Cotton made in Africa Top

What we doThe initiative

The Aid by Trade Foundation helps people to help themselves, by means of trade. Specifically, the Foundation works with its Cotton made in Africa Initiative for the improvement of conditions of life of African cotton farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Côte d'Ivoire.
The initiative seeks to achieve a sustainable increase in farmers’ incomes, so it does not send donations to Africa; it works to establish stable demand in the world market for sustainably grown cotton. At the same time, the Aid by Trade Foundation is building a network of international clothing retailers as a Demand Alliance. The participating companies buy the Cotton made in Africa at world market prices, but pay a licence fee to the Foundation. At present, the licence fee is about 2.5% of the purchase price for the clothing retailer.

The licence earnings flow into the conduct of agricultural training in the growing areas, and into co-financing of social projects, for example to improve the school infrastructure in the growing areas. At present these measures are co-financed by funds from the government partners and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, the Foundation uses part of the licence fees to fund the marketing and
verification of Cotton made in Africa. The farmers’ families all participate directly in the success of the initiative thanks to these activities – that gives a significant improvement in their conditions of life.
Training of smallholder farmers

Training of smallholder farmers

Training programmes are conducted to teach smallholder farmers modern, efficient growing methods and careful use of pesticides, based on the principle of damage thresholds. That means certain pesticides are not used until a certain degree of pest damage has occurred. That degree is determined by systematic search of the fields for pests. A simple and easy-to-use tool has been developed for this purpose. That not only reduces the use of pesticide, but also teaches the farmers to distinguish pests from useful insects, and to use this for growing. Other key contents of training are the efficient use of rainwater and moderate, careful use of fertilizers, in particular the use of organic fertilizer. This knowledge helps the farmers to improve the quality of their cotton and to obtain greater crop yields. Organisation of the training programmes is managed by the cotton companies on the spot, as they are also interested in increasing the productivity of the smallholder farmers who supply to them.

Training units:

  1. Basic cultivation techniques

  2. Agricultural practices for the protection and conservation of soil and water, i.e. how to minimise surface run-off and erosion and to improve cultivation and protection of plants. That includes measures for controlled, minimal use of pesticides.

  3. Animal husbandry and tilling the soil with draught animals

The training programmes are always adapted to the needs of the participating smallholder farmers and the regional circumstances. They have been implemented since 2010 in the framework of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) and co-financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Community Projects

The Aid by Trade Foundation pursues its goal of improving the conditions of life of people in Africa through the Cotton made in Africa Initiative not only by supporting the smallholder farmers. It also runs Community Projects on a sustainable basis, establishing long-term infrastructure. In particular, it realises projects in primary and adult education. The village community can also approach the initiative to ask for support in specific ways. These projects are conducted in cooperation with companies from the Demand Alliance, organisations involved in development cooperation, and local partners, as Public Private Partnership projects (PPP projects).
Cotton made in Africa Images
CmiA graphic

Illiteracy rate (population aged over 15)



Adult education

The importance of the focus on adult education, especially basic literacy programmes, has been shown by the data of the World Development Report for many years. The Cotton made in Africa project countries are among the countries that rate worst in the results. Economic development and growth in these countries is impaired by the high proportion of employees who can neither read nor write. This problem is also apparent in the Cotton made in Africa Initiative – many of the smallholder farmers cannot make full use of the potential of training or other support programmes because they cannot make notes, or read information material or instructions.

Adult literacy programmes

Cotton made in Africa takes action in this area. The first “Community Project” for adult literacy was launched in Burkina Faso as a PPP project. The programme is conducted together with the Otto Group, Otto Austria, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG), and aims to teach 5,000 adults to read and write. A project for school building and school equipment in the north of Benin has also been running since the end of 2010. Cooperation with Tchibo, DEG, GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and the local farmers’ organisations is aimed at improving the school infrastructure and the quality of teaching in the Cotton made in Africa regions. Other projects in other project countries are currently in preparation.
Cotton made in Africa images

Establishment of a Demand Alliance for Cotton made in Africa

Training for farmers and community projects, can be realised only with the aid of licence fees from sale of Cotton made in Africa. The price of this cotton, and thus the incomes of the farmers, is dependent on stable demand in the world market. The international establishment and expansion of the Demand Alliance is therefore one of the key tasks of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
Cotton made in Africa enables clothing companies to purchase cotton from a system controlled by social and ecological criteria. The Foundation operates as an intermediary, between the interests of the farmers who want to sell their cotton in the world market, and the clothing companies that want to purchase raw materials produced in a sustainable way.

The companies of the Demand Alliance purchase Cotton made in Africa at world market prices, but then transfer a licence fee payment to the Foundation. The amount depends on the purchase cost of the goods, the quantity of cotton purchased, and the duration of cooperation
. At present the licence fee is about 2.5% of the product purchase price.

Support given by the Demand Alliance

The Initiative gives support to companies that purchase Cotton made in Africa in marketing and communication. It provides POS materials and offers attractive cooperation opportunities in press work.

Cotton made in Africa also supports its retail partners in further processing of cotton, for example in search for spinning mills and textile manufacturers. For this purpose the Aid by Trade Foundation maintains a Global Sourcing unit, available to the retail companies and production units worldwide as a service provider. This activity is supported by clothing experts who ensure constant availability of CmiA cotton and yarns in the markets of Bangladesh, China and Turkey. The advantage is that companies have rapid access at any time to the cotton they need for their local garment production.

The Sourcing department of Cotton made in Africa also regularly runs workshops – for example it gives participants from the import offices of the partner companies on how Cotton made in Africa can be easily used, without additional cost, in the company’s production and retailing chain.

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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. ...