Africa Organic & Preferred Cotton

Over the last few years, Textile Exchange has deepened its support of organic and preferred cotton production in Africa in a number of ways. This page is where you can access the latest information on these activities.

There are considerable opportunities for growth of organic and preferred cotton production and processing across Africa, and for cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices between and within countries and initiatives. So, too, is there a rapidly growing demand from brands for organically grown fiber, with local to global brands increasing their use of organic cotton year over year. There is huge potential for Africa to capitalize on this, particularly on European companies’ need and desire to reduce their carbon footprint and support more local and sustainable cotton production.

Why Africa? Hear from participants of our 2018 Regional OCRT in Koudougou, Burkina Faso.

Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group

Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group was initiated at the 2016 Organic Cotton Round Table in Hamburg, when it was proposed that a group be established to work on the various priorities that had been identified for expanding organic cotton production in Africa and better connecting to supply networks. The group is chaired by Prama Bhardwaj, CEO of Mantis World, and currently has 34 individual members from 23 different companies and organizations with broad industry representation. The ultimate objective of the group is to develop and support the market for preferred/more sustainable cotton produced in Africa. If you’re interested in joining or finding out more about this working group, feel free to contact us at Materials@TextileExchange.org.

New White Paper
Cotton in Africa: Sustainability at a Crossroads

In light of the adoption of genetically modified (GM) cotton in seven countries in Africa, Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group issued a white paper, “Cotton in Africa: Sustainability at a Crossroads,” addressing the arguments for organic and other non-GM cotton production methods and the risks of expanding GM cotton on the continent. The full white paper was released June 9, 2020, and is available here. An abridged version was presented by Marco Paul, Co-CEO of bioRe Tanzania Ltd., on November 27, 2019 at the National Ecological Organic Agriculture Conference in Dodoma, Tanzania.

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Network Meeting | Vancouver | October 17, 2019

Network Meeting in Vancouver celebrating African Cotton

On Thursday October 17, 2019, Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group hosted a Network Meeting during the Textile Sustainability Conference in Vancouver. The event aimed to celebrate African cotton and highlight the work of some of the key stakeholders supporting organic and preferred cotton production across the continent.

WELCOMES
  • Silvere Tovignan, Regional Ambassador – Africa, Textile Exchange| Benin
  • Prama Bhardwaj, CEO, Mantis World % Chair of Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group | United Kingdom

Silvere Tovignan and Prama Bhardwaj opened the evening, presenting recent developments in the organic cotton sector in Africa and introducing the activities of the Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group.

PANEL DISCUSSION

Moderator: Simon Cooper, Global Communications Lead, UNDP GCP

Panelists:

  • Christa Suter, CEO, bioRe Foundation | Switzerland
  • Heinrich Schultz, Managing Director, Organimark & Vice Chair of Textile Exchange’s Governance Board | South Africa
  • Lakshmi Poti, Programme Manager | Sustainable Raw Materials, C&A Foundation
  • Prama Bhardwaj, CEO, Mantis World % Chair of Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group | United Kingdom
  • Roland Stelzer,          Managing Partner, Cotonea/Elmer & Zweifel | Germany
  • Silvere Tovignan, Regional Ambassador – Africa, Textile Exchange| Benin
  • Simplice Davo Vodouhe, Coordinator, OBEPAB, President, West Africa Organic Network & Professor, Abomey-Calavi University| Benin
  • Tobias Meier, Senior Project Manager Green Economy, ecos | Representent of the West Africa Organic & Fairtrade Cotton Coalition| Switzerland

Simon asked a series of questions to the panelist including:

  • What is the potential of organic cotton in Africa?
  • Why should a brand source organic cotton in Africa?
  • What to expect when sourcing in Africa?
  • What are you dreams for African OC cotton?
  • How to build sustainable business relationship between African organic cotton producers and international partners for the livelihood of African organic cotton producers?
  • How do you see the future of the organic cotton in Africa?

To close the panel, Boubacar Kamissokho and Kalo Millogo introduced the 2020 edition of the SICOT that will take place in Ougadougou (Burkina Faso) on January 30-31, 2020.

WHITE PAPER PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION
  • Sandra Marquardt, President, On the Mark Public Relations & Regional Ambassador – USA, Textile Exchange

Sandra presented the white paper that the Pan-Africa Sourcing Working Group has been working on, which outlines the benefits of organic and risks of genetically-modified for cotton production in Africa. Recommendations made in the white paper for different stakeholder groups were introduced and feedback was collected from attendees. The white paper is currently being finalized and will be published at the start of 2020. An abridged version was presented at the National Ecological Organic Agriculture Conference on November 27, 2019 in Dodoma, Tanzania, by Marco Paul, Co-CEO of bioRe Tanzania Ltd.

 NETWORKING SESSION

The evening closed with a networking session allowing attendees to exchange with each other. Attendees included regional farm group representative, government representatives, certifiers, cotton initiatives, brands, NGOs and other important stakeholders.

Regional Organic Cotton Round Table | West Africa

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Textile Exchange has found that bringing people together at the regional level from all parts of the supply network is a powerful way to catalyze action by bringing specific regional opportunities into focus, strengthening existing efforts and initiatives, and shaping customized approaches. This is what led to the launch of the Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) in Izmir, Turkey, in 2017 and 2018, and again in China in 2019. The first Regional OCRT West Africa was held in Burkina Faso in 2018 – and we are excited to be back in 2020! Read more below.

