Growing sustainable cotton provides multiple benefits for Africa

An initiative called Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) proves that growing sustainable cotton provides multiple benefits for Africa. CmiA has been championing improved living conditions of smallholder farmers and environmentally sustainable production of cotton in Africa from 2005. Since it was established 10 years ago, CmiA has delivered significant impacts for farmers and the environment in Africa – as well as a more sustainable fashion and textile industry, better informed consumers and more environmentally compatible agricultural practices.

growing sustainable cotton in Africa

© Paul Hahn / Cotton made in Africa

Cotton is one of the most cultivated crops in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, cotton is grown by about 3.4 million smallholder farmers and over 20 million people in the region depend on cotton sales for their livelihoods.

Cotton plays a key role in fighting poverty and makes a major contribution to food security in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa. But despite the amount of cotton grown in Africa, many farmers have not been able to improve their living conditions because of volatile market prices, low productivity and poor infrastructure.

Cotton made in Africa (an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation) has been engaging smallholder farmers across 10 countries in Africa to provide them with skills to farm more efficiently and in more environmentally friendly ways through agricultural training. CmiA currently cooperates with 650,000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The CmiA training builds knowledge and also helps farmers generate increased yields and incomes. The training is in line with the Cotton Made in Africa standards – Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Cotton made in Africa-Organic (CmiA-Organic) Standard. The benefits to smallholders involved in this initiative has been significant – with them being able to increase their yields by approximately 20% during their partnership with CmiA.

Organic cotton ecolabel

© Paul Hahn / Cotton made in Africa

CmiA’s impact on the environment as compared with conventional irrigated cotton is impressive – a recent Life Cycle Assessment of CmiA cotton showed that CmiA cotton emits up to 40% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of cotton fibre than conventional cotton and saves more than 2,100 litres of water per kilogram of cotton fibre compared to the global average.

The cotton that is cultivated according to the CmiA standards is then sold to a network of textile companies that has been established, which then pay a licensing fee to use the CmiA label on their finished products. By collaborating with CmiA retailers can rely on an attractive, transparent as well as verified sustainability standard and global supply chain support that makes it possible to easily integrate CmiA cotton in all relevant global textile production markets. Currently more than 20 textile companies including e.g. Puma, Tchibo, REWE Group and Otto Group procure CmiA verified cotton.

organic cotton africa

© Paul Hahn / Cotton made in Africa

From 2008 to the end of 2014, more than 660,000 metric tons of ginned CmiA cotton were used for textiles worldwide and more than 100 million garments with the CmiA sustainability seal were put on sale by partner companies. These textiles represent responsible fashion and set an example for socially and ecologically sustainable economy.

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