Michael Otto has long been convinced that the principle of “helping people help themselves” can lead people on the African continent to more prosperity and security. Fair trade plays a critical role here. In 2005 Michael Otto founded the Aid by Trade Foundation for this reason.
One critical component in this concept is „Cotton made in Africa“. To this day, cotton is grown in small farming systems on the African continent. This is ecologically sensible since large monocultures such as those found in the US and China are susceptible to pests and diseases and consume enormous amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizer. However, they lack the know-how and have inferior seeds, so cotton from the sub-Saharan zone was not able to be produced competitively for a long time. This is where Michael Otto’s initiative gets involved. The cotton growers are trained and empowered to optimize their yield – and do so with ecologically sustainable measures, e.g., rainfed agriculture and minimal use of pesticides. At the beginning of 2006, three cotton companies and around 100,000 cotton growers in three African countries were members of the CmiA initiative. In 2022, there were already 19 cotton companies and around 900,000 growers in ten countries. And it is not only the locals who benefit from this. CmiA cotton accounts for 40 percent of African production and has a very favorable ecological balance due to sustainable cultivation: CmiA cotton produces 13 percent fewer greenhouse gases than conventional cotton and its cultivation consumes significantly less fresh water (two liters compared to 1500 liters). Around one billion CmiA-label textiles were brought to market in 2022, in comparison to just 20 million in 2012. Cotton made in Africa shows the efficacy of the principle of “helping people help themselves.” This also applies to the subsidized construction of schools, health centers, wells and latrines, which require cotton companies and municipalities to participate in the financing so that the projects become their own.