Cotton in Africa is Getting More and More Sustainable

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Cotton made in Africa made strides in 2016 in its mission to make cotton growing in sub-Saharan Africa more sustainable year after year, while improving the lives of smallholder farmers and their families.

As the largest program for sustainable cotton from Africa, the organization certified 30 percent of cotton production in sub-Saharan Africa last year. Growing demand for Cotton made in Africa cotton in the textile industry meant that roughly 50 million units of CmiA textile products were put into the market in 2016.

This allowed the sustainable cotton initiative to increase its license revenues by 47 percent in comparison to 2015, reaching 1.48 million euros ($1.74 million). In addition, revenues of 342,000 euros ($402,000) were generated through the sale of CmiA-certified cotton in the Better Cotton Initiative channels.

[Read more on BCI: Better Cotton Initiative Expands Globally and Vertically]

In addition, revenues from the sale of CmiA cotton accounted for almost 50 percent of total revenue in 2016, which rose to 3.76 million euros ($4.42 million) from 2.56 million euros ($3.01 million) in the financial year.

About 30 textile companies, including Bonprix, Otto, the Rewe Group and Tchibo now use CmiA cotton. Since 2016, Jack & Jones from Denmark, Asos from Great Britain, Kid Interior from Norway and Aldi Süd have joined the initiative. Fifty million textiles were marked with the CmiA label in 2016.

Michael Otto, the founder of Cotton made in Africa, said, “Every T-shirt and every pair of jeans with the CMiA seal contributes towards combating poverty and thereby counteracting the causes of migration.”

The group noted in its annual report that the share of public financial aid in 2016 reached its lowest level ever of just 1 percent. The result substantiates the motto of the sponsoring organization Aid by Trade. Based on its goals, the foundation was able to increase the effectiveness of its contributed funds by a further percentage point in comparison to the previous year, reaching 72 percent.

A total of 20 verification operations in 2016 ensured compliance with the CmiA standards and offered helpful guidelines for improvements, alongside continual training. The report said that the aggregated data from verification operations in 2016 proves that the implementation of CmiA standards was significantly improved in subsequent verifications. The reviews were carried out by the three independent audit companies, EcoCert, AfriCert and Control Union.

As part of the AbTF family of standards, roughly 780,000 smallholder farmers, of which 18 percent are female smallholder farmers, took part in 2016 and produced 320,000 tons of fiber cotton, meaning that CmiA certifies 30 percent of cotton production in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, CmiA covered a cultivation area of more than 1.1 million hectares and has become the largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa.

“CmiA has now achieved immense importance in the producing countries. Including family members, CmiA reached more than 6.7 million people,” Bob Akede, lead auditor from AfriCert in Kenya, said.

Above its standard implementation, Cotton made in Africa supports projects by village communities and provides financing. Among the projects are solar power projects for farmer training centers, water or women’s projects.

The total volume invested in cooperation projects in 2016 came to 950,000 euros ($1.11 million). The projects are implemented in close alliance with local cotton companies, partners such as CARE, Welthungerhilfe, Otto, C&A, Otto Austria and the German Investment and Development Corporation, with funds by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Also during the year, the Aid by Trade Foundation launched a “Wear a Smile” campaign for CmiA with business philosopher Dominic Veken. The aim is to help the brand achieve maximum attention among consumers without a large budget for communication measures. The tonality in the communication of CmiA was intended to be more easily accessible, with a change from “compassion” to “passion” as the goal. CmiA launched a roadshow in 2016 to introduce the movement to the various retailer and NGO partners and at the same time to get them actively involved. The main time frame for the promotions will take place in 2017.

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