Cotton made in Africa

In order to preserve basic natural resources on our planet for future generations, strong efforts must be made. A key task lies in making globalization socially and environmentally acceptable and in having people from third-world countries benefit from globalization processes and worldwide trade through partnership-based, sustainable projects. One of the most important challenges, therefore, consists in providing sustainable developing and living perspectives for the people living in African countries.

By establishing Aid by Trade Foundation in 2005, Dr. Michael Otto, CEO of the Otto Group, emphasized business responsibility for a sustainable global development. The exclusive and direct purpose of this foundation is to promote the cultivation of sustainable agricultural and forestry products in developing countries. A particularly innovative approach, as it is a market-oriented form of support, intended to be self-sufficient in the long run. Presupposing that developing countries possess high quality products that haven’t been given adequate sales opportunities on the world market yet, the foundation’s basic philosophy is: „Retail trade can help combat poverty.“ This approach will produce results as soon as companies, government organisations and NGOs unite as well as manufacturers, retailers and consumers join forces.

Development cooperation of the Aid by Trade Foundation (formerly FSAF) is based on supporting local and sustainable cultivation of agricultural and forestry products in developing countries. The projects funded by the foundation are to create the environmental, social, technological, political and economic framework conditions that are required to produce, process and sell such products. By pooling demand in industrialised countries for sustainable products from developing countries, retail companies, consumers and manufacturers can jointly trigger long-term improvements. Demand for such products is to be stimulated by introducing and marketing related labels in international law and commerce.

The latest project of the Aid by Trade foundation is called „Cotton made in Africa“. This is a public-private partnership project. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the German DEG [investment and development agency] have joined forces with the NGOs WWF and German Agro Action as well as with large retail companies to promote sales of sustainably grown cotton from Africa.

In cooperation with other business partners, the Otto Group forms part of a corporate demand alliance. Participating companies are to order cotton of the quality „Cotton made in Africa“ from the relevant procurement markets. Simultaneously, GTZ and DEG, working with local cotton dealers and cooperatives, are getting sustainable cotton farming under way in the three pilot countries of Benin, Burkina Faso and Zambia. In this context, sustainability means: 
- better protection of the environment and the health of the cotton farmers through efficient and professional use of fertilisers and pesticides;
- promoting school attendance of children and education as an important means of furthering development and fighting poverty and;
- increasing incomes of smallholders, mainly through better yields and by preventing debt, because fewer credits will have to be raised for fertilisers and pesticides.

Three pilot projects are currently under way. In Benin about 9,000 small farmers have received training to date, while the training measures kicked off in Burkina Faso last year are targeting around 17,000 cotton growers. In Zambia the cotton trading company Dunavant launched its YIELD Programme (Yield Improvement through Empowerment, Learning and Discipline) in November 2005, aimed at generating higher earnings by introducing sustainable agricultural methods. So far, training activities in Zambia have reached a total of 60,000 farmers. Initial effects are already evident: the yields of Zambian farmers taking part in the project are between 46 and 163 percent greater than the average yields of other farmers, while their earnings lie anywhere from 62 to 253 percent higher than the average gross profit of growers not participating in the project.

Assuming that average families in these regions number eight to ten persons, this PPP project will improve the living conditions of 1.2 million people in Benin, Burkina Faso and Zambia.

Source: www.otto.com and www.gtz.de


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