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Fine fibresCotton from Africa

Cotton from Africa has relatively long fibres and is carefully picked by hand. That makes it a high-quality raw material. It is no coincidence that cotton is a popular material for T-shirts, trousers and shirts – cotton feels soft and pleasant on the skin, it is breathable and absorbent.

CmiA cotton graphic
Cotton is a natural fibre obtained from the seed hairs of the cotton plant (“Gossypium spp.”) and comprises mainly cellulose. After pollination, the bloom of the cotton shrub produces a capsule fruit (boll), about the size of a walnut. In this period, the cotton seeds are formed inside the capsule – they are bundles of long fibres (“staple”) and a layer of shorter, fluffy fibres (“linter”). Only the long fibres are used for textile production. When the fruit capsule is fully mature, it bursts open and the “cotton fluff” spills out.
Cotton made in Africa image

Cotton yarn is spun from the seed fibres, which can grow to a length of more than 40 millimetres. Their strength and their unique structure makes them ideal for spinning – the fibres are twisted like a corkscrew, so they do not tear during spinning. The short fluffy fibres (linter) cannot be spun, but are used for example in manufacture of cellulose.

Fibre length

The quality of raw cotton is assessed by a number of different criteria. These include colour, purity, fibre length (staple), fineness, strength, and evenness. The decisive factor for the textile industry is fibre length – the longer the fibre, the higher the quality. Staple length is between 18 and 42 millimetres. There are four staple categories: short, medium, long and extra long.




CmiA graphic

African cotton is high-quality

African cotton flourishes under good conditions with plenty of sunshine and in rain-fed cultivation. It has relatively long fibres, and comes into the medium staple length category (1 1/8 inch, that is about 28.5mm) and gives yarns that can be used for a range of applications, and are processed worldwide to make materials for fashion and home textiles.

African cotton is mostly grown by smallholder farmers and
hand picked, which ensures its good quality. Cotton made in Africa has time to ripen, and is harvested by hand at the right time and taken for further processing. The high quality of African cotton is further improved by Cotton made in Africa – training programmes are provided for smallholder farmers, teaching them for example the use of modern, efficient growing methods that work with the minimum possible use of pesticides, helping them to increase their yields and the quality of the fibres. Trials are currently being conducted in Benin with the use of cotton bags for harvesting, to reduce foreign matter in the form of leftover plastic materials, which are unfortunately increasingly to be found in the fields of Africa. In some of the Cotton made in Africa growing regions, the cotton is cleaned of impurities again manually before it goes on to the next processing stage, that is ginning.

Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in AfricaThe exhibition and the project behind it

This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' worlds and transport a better awareness of CmiA's work.

The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers’ lives without visual stereotypes. The aim is in contrast to show a new image of African living environments – through the eyes of Albert Watson. In addition to the cotton harvest, that was underway during the journey, Watson has also visited traditional markets and a regional king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.

Helping people to help themselvesWin-win situation for clothing suppliers and cotton farmers

Cotton made in Africa works on the principles of a social business. That means the initiative operates in accordance with sound business methods, except that is it does not aim to maximise the profits of individuals, but rather to improve the conditions of life of a large number of African cotton farmers ...