Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)
The African continent represents 5% of global cotton production and more than 9% of the worlds cotton exports. Cotton is one of the most important cash crops on the continent, with more than 2.5 million livelihoods dependent on cotton production alone. Most cotton production in Africa is by smallholders (farmers with less than one hectare of land). These farmers tend to achieve low yields and have a limited access to inputs such as water and pesticides. Quality has traditionally been seen as high throughout the continent, largely thanks to hand picking. Africa is of a strategic importance for BCI: BCI started its first operations in 2010 and now operate directly in 4 African countries: Mali, Sénégal, Mozambique and Kenya. Efficiency is one of the founding principles of BCI, and in line with this principle we entered into a partnership with Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), operated by the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) in order to allow the cotton verified as CmiA to also be sold as Better Cotton. This partnership means that we are not introducing a parallel scheme in countries where AbTF and CmiA are already delivering benefits to smallholder farmers. Most of the farmers qualifying under CmiA are now able to market their cotton as Better Cotton or Cotton made in Africa, depending on the demand in the market. This gives increased flexibility to farmers whilst avoiding additional cost structures.
How does the partnership with CmiA work?
In 2013, following three years of collaboration, BCI completed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Aid by Trade Foundation (owners of the Cotton made in Africa standard). An independent study comparing the two standards led to a ‘benchmarking’ agreement between BCI and AbTF, whereby CmiA cotton can be sold as Better Cotton in the majority of cases, but not vice versa. It means that textile companies can now procure cotton produced from CmiA-Better Cotton verified cotton companies [click HERE to see the updated list of verified companies] .
Where do CmiA grow cotton, and how much of it is produced?
In 2015, more than 700,000 smallholder farmers in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Burkina Faso are participating in the programme. As indicated in our annual Harvest Report, in 2014 they produced 346,000 MT of Better Cotton lint on 972,000 hectares of land.
Why do AbTF and BCI cooperate?
The aim is to provide textile companies and traders with increased access to more sustainable cotton. This will, in turn, increase the sale of more sustainable African cotton on the world market consequently improving economic and environmental sustainability of smallholder farmers on the continent. Ultimately, the aim of the partnership is to improve the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Working groups have been put in place to develop common solutions for issues such as child labour, Integrated Pest Management, Monitoring and Evaluation and Supply Chain.