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What is the quality of Cotton made in Africa?

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).

How do farmers benefit from Cotton made in Africa?

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.

Why is Cotton made in Africa available in so many brands

"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.

What kind of products are made of Cotton made in Africa?

Practically all textile products, apart from shoes:

T-shirts, jeans, trousers, sweatshirts, knitted pullovers, underwear, nightwear, hosiery, bed linen, bedding, mattresses.

How Cotton made in Africa differs from Fairtrade certified cotton?

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, SAI, BSCI etc.)

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.

What is the attitude of Cotton made in Africa to genetically modified seed?

There is a current general trend in some African countries towards using transgenic cotton seeds (and Bt seeds in particular). Cotton producers expect these modified seeds to considerably improve productivity and/or pest resistance. This directly violates the CmiA exclusion criteria (No. 11, exclusion of GMO seeds). There will be no Cotton made in Africa from genetically modified seed.

What is the Aid by Trade Foundation's attitude towards the initiative "Platz schaffen mit Herz" by the Otto Company?

1. How does the Aid by Trade Foundation benefit from the “Platz schaffen mit Herz"(German for Make room - with heartfelt feelings) initiative? Donated, used clothing is collected by the Hermes courier service and forwarded via Texforcare/Packmee to different certified sorting facilities. The sorted clothing is sold. Proceeds from these sales will be donated to various non-profit organizations, one of which is the Aid by Trade Foundation with its Cotton made in Africa initiative.
2. How are the donations used by AbTF? We will use the proceeds primarily to fund our social projects in the rural cotton growing regions. Together with our corporate partners, cotton companies, and the public sector, we support projects in these regions aimed at improving the school situation in rural areas or helping women become financially independent by funding their micro-enterprises. We are also committed to hygiene measures and improving the drinking water supply of the communities through building wells as well as informing and educating the local people.
3. How much in EUR has been taken in so far? The campaign is scheduled for launch at the end of March 2014, so we are currently unable to provide any information in this respect. Information about proceeds from the donations will be periodically available on the "Platz schaffen mit Herz" (German for Make room - with heartfelt feelings) website at: http://www.platzschaffenmitherz.de/ from early 2015.
4. Won't the donated old clothing hurt the market in Africa? We have considered this question in-depth and our answer to this is an unequivocal "no". The sweeping claim that exports of donated clothing are the major cause for the decline of the textile industry on the African continent is outdated. In fact, poor production conditions such as frequent power outages, lack of transport infrastructure, poor education levels, low productivity, or government intervention in private enterprises as well as the cheap textile imports from Asia have contributed largely to the fact that no significant textile industry has developed or existing businesses had to close in Sub-Saharan Africa.
5. Why is the AbTF or CmiA cooperating on this project? On the one hand participating in "Platz schaffen mit Herz" (German for Make room - with heartfelt feelings) will provide us with potential revenue that is of course welcomed and needed to co-finance our social projects in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia, and Burkina Faso.
Moreover, as an initiative that is involved with cotton thus indirectly with textiles, we have a great interest when it comes to clothing and what happens to it at the end of its life cycle.
People also benefit from deliveries of used clothing to markets such as Kenya and Tanzania. To begin with, used clothes are a very affordable purchase option for, in some instances, highly fashionable and high quality clothes that many African consumers could not afford new. Many Africans appreciate the wide variety of fashion styles, sizes, and quality available the "Mitumba" markets offer. In addition to the customers, African traders and tailors who tailor the clothing according to customers' needs also benefit from the supply of second-hand clothing. According to estimates, up to 30 percent of informal work in Africa is dependent upon trade with second-hand clothing. A new source of employment has evolved from trade with second-hand clothes for many Africans who would otherwise have no work or only by the day.
6. Is it not a contradiction to support the cotton farmers in Africa and at the same time indirectly benefit from second-hand clothing supplies? The Aid by Trade Foundation is committed to improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers through its Cotton made in Africa initiative. We came here with the goal of wanting to change something, in particular for people in remote rural areas, smallholder farmers, and their families. The proceeds from this collaboration support our work in Africa and the social projects from which especially women and children of smallholder farmers benefit. In this respect, second-hand clothing donations can have a positive effect in Africa.
7. Is the AbTF involved in other second-hand clothing projects? No, the cooperation with "Platz schaffen mit Herz" (German for Make room - with heartfelt feelings) is the only used clothing project in which we are involved.
8. Who else is involved in the campaign? Other non-profit organizations involved are the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU) (German for German Society for Nature Conservation), and the Welthungerhilfe (German for World Hunger Relief).
9. How does the OTTO clothing donation differ from other collections? Regardless of whether the provider that collects the used clothes is a non-profit or commercial operation, used clothes are a commodity. Although many drop-off boxes for used clothes bear the insignia of a non-profit organization, only about one percent of the clothes collected from closets actually provide needy people in Germany with textiles. The demand in Germany is adequately covered and the closets of charitable organizations are well filled. Collected clothes are also sold through the "Platz schaffen mit Herz" (German for Make room - with heartfelt feelings) initiative, however the proceeds are distributed 100% to the participating non-profit organizations. Another difference lies in the method for donating clothes: Instead of putting second-hand clothes in a drop-off box as is customary, donated clothing is now shipped via Hermes courier service. The advantage this has is that the textiles are optimally protected, stay clean and dry, and thus can actually be further used as clothing. This is important in order to generate the highest possible proceeds for non-profit organizations.
Get to know more about the campaign here.

Why do CmiA and BCI cooperate?

The initiatives are pursuing several goals with this cooperation: On the one hand, the aim is to provide textile companies and traders with access to sustainable cotton and consequently increase the sale of sustainable African cotton on the world market along with the economic and environmental sustainability of smallholder farmers. On the other hand, the aim of the partnership is to improve the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This new partnership agreement extends the interim partnership already in existence since July 2012 on a permanent basis. Both initiatives remain independent organizations; BCI will continue working with their partner brands and retailers and will provide them with BCI cotton produces globally and Aid by Trade Foundation will continue to serve their customers and partners with Cotton made in Africa cotton produced in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Partnership only allows for CmiA cotton to be sold as BCI cotton but not vice versa. Get to know more about the details of the cooperation here.

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.

African cottonIn demand worldwide

African cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, using sustainable growing methods with harmony between agriculture, the natural environment and human beings. About 8% of the cotton traded in the world market is harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, and there are only very few large plantations. ...