In Africa, cotton is mainly grown in regions that are particularly exposed to the consequences of climate change, that are among the poorest regions in their respective countries and that are now often exposed to a high degree of insecurity due to the activities of terrorist, mostly Islamist gangs. This applies in particular to Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. And until recently, this also applied to the north of Cameroon.

Sustainability standards such as Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) can play an important role in improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Responsible consumption and production are key to sustainable development and are therefore a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 12) in their own right. Consumption and production patterns must be socially responsible and economically viable.

Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) is a certification initiative within the textile industry. It was founded 18 years ago as one of the largest private-public partnerships in German development cooperation with private companies and private foundations for an agriculture-based supply chain. CmiA, like its sister standard BCI, aims to ensure compliance with specific ecological and social standards in the cotton production process. Wherever the standard is implemented and monitored, it provides consumers and textile retailers with the assurance that the cotton in the textiles in question has been produced in accordance with the CmiA (BCI) criteria. Currently, one million smallholder households in Africa with 6 – 7 million family members produce according to the standards of the CmiA brand.

This policy paper discusses the impact that the introduction of CmiA has had on certified farmers, as well as the question of what further challenges the standards will face once they have been successfully introduced. General conclusions for sustainability standards are drawn from this. The main conclusions are as follows:

  • CmiA shows that sustainability standards not only work in high-priced niche markets, but that they can also be successful in the mass market.
  • Although cotton is not a foodstuff, the income generated from cotton can increase food security for small farmers. At the same time, the production of food associated with certified cotton also increases food security.
  • The setting of standards must be combined with support for the farmers so that they can also meet these standards and generate positive effects for themselves. It remains a major challenge not only to ensure compliance with minimum social and ecological standards, but also to achieve a “living income” for the farmers.
  • As much as public co-financing of the start-up and development phase of sustainability standards makes sense, it must be ensured that the standards are financed from the value chain once the development phase is complete. Textile retailers and consumers must finally pay the price for the fact that textiles have been produced under sustainable conditions.
  • Because the implementation of sustainability standards in the mass market and in the producing countries requires time and patience, it cannot be expected that the living conditions and incomes of farmers will improve dramatically in the short to medium term. It is therefore important to take the long view and invest in smallholder production and its environment over many years.
  • The transition from pesticide-intensive cotton production to biological pest control appears possible without having to accept major losses in productivity.
  • In order to determine whether and to what extent the living conditions and incomes of certified smallholders are actually improving, a detailed and continuous impact analysis is required that is adapted to the complex conditions of smallholder production in Africa.

You can view the entire study and the policy brief at the following link: Cotton Made in Africa: A case study on sustainable production through responsible consumption


  • Roger Peltzer

    70 years old, married, 3 children and soon 4 grandchildren. I studied economics at the University of Münster and then completed a postgraduate course at the German Institute for Development Policy (now IDOS).

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Cotton Made in Africa: A case study on sustainable production through responsible consumption

Roger Peltzer

[wpml-string context="pb-bioinfo" name="info-1"]70 Jahre alt, verheiratet, 3 Kinder und bald 4 Enkel. Ich habe an der Universität Münster Volkswirtschaft studiert und anschließend den postgraduierten Kurs am deutschen Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (heute IDOS) absolviert.[/wpml-string]

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