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Cotton Made in Africa Growing in the Field and on the Shelf

The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) program is cultivating a strong following, with demand from the textile industry increasing 79 percent in 2017 from the previous year.

The growth saw around 90 million products with the CmiA seal of approval launched on the market in 2017. As the world’s largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa, CmiA now certifies around 40 percent of the cotton produced by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Around 1.03 million smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are currently working with CmiA and growing cotton in accordance with the CmiA sustainability criteria.

CmiA is an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) that “helps people help themselves through trade,” improving the social, economic and ecological living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through training programs, Cotton made in Africa teaches the cotton farmers about modern, efficient and environmentally friendly cultivation methods that help them improve the quality of their cotton, yield higher crops and earn a better income.

The organization said the growth trend is set to continue in 2018. Additional companies now on board with CmiA include Spain’s Tendam Global Fashion Retail, Holland’s Vlisco and Sweden’s Gudrun Sjöden.

Tendam Global Fashion Retail, formerly Grupo Cortefiel, is the first CmiA partner in Spain to sell shirts for men and women with the CmiA seal under its Springfield brand. In addition, all CmiA-labeled products are manufactured in Ethiopia according to the Hard Identity Preserved (HIP) system, which ensures transparency at every step in the textile value chain. Under HIP, the cotton can be traced from the cotton field to the finished product.

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Vlisco Group, the Dutch manufacturer of textiles for the Central and West African markets, is now an official partner of the initiative. Vlisco Group’s factories in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire already use significant quantities of CmiA cotton in the production of the Uniwax, GTP and Woodin brands, and the Dutch-produced Vlisco brand will follow suit in 2019.

“Working with CmiA fits perfectly with our strategy of doing more in Africa, for Africa, not to mention giving us a unique opportunity to make real a difference with regard to corporate social responsibility,” Fiona Coyne, director of sourcing and corporate social responsibility at Vlisco Group, said.

Gudrun Sjöden, a fashion brand that combines natural materials, diversity, sustainability and creativity for women of all ages in its colorful clothing, has also signed up. The brands has outlets in the U.S., U.K. and Scandinavia.

For 2017, more than 30 retailers and brands from the textile industry purchased and processed CmiA cotton. Among the top buyers in 2017 were the Otto Group with its Bonprix brand, the REWE Group, ALDI Süd and Tchibo. Other major customers purchasing CmiA cotton include Engelbert Strauss, Ernsting’s family, Asos, Bestseller, Armani, s.Oliver and Hakro.

“Our partners are demonstrating that sustainable cotton can be used worldwide on a very broad basis in the textile industry,” Tina Stridde, managing director of CmiA, said. “With Cotton made in Africa, textile companies can reconcile sustainability with profitability and contribute to the protection of the environment and to better working and living conditions for African smallholder farmers and their families.”

Income from license fees paid by partnering retailers and brands to use the CmiA brand was also up by 14 percent on the previous year to 1.7 million euros ($1.98 million). This made the AbTF financially self-sufficient, managing entirely without public subsidies for the first time.