German online fashion and mail-order giant Otto Group has backed a project to open six schools in Zambia that will provide an education to 2,900 children of cotton farmers who are part of the Cotton made in Africa (CMiA) scheme.

The initiative, launched almost three years ago with the Aid by Trade Foundation, which oversees CMiA, has built four schools and refurbished two buildings. All schools have been connected to the grid with solar panels installed on some and equipped with a selection of textbooks.

New tables and benches mean the children no longer have to learn in a confined space on the floor. Additional funds collected by Otto Group employees have enabled each classroom to be equipped with black board geometry sets.

The project is supported by the German Investment and Development Company (DEG), and the NWK Agri-Services local cotton company.

The low level of education is one of the main reasons for minimal development in Zambia, and the goal of the Cotton made in Africa initiative is to not only teach smallholder farmers skills in growing cotton but also to create educational opportunities for their families.

"Only through education can people lead independent lives and improve their living conditions through their own efforts," explains Tina Stridde, managing director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.

Around 435,000 smallholder farmers in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire currently participate in the CmiA programme.