Aid by Trade Foundation
Service Provider in Hamburg
In many parts of the world, cotton is cultivated on huge fields, harvested completely by machine, and frequently subsidised. However, the cotton industry in Africa consists almost exclusively of smallholder farmers who grow cotton in rotation with other crops on small fields – one to three hectares in size – harvesting it all by hand. Productivity is often exceedingly poor for a variety of reasons, such as difficult climate conditions, low seed quality, the loss of soil fertility, and a lack of knowledge about methods of sustainable cotton production. This leaves families barely able to survive on their cotton sales. In addition, African cotton is at a disadvantage on the international market due to poor market connections and a disadvantageous political terrain. At the World Trade Organisation’s 2003 conference in Cancún, this conflict culminated in a protest by four African countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali—against prevailing cotton subsidies.
This inequality led Prof. Dr. Michael Otto, an entrepreneur and philanthropist from Hamburg, to found the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) in 2005. The AbTF is a foundation under German civil law, based in Hamburg. Its objective is to help people to help themselves through trade in order to promote sustainable development, protect the environment, and secure a better future for coming generations. With the support of various partners from the worlds of business, politics, science, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the foundation aims to forge an international alliance of fashion brands and retailers that source Cotton made in Africa certified raw cotton, has it processed into textiles, and pays a licensing fee to use its seal.
Cotton made in Africa then reinvests this licensing revenue in the cotton-growing regions of Sub-Saharan Africa in accordance with social business principles. Experts train the smallholder farmers in efficient and environmentally friendly cultivation methods that help them increase the quality and yield of their cotton, improve their living and working conditions, and protect their health and the environment.