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August 29th, 2012

Cotton Initiatives Form a New Partnership to Bring Greater Sustainability to Smallholder Farmers

We were more than elated to hear that Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)  and our partners, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) have joined forces in support of more sustainable African cotton. As you may know we are campaigning for more trade of African cotton tees (see our report from our catwalk show in conjunction with Ubuntu Project in February on the Vauxhall Fashion Scout London FashionWeek catwalk and look out for further news on this campaign this September). Through the campaign we aim to encourage a reduction of subsidies that richer countries receive that developing, poorer African countries do not which affects their competitive edge and forces more smallholder farmers to remain in poverty.

So just a few weeks back, The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), have signed an interim partnership agreement that should see increased effectiveness and efficiency in promoting greater sustainability to African smallholder farmers as well as delivering sustainable solutions for the textile and fashion industry in Europe and North America.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) exists in order to respond to the current impacts of cotton production worldwide. BCI promotes measurable improvements in the key environmental and social impacts of cotton cultivation worldwide to make it more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. Since 2005, the BCI has been working with organisations from across the cotton supply chain and interested stakeholders to facilitate a solution for the mainstream cotton sector. The BCI’s philosophy is to develop a market for a new mainstream commodity: ‘Better Cotton’ and thereby transform the cotton commodity to bring long-term benefits for the environment, farmers and other people dependent on cotton for their livelihood.

CmiA focuses on improving the living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers in Africa, while BCI does the same with both smallholders and large producers globally. As both initiatives have a mandate of improving ecological, social and economic conditions in the cotton industry, and share complementary approaches, collaborating made good sense.

The 18-month interim agreement commits the partners to establish “sound structures on both sides, allowing for an optimum exchange of views, ideas and issues of special interest”. Among other things, these special interests cover the fight against child labour, delivering Integrated Pest Management (IPM) more effectively, and developing pragmatic systems to connect supply with demand.

The partnership is already yielding results, as BCI and CmiA are immediately offering an attractive way for BCI members to procure CmiA cotton. As of 1 July 2012, CmiA verified cotton (from the 2012 harvest onwards) can be sold as Better Cotton. Providing an excellent proof of concept, this offer will also appeal to those in the industry who have been seeking greater volumes of Better Cotton from Africa.

Christoph Kaut, Managing Director for AbTF, highlighted that this would not only “provide immediate exposure to new markets for CmiA and Better Cotton, but would also lead to greater efficiencies and delivers benefits for the African smallholder cotton farmers”.

The collaboration between BCI and CmiA further defines activities that include an exchange on subjects like impact assessment, verification and financing models. The hope on both sides is that these are the first steps on a much longer journey to bring greater sustainability to the cotton industry.

Lise Melvin, Executive Director of BCI, underlining Africa’s important role in the goal of making Better Cotton a mainstream commodity, promised that “we will always remain committed to ensuring the future of more sustainable African cotton and improving farmers’ lives and their environment”.

We support and work with Cotton made in Africa, an Initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation because they help people help themselves through trade. The initiative aims at sustainably improving the living conditions for African smallholder farmers by creating an alliance of international textile firms who purchase and process sustainably produced cotton from African smallholder farmers for the world market. The 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 and Zambia participate in the programme. Last year around 15 million textiles made of Cotton made in Africa cotton entered the market. For 2012 the initiative anticipates around 20 million units.

Main Image – AbTF_African-Cotton – Benin Cotonou Projekt Cotton Made in Africa Baumwolle mit langen Fasern







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