Training for cotton smallholders in Africa was discussed at the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) stakeholder conference

Training for cotton smallholders in Africa was discussed at the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) stakeholder conference

In order to cater more effectively to the needs of Africa's cotton smallholders, gender-specific course content for training schemes, new technologies, and the integration of cash crops must be central to the curriculum, an industry initiative has said. 

Training for cotton smallholders in Africa was a topic on the agenda of the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) stakeholder conference in Munich earlier this month, attended by brands including Otto, Sportscheck and Jack & Jones, representatives including agricultural experts and African cotton farmers.

Smallholder training was launched by the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) and CmiA in 2008. In the first phase, COMPACI concentrated on Benin, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa and on Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in the south-east of Africa, before expanding the initiative to Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The conference, which was attended by over 100 experts in the textile value chain from over 20 countries, also discussed how to achieve sustainability in the field, transparency along the supply chain, and new communication strategies for trading sustainable products.

"We have learned to listen to the smallholders," said Richard Rogers, senior program officer for global development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "The Aid by Trade Foundation has done a good job of raising the interest of textile companies and brands in African cotton. My wish for the future would be that companies would pay as much attention to their value chains and, more importantly to the farmers, as they do to the consumers."

The conference followed the thread from field to fashion, and highlighted how the increased significance of sustainable cotton and textiles is fuelling demand for transparency in the supply chain. 

"The systems required to guarantee traceability are already in place and the databases are just waiting to be filled," said Sanjay Gupta of Direction Software Solutions, which specialises in IT-based solutions for a transparent value chain.

Participants agreed that any sustainability strategy must be translated into a persuasive message which ultimately communicates the product to the customer.

Earlier this month CmiA hailed the successful completion of its water and sanitation project in Mozambique. The 'Drop for Life' project, launched in 2015, supports improved water, sanitation, and hygiene provision for the rural population in the Cotton made in Africa growing regions of Mozambique.

Cotton made in Africa hails Mozambique water project