Cotton made in Africa Top

How we do itHow we deliver the value promise of Cotton made in Africa, and provide proof

African cotton is not automatically “Cotton made in Africa”. In order to get this quality label, the smallholder farmers and the cotton companies undertake to comply with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) standards in growing and processing. Compliance is regularly checked by means of verification by independent organisations.

Verification system

The verification system of Cotton made in Africa was developed together with the University of Wageningen, Netherlands, and with the auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers, the cotton companies in the project countries, and with social, environmental and development policy institutions. Verification checks whether the smallholder farmers and the cotton companies comply with the guidelines of Cotton made in Africa. These guidelines are set out in a <media 437>criteria catalogue</media> and are at the heart of the Cotton made in Africa label.


  • Aggregated Verification Report
  • CmiA Criteria Matrix
  • CmiA Verification Governance
  • CmiA Verification Process

CmiA exclusion criteria:

  • Slavery
  • Human Trafficking
  • Child labour
  • Hazardous pesticides
Cotton made in Africa image

Exclusion criteria

The criteria catalogue is structured on two levels – firstly, it sets out exclusion criteria, to decide whether smallholder farmers and cotton companies can participate in the Cotton made in Africa Initiative at all. These minimum requirements include for example a ban on slavery, human trafficking, and exploitative forms of child labour. The traditional participation of children in work on their parents’ farms is, however, permitted within the framework of the ILO Conventions and Cotton made in Africa, provided that the children do not take on unsuitable or dangerous work. Such work is excluded from CmiA, under ILO Convention 138 and 182. There is also a ban on the use of hazardous pesticides (Rotterdam Protocols, Stockholm Conventions and WHO I a/b classified).

Sustainability indicators

Secondly, smallholder farmers and cotton companies have to observe a series of sustainability indicators. These criteria do not all have to be met 100% right from the start. But the farmers and cotton companies have to prepare plans for improvements, and to demonstrate that they are working more and more in line with these indicators. Compliance with the indicators is assessed by a traffic light system, with the ratings “red”, “yellow” and “green”, whereby green stands for sustainable management. Cotton made in Africa supports smallholder farmers and cotton companies and helps them to achieve continuous improvement. For example, the initiative organises training for smallholder farmers, and promotes projects for improvement of school education.

Verification of the sustainability indicators includes among other things a check on whether the smallholder farmers use appropriate farming methods to conserve soil and groundwater, and use pesticides in a moderate way and keep them in accordance with the requirements. These measures include for example the use of crop rotation, i.e. the farmers grow a sequence of different crops on their land in order to prevent leaching of the soil and to minimise the occurrence of pests. The sustainability indicators also include prompt payments by the cotton companies to the farmers, and their support for community programmes. In ginning facilities, too, the primary concern is the rights of workers, including the many seasonal workers. Those rights include a proper contract of employment and maintenance of adequate health and safety practices, such as wearing of dust masks.
Cotton made in Africa images
CmiA graphic


Every two years, cotton companies and smallholder farmers producing Cotton made in Africa are checked by independent verification companies (at present EcoCert and AfriCert). For the purpose of this verification process, the cotton company and the smallholder farmers working with it are considered together as the “management unit”. A great many data can be acquired and checked in a concentrated way via the cotton company, which makes verification more efficient and cuts cost. For example, data on deliveries of pesticides, and payment of the farmers. To improve sustainability, the Management Unit together with the verifier sets up a management plan. This plan determines the improvements to be made by the time of the next verification, and how that is to be achieved, and defines what support Cotton made in Africa will provide, for example in the form of training programmes.

Impact monitoring

The social, ecological and economic value generated by Cotton made in Africa is determined in impact monitoring, separately from verification. This monitoring shows the long-term impact of participation in the Cotton made in Africa Initiative on the lives of the participating farmers’ families and their local conditions. It uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, to determine changes in indicators such as the following:
  • Social aspects: These include the percentage of children that attend school or complete at least primary school.
  • Ecological aspects: These include checking the quality of the farming soils.
  • Economic aspects: These include development of incomes of farmers’ families.
  • Food security: Includes sufficient supply of food (quality, quantity and nutritional variety)
Cotton made in Africa images
Teaser Milestones

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. ...