 to July 28, 2013. The show includes over 40 exclusive and impressive photographs that resulted from this unusual partnership.

The exhibit is a cooperation between the Deichtorhallen/House of Photography and the Aid by Trade Foundation. The show in Cologne was initiated by the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (German Investment and Development Society, DEG) and Ernsting's Family, a Cotton made in Africa Initiative demand partner. Additional support for the show comes from OTTO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Society for International Cooperation, GIZ). "Albert Watson: 14 Days in Benin" is part of the "Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa" retrospective shown in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen and curated by Ingo Taubhorn. In addition to the new photos from Benin, the world famous portrait of Alfred Hitchcock is also on display in Cologne. 

CmiA promotes the cultivation of sustainably grown cotton in Africa. The initiative is currently contributing to improving the living conditions of 435,000 smallholder farmers, equal, self-determining initiative partners, who produce the raw material according to high social and environmental standards for the world market. In December 2011, the initiative succeeded in winning internationally famous star photographer Albert Watson for a two-week trip through Benin to photograph the people and their everyday lives. The resulting pictures offer insight into the world of the cotton farmers and communicate a better understanding of Africa and the CmiA's work. Watson's photographs impressively portray the project's social and ecological goals without catering to visual stereotypes of rural Africa. Along with images of people harvesting cotton, Watson also visited Voodoo markets and a regional king to get an impression of the various facets of the people and life in Benin. Watson's photographs are frozen moments of real time, splinters of reality from the lives of African cotton farmers, silent observations that take the observer on a journey of discovery. 

Admission to the special exhibit costs five euros, three euros reduced price. A combination ticket (permanent exhibit and special show) is ten euros, seven euros reduced price. 

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm, with extended hours every first Thursday of the month until 10 pm, and closed on Mondays. 

Open tours are offered every Sunday at 3:30 pm. The entire programme along with texts and pictures are available for download at www.museenkoeln.de.

Cotton made in Africa cotton has a considerably smaller ecological footprint than conventionally grown cotton. The Initiative's sustainable cultivation methods reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 70 percent and save around 18,000 litres of water per kilogram of cotton lint compared to Pakistani cotton. The Systain consulting firm carried out a study on behalf of the Aid by Trade Foundation to determine the ecological footprint of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA).

CmiA cotton is grown exclusively using rainfed cultivation methods, meaning the smallholder farmers do without any form of supplemental irrigation. At zero cubic meters of freshwater per kilogram of cotton lint, this gives CmiA cotton a clear ecological advantage over conventional cotton with an index of five cubic meters per kilogram. Translated to the amount of cotton needed to manufacture a t-shirt, CmiA conserves water and reduces greenhouse gas emissionCmiA conserves around 2,000 litres of water through the sustainable cultivation of the raw material alone. The amount of freshwater used to grow cotton is measured as stress-weighted water consumption. This means that water usage in water-poor regions is given greater weight than that in water-rich regions. 

According to the study, 1.9 kilograms of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are released per kilogram of CmiA cotton lint. Conventional cotton in contrast emits 4.6 kilograms/kg of lint, 2.4 times as much. 70 percent of the GHGs released by CmiA result from the production and use of fertilizers. CmiA produces no emissions from mechanical energy used to work the land, while these account for 34 percent of all emissions for conventionally grown cotton. GHG emissions are measured in CO2 equivalents, so N2O and CH4 are assessed in addition to CO2.In trainings CmiA smallholder farmers learn about modern and efficient cultivation methods. These include the correct application of pesticides, efficient use of fertilizers, and measures to maintain soil fertility. CmiA prohibits the use of pesticides on the Rotterdam Protocol and Stockholm Convention lists and those classified by the WHO as 1a and 1b.

Analysis of GHG emissions and water consumption were done using the life cycle assessment or ecobalance method as defined by the International Standarisation Organisation (ISO 14040:2006). The ecobalance method involves the systematic analysis of the environmental impacts of all stages -- all products, methods and services -- of a product's lifecycle. These include all the environmental impacts resulting from production, use, and disposal or recycling, along with upstream and downstream processes such as the manufacture of raw materials, additives and fuel. 

The study can be found here.

GM or genetically modified cotton is controversial. Proponents claim it allows for higher yields while lowering the amount of pesticides needed. Opponents argue that the long-term effects are unknown and that GM cotton does not offer farmers any economic advantages. Many Cotton made in Africa initiative demand partners are also very skeptical.

To maintain the current CmiA standards, the Aid by Trade Foundation will meanwhile ban the use of genetically modified seeds for the CmiA label despite the fact that some African countries are have now opened the door to GM cotton. The use of genetically modified seeds is one of the exclusion criteria included in the Cotton made in Africa Standards (exclusion criteria No11). 

This standpoint remains unaffected by the partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Since July 1, 2012, BCI partners have been able to purchase CmiA cotton as members of the Better Cotton Initiative. The BCI has taken a neutral position on the use of genetically modified seeds, but the cotton produced by the around 420,000 smallholder farmers involved in the CmiA initiative will continue to be completely free of genetically modified seeds.

