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Cotton Made in Africa Broke Supply and Demand Records Last Year

Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) achieved record levels of supply and demand in the 2020-2021 season, with new and existing clients seeking to purchase greater amounts of cotton verified through CmiA and CmiA Organic.

The organization reported that 600 million CmiA textiles were brought to market, more than doubling the previous year’s volume. The production of CmiA-verified cotton also grew 10 percent to 690,000 tons, meaning that 40 percent of all cotton produced in Africa is now verified by CmiA. Cotton made in Africa is active in 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and supports around 1 million small-scale farmers.

In addition, the number of licensed retail and brand partners rose around 30 percent in the past four years and now encompasses some of the world’s biggest retail and fashion chains, including Bestseller, Lidl, LPP and the Otto Group.

“This year’s record levels of supply and demand for Cotton made in Africa underline how widely accepted sustainable raw materials have become in international value chains,” said Tina Stridde, managing director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, which administers Cotton made in Africa. “Textile companies worldwide, as well as cotton companies in all of Sub-Saharan Africa, have joined our initiative as reliable and strong partners for small-scale farmers.”

“Together, we have been able to ensure that CmiA and CmiA Organic cotton enjoy worldwide demand and are processed in over 50 textile production markets,” she added. “By harnessing market forces, we are able to prepare small-scale farmers for the growing challenges of climate change and to build up their resilience through innovative and efficient farming methods.”

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CmiA works with small-scale farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria, as well as in Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. With new partners in Togo and Ghana, the initiative’s network will expand to 11 Sub-Saharan partner countries as of 2022.

CmiA has also significantly expanded its textile value chain in recent years. In 2021, the network of registered partners grew to encompass 240 spinning mills throughout the world. The three largest purchasers of CmiA cotton are Lidl Group, Otto Group and Ernsting’s family.

“We are proud to be one of the major purchasers of CmiA,” Dr. Alexander David, head of the international purchasing division at Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG, said. “In keeping with our international CSR strategy, which prioritizes fair trade and resource efficiency, we aim to procure the cotton for our textile product range more sustainably by the end of 2022. CmiA-verified cotton will play a key role in achieving the goal we have set for ourselves. By using CmiA-verified cotton, we support local farmers in Africa and promote environmentally friendly agriculture.”

Anna Rensing, the head of quality development and product sustainability at Ernsting’s family, said since 2010, CmiA has been a strong and reliable partner and will continue to play a key role in reaching the company’s goal of complete product certification for natural-fiber products.

“This is also reflected in our cotton sourcing, with CmiA’s share rising by 487 percent between 2020 and 2021,” Rensing said. “In addition to its status as a long-time partner, we greatly appreciate that CmiA has proven so reliable and available in these volatile and challenging times.”

Cotton made in Africa follows a licensing model that requires all textile companies to pay licensing fees for CmiA-verified cotton to the initiative, which reinvests the proceeds in cotton-growing regions in Africa. Some of these funds go towards regular certifications that are conducted at the field and ginnery levels by external auditors to monitor compliance with social, economic and environmental sustainability criteria.

External monitoring ensures that exclusion criteria like prohibitions on irrigation, child labor, genetically modified seeds and certain pesticides as defined in international conventions are met and that progress is made on improvement criteria that target issues including soil fertility and gender equality. Licensing revenue also supports agricultural and business training for small-scale farmers.

The Aid by Trade Foundation is increasingly investing in measures for adapting to climate change and for reducing the impact of cotton growing and ginning on the climate. In one example, a carbon-neutral approach to cultivating CmiA cotton is being promoted in co-operation with Atmosfair, while in another partnership project, around 2.8 million euros ($3.01 million) are being invested in sustainable soil management.

CmiA is an internationally recognized seal for sustainably produced cotton from Africa. The CmiA initiative was established by the Hamburg-based Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) in 2005.