Zimbabwe is the latest country to sign up to the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative

Zimbabwe is the latest country to sign up to the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative

Zimbabwe is the latest country to sign up to the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative, whose sustainably grown cotton is purchased and processed by firms such as Puma, Tchibo, C&A and REWE.

The scheme will begin working with around 30,000 smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe starting with the 2012/13 cotton harvest.

Along with the other six project countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique - the aim is to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers through trade.

Zimbabwe ranked 173rd of 187 countries on the United Nations' 2011 Human Development Index, making it one of the least developed nations in the world.

On the ground CmiA is working with the Cargill cotton company and the German Investment and Development Society (DEG).

The Initiative estimates that the Zimbabwean famers will harvest around 18,700 tonnes of ginned cotton in the 2012/13 season.

"On the whole around 200,000 people - smallholder farmers and their families - will profit from this collaboration in Zimbabwe," explains Christoph Kaut, responsible for development policy at the Aid by Trade Foundation, the umbrella organisation for CmiA.

Agriculture accounts for about 19% of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product. Cotton is grown almost exclusively by smallholder farmers and, after tobacco, is the second largest cash crop in the country.

In training seminars, the smallholder famers who work with Cotton made in Africa learn sustainable and efficient methods for cultivating their fields to help increase both yield and income.

Last year around 15m textiles made of Cotton made in Africa cotton entered the market, and the initiative anticipates around 20m units this year.