The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative will begin working with around 30,000 smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe starting with the cotton harvest 2012/13. The objective here, as in the other six project countries, is to improve the farmers’ living conditions. Zimbabwe ranked 173rd of 187 countries on the United Nation’s 2011 Human Development Index, making it one of the least developed nations in the world.
Cotton made in Africa is an Initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation that helps people help themselves through trade. The initiative aims at sustainably improving living conditions for African small holder farmers by creating an alliance of international textile firms who purchase and process sustainably produced cotton from African smallholder farmers for the world market. Cotton farmers also profit from the initiative’s training and social projects. Currently around 420,000 smallholder farmers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia participate in the programme. Last year around 15 million textiles made of Cotton made in Africa cotton entered the market, and the initiative anticipates around 20 million units this year.
On the ground CmiA is working with the Cargill cotton company and the German Investment and Development Society (DEG). The Initiative estimates that the Zimbabwean farmers will harvest around 18,700 tonnes of ginned cotton from their on average 1.9 hectare fields in the 2012/13 season. Christoph Kaut, responsible for development policy at the Aid by Trade Foundation, the umbrella organisation for CmiA:
“On the whole around 200,000 people – smallholder farmers and their families – will profit from this collaboration in Zimbabwe. This is a great success for the people in the project areas and our initiative.”
Agriculture accounts for about 19 per cent of Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product. Cotton is grown almost exclusively by smallholder farmers and, after tobacco, is the second largest cash crop in the country.
In training seminars, the smallholder farmers who work with Cotton made in Africa learn sustainable and efficient methods for cultivating their fields, thus increasing both yield and income. CmiA has built up an international demand alliance to facilitate cotton sales and provide the farmers access to the global market. Partner firms such as Puma, Tchibo, C&A and REWE purchase the sustainably grown cotton and process it further.