The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative, which now reaches 1.6m people in five countries according to a new study, is teaming up with an ethical consultancy to try to boost its uptake by UK retailers.

Cotton made in Africa works in five African countries to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers through trade. And the Aid by Trade Foundation, which is behind CmiA, hopes Abi Rushton and her EthicalExpert consultancy will be able to open up new markets for the scheme's African cotton.

"This partnership is a huge opportunity for the initiative to break into the British market, which is known to be a leader in the field of sustainable consumerism", says Stephan Engel, responsible for sales at the Aid by Trade Foundation.

"The initiative also aims at securing profitable supply chains for brands and workers," Rushton adds. We've been impressed with the reach and impact of CmiA's work on the ground in Africa and its potential commercial impact for brands."

The initiative's approach of making sustainable materials available at market prices, Rushton argues, could provide a solution for UK retail to help the ethical fashion niche go mainstream and give retailers a profitable means to drive the change.

The success of Cotton made in Africa is outlined in a new multi-country study by the Chicago-based National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which shows it reaches 1.6m people - including the family members of the 240,000 smallholder farmers - in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia.

In Benin and Côte d'Ivoire, yield from the cotton harvest is currently 1,000 kg/ha of raw cotton and around 880 kg/ha in Burkina Faso. Cotton made in Africa's goal is to increase yield through training, and its success is seen in Benin where the income of CmiA farmers is 39% higher than those not participating in the initiative.