2020 Regional OCRT | January 31 | Koudougou

Agenda

08:10 – 09:00 | Session 1:

Good practices in the artisanal and industrial production and transformation of organic & Fairtrade cotton in West Africa – lessons learnt, ways forward and opportunities

09:00 – 09:35 | Session 2:

Organic & Fairtrade Cotton Coalition West Africa: Current and past activities, commitments and perspectives

09:35 – 09:45 | Break

09:45 – 11:00 | Session 3:

Workshop in three groups:
Group 1: Organic & Fairtrade cotton production
Group 2: Manufacturing and industrial transformation
Group 3: Commercialisation of organic & Fairtrade cotton

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2018 Regional OCRT | September 28 | Koudougou

Friday 28th September 2018 saw the launch of Textile Exchange’s first Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) in West Africa, held in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, in collaboration with CRS and USDA during the inaugural Salon International du Cotton et du Textiles (SICOT). The agenda for the Regional OCRT was framed around insights from the recent Market Opportunity Scoping Project (MOSP) carried out by Change Agency for Textile Exchange, which were also presented during a panel discussion during the conference on “Organic Cotton’s Contribution to the Economic Growth of African Countries”. The Organic and Fairtrade Cotton Coalition West Africa (CCBE) also held a very insightful meeting just prior to SICOT, with attendance and valuable input from a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives from many of the producer groups involved.

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Izmir-2016-Photos

Global OCRT

Textile Exchange’s Global Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) has evolved to become THE shared space for the organic cotton community to get together and learn more about issues facing the organic cotton sector, to diagnose these issues and, most importantly, find ways to take action. Since its inception, the OCRT has focused on addressing key challenges in the stability and sustainable growth of the organic cotton sector through three Task Forces: Business Models, Seed and Soils, and Consumer Engagement.

Under these Task Forces, the OCRT has identified a number of initiatives and has either catalyzed, or been an incubator for, their development. Such initiatives include the Organic Cotton Accelerator, the Chetna Coalitionaboutorganiccotton.org (a microsite dedicated to organic cotton), an inventory of non-GMO seed availability, and the OCRT Innovation Award.

Regional OCRTs

After six years of approaching barriers to growth in organic cotton at the global level through the Global OCRT, the benefits of regionalizing strategies for organic cotton has become increasingly apparent. Ultimately, the same issues and opportunities exist for all, but each region is at a different stage of development and therefore requires a different strategy, alongside designated resources and networks of supporters.

Textile Exchange has found that bringing people together at the regional level from all parts of the supply network is a powerful way to catalyze action by bringing specific regional opportunities into focus, strengthening existing efforts and initiatives, and shaping customized approaches.

Textile Exchange first introduced the concept of the Regional OCRT in Izmir in 2017, exploring opportunities for organic cotton in Turkey, Egypt and Central Asia, returning again in May 2018. The success in Izmir led to Textile Exchange’s collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services and the development of this new Regional OCRT in Burkina Faso. We are in an exciting position now where we can learn from our collective experience in other regions, tap into what works, and fast-track innovation and action!

Video Insights

Filmed at the inaugural Regional OCRT West Africa in September 2018, Out of the Box Series 2 is a powerful and thought-provoking interview series providing a unique insight into the wealth of talent, knowledge and leadership that exists in West Africa’s cotton sector; a sector that is fast gaining attention on the international stage.

Regional OCRT Burkina Faso: Opening address from Baroness Young of Hornsey

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Market Opportunity Scoping Project

The Agenda for the 2018 Regional OCRT in Burkina Faso was framed around research interviews for the Market Opportunity Scoping Project (MOSP) carried out by Change Agency for Textile Exchange, in collaboration with CRS and USDA.

 

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The MOSP is based on Appreciative Inquiry: asking questions of a range of stakeholders involved in cotton in Africa to unearth the positives in the situation and identify any blockages to progress. The results of the interviews were presented for the first time at the Regional OCRT in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, on 28th September 2018. Based on the many comments and suggestions made by interviewees, the discussion was grouped into three broad stakeholder categories looking at:

  • What can Governments and NGOs do?
  • What can the Value Chain do?
  • What can the Market do?

The key conclusion to come out of the interviews was that more collaboration is needed – along the value chain, between governments, and between Africa and the rest of the world. In each focus area above, specific ideas were discussed which will contribute to the collaborative approach. Regional OCRT delegates helped to shape the way forward and make an important contribution to the sector’s future success.

Interview highlights from four participants of our Market Opportunity Scoping Project

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Status of Organic Cotton Production in Africa

The production of organic cotton is increasing worldwide, with Africa – led by Tanzania – growing approximately four percent of the global total in 2017/18. According to Textile Exchange’s latest Organic Cotton Market Report, eight African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda – grew organic cotton in 2017/18. Tanzania is by far the largest organic cotton producing country on the continent, followed by (in order of rank) Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Egypt, Ethiopia and Senegal.

In total, there were 36,110 organic cotton farmers in Africa (including Egypt) growing 7,335 metric tons of cotton fiber on 68,540 hectares (ha) of land. An additional 2,755 ha were in transition to organic cotton between Tanzania (1,297 ha), Egypt (1,043 ha), and Mali (415 ha). Compared to 2016/17, this represents a 20 percent increase in organic cotton fiber production and a 46 percent increase in certified organic land under cotton production.

  • What can Governments and NGOs do?
  • What can the Value Chain do?
  • What can the Market do?

The key conclusion to come out of the interviews was that more collaboration is needed – along the value chain, between governments, and between Africa and the rest of the world. In each focus area above, specific ideas were discussed which will contribute to the collaborative approach. Regional OCRT delegates helped to shape the way forward and make an important contribution to the sector’s future success.