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The Aid by Trade Foundation has informed its partners that the verification of CmiA cotton from Benin will be suspended with immediate effect. The Foundation decided to take this step after the Benin government changed the framework conditions for the cotton sector such that the CmiA sustainability criteria could no longer be assured.

Christoph Kaut, responsible for development policy: "We regret that we have to suspend CmiA cotton from Benin, but it is important that we maintain our sustainability criteria. We are confident that the reforms set out for Benin's cotton sector will allow us to take up CmiA verification again over the course of the coming two or three harvests."

The Aid by Trade Foundation will not withdraw from the country though, and continue to support participating cotton farmers and their families in improving their living conditions. The training of currently over 22,000 CmiA farmers in Benin will continue. The community project begun in 2010 to improve the educational infrastructure in six communities in the country and construct additional school buildings will also be maintained. 

Benin was one of the first countries in which the Cotton made in Africa Initiative began its activities. Last year Benin smallholder farmers produced 17,740 tons of ginned CmiA cotton.

Sade AduYesterday  the Deichtorhallen Hamburg opened the Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition in the House of Photography. At its heart are 36 large format photographs taken in Benin that portray the smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and their living environment. The show also includes numerous other photographs taken by legendary photographer Albert Watson of such reknown stars as Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and Clint Eastwood.

Well over 800 guests came to celebrate the photographer and his new show. Watson himself was there, as were numerous representatives from Africa who were in the city attending the Aid by Trade Foundation Stakeholder Conference held the same weekend. Among them was cotton farmer Yaya Arouna who travelled to Hamburg to see for himself where his portrait was placed in the exhibition.  

Aid by Trade Foundation founder, Dr Michael Otto, hosted the exclusive preview and was followed by a number of speakers: Dr. Dirk Luckow (Deichtorhallen Artistic Director), Prof. Barbara Kisseler (Senator of Culture), Ingo Taubhorn (Exhibition Curator) and Tina Stridde (Director Aid by Trade Foundation).

Other guests included Hans-Jörg Neumann (German Ambassador to Benin), Hans-Joachim Preuß (Board Member GIZ -- the Society for International Cooperation), Dr Wolfgang Jamann (General Secretary Welthungerhilfe), Dr Michael Bornmann (Executive Board Member DEG - German Investment and Development Society), F.C. Gundlach (Founding Director of the House of Photography) and Barbara and Dr Thomas Mirow (Senator a.D.).

Singer Sade Adu flew in privately from London as Albert Watson's special guest. 

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About the exhibition

The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africaexhibition will be held from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The exhibit consists of two parts: Albert Watson's newly created photographs of Benin from December 2011 comprise its heart. They depict smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and their living environments in order to visualize the social effects of the initiative. The accompanying exhibition will show never before published vintage and Polaroid works from the famed fashion and commercial photographer. Besides two of the Cotton made in Africa retail partners, OTTO and Tom Tailor, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is another important sponsor of the project.

For additional photographs taken by Albert Watson in Benin please see: www.cottonmadeinafrica.org/albert-watson.

Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa

Sir Steve RedgraveSir Steve RedgraveThe British Rowing Champion and Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave has launched his first sports sock collection made from sustainable African cotton -- in partnering with Cotton made in Africa (CmiA). The men's sock has been produced as part of an innovative collaboration between Sir Steve's clothing range FiveGold (FiveG) and CmiA. The range retails at £8 per pair and has been on sale since 5th July through online retailer SockShop.co.uk.

FiveG, which was created by Sir Steve in 2001 and was named after his record-breaking five consecutive Olympic gold medals. The label has been committed to the use of sustainable cotton for years. Sir Steve's goal is for FiveG to continue to champion quality clothing that is produced from sustainable sources. "When I was travelling to India and Africa I learned first-hand about the issues that cotton farmers face every day." However, he compared the team spirit he experienced there with that he knew from his rowing career. "For me Cotton made in Africa is another source of that team spirit because the initiative works with the African smallholder cotton farmers on an equal footing that enables them to improve their living conditions by their own efforts."

"We are very excited that FiveG has committed to the use of CmiA sustainable cotton with its latest collection, and that it will be available in the UK just in time for the London Olympics," says Abi Rushton, Associate Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. "By expanding the CmiA initiative to the UK, it means that more people will have the opportunity to buy and wear clothes made from sustainable cotton, which will in turn help to improve the lives of the African cotton farmers, as well as the communities they are part of."

As the country's most successful Olympian athlete Sir Steve also hopes to highlight the skill of British craftsmanship in one of the greatest sport years of the United Kingdom, by producing the line in Britain: "I was proud to represent my country at the Olympics, and now I'm proud to champion UK manufacturing with this new collection." The sock line is produced in Loughborough at J Alex Swift's. The factory was established in 1895 and is one of only a handful still manufacturing socks in the UK. 

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About FiveG

Sir Steve Redgrave and SockShop's  owners the Ruia Group are equal partners in FiveG.

About SockShop

SockShop has been dressing legs and feet since 1983 and has become a leading specialist retailer in its field, SockShop was acquired by the Ruia Group in 2006. The brand supplies retailers and sells direct to consumers through its e-commerce website

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