Cotton made in Africa is of good social, ecological and of course also technical quality
: it is medium staple cotton
with relatively long fibres, and gives versatile yarns which are processed worldwide to make materials for fashion garments and home textiles.
The high quality of African cotton is due not least to cultivation by smallholder farmers and hand picking
in fully mature condition. Its high quality is improved still further in the framework of the Cotton made in Africa initiative. For example in some project countries cotton bags are being used to replace the plastic bags otherwise used in harvesting. That helps to prevent contamination of the harvested cotton by plastic remains. In Zambia, the cotton is also cleaned manually after harvesting to remove any further contamination, such as feathers, before ginning (the next stage of processing).
The farmers participating in the Cotton made in Africa initiative attend training
to learn the use of modern, efficient cultivation methods and moderate, targeted use of pesticides.
Apart from the training courses, the initiative also works together with African partners such as the cotton companies and farmers’ organisations, with companies from the Demand Alliance and development cooperation organisations, to implement practical measures for improvement of local infrastructure. The Public Private Partnership projects
(PPP projects) for example have the goal of improving the situation in the educational sector (building of schools, literacy courses for adults, etc.) or improving the village infrastructure.
"Cotton made in Africa" is an ingredient brand, i.e. it is a kind of quality label showing that the product contains sustainably grown African cotton. The label is always used alongside an existing brand or in the garment ranges of the partner companies as an “additional quality” contained in the product, and is also identified as such. Many Cotton made in Africa products are marked with a Bordeaux-red label, enabling customers to recognise it easily.
Practically all textile products, apart from shoes:
T-shirts, jeans, trousers, sweatshirts, knitted pullovers, underwear, nightwear, hosiery, bed linen, bedding, mattresses.
Fairtrade cotton and Cotton made in Africa share a mission
: to limit the impact cultivating cotton has on people and the environment as much as possible and to improve the social, economic and environmental living conditions of smallholder farmers through sustainably produced cotton, ensuring their livelihood rests on a sustainable foundation. Cotton made in Africa specializes in sub-Saharan Africa while Fairtrade generally works in India and West Africa. These two approaches do not complete and in fact complement each other.
To implement their principles, CmiA and other initiatives such as Fairtrade have developed catalogues of requirements that are similar in most key aspects and which require immediate or progressive compliance (exclusion and sustainability criteria
) by the smallholder farmers and farming groups involved. Compliance with these principles is corroborated through a verification (CmiA) or certification (Fairtrade) process in the production countries.
Fairtrade, for example, has an independent certification organisation (FLO-Cert) review growing conditions in the fields. A percentage of Fairtrade cotton is also grown according to organic standards. Everyone else involved in the supply chain must provide proof of compliance with ILO labour standards.
Cotton made in Africa has independent verifiers AfriCert and EcoCert monitor compliance with verification criteria from the initial planting of the cotton to processing at the cotton gin. Along the rest of the textile chain, responsibility for compliance with socio-economic standards lies with the retailers involved, which is accomplished primarily within the framework of existing social compliance standards (FLA
The difference between CmiA and Fairtrade certified cotton arise in part from the different business models:
In its standards Fairtrade defines as a fair minimum price for cotton that must be paid by the companies. If the global market price or local price is higher than the minimum price, the higher market price is paid. A Fairtrade premium is also added that certified farming groups can use to finance community or infrastructure projects. The Fairtrade Standards require Fairtrade cotton be traceable along the entire supply chain – which means that every link in the processing chain must be recorded.
Cotton made in Africa cotton is traded at global market prices. The licensing fee firms pay to the foundation, which is reinvested in project work, is levied at the end of the textile value chain. The foundation uses licensing revenue to pay for agricultural training courses that teach smallholder farmers efficient and environmentally friendly methods of cultivation in keeping with the CmiA verification criteria. These also improve yield and as such the available income of the farmers. Farmer business schools also teach simple business management skills which help farmers run their farms economically. Together with partner companies, cotton firms and public funds, the Aid by Trade Foundation also invests in social projects, such as improving the educational infrastructure of the project regions or supporting women’s cooperatives.
There is a general trend in some of the countries of Africa towards use of genetically modified seed
. Many Africans see GM cotton as technical progress from which they also want to benefit. Cotton made in Africa has set a moratorium on the use of genetically modified cotton. There will be no Cotton made in Africa from genetically modified seed. The use of genetically modified seeds is one of the exclusion criteria included in the Cotton made in Africa Standards (exclusion criteria No11).