15 Mar 2016

African cotton farmers, Fair Trade call for inclusive action on textiles

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office, in cooperation with the Association of African Cotton Producers, has launched a position paper at the Cotton Forum taking place in Paris calling on the European Union, G7 and West African governments to step up support of fairer and more sustainable textile supply chains that includes small cotton farmers.

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Close-up of the report's cover
Image courtesy of Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Download 'Power to West African Cotton Farmers here (PDF).

The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment manufacturing centre on 24 April 2013, put much-deserved public pressure on companies to improve building safety, working conditions and wages at the garment stage of textile supply chains. Unfortunately, the small-scale cotton farmers who “grow” our clothes often remain excluded from consideration.

In West and Central Africa, 10 million cotton farmers face an unfair trading system and serious power imbalances in cotton supply chains, key obstacles to sustainable livelihoods. Although state control of the cotton sector in West Africa has been reduced and farmers can participate more in governance, the power of small farmers remains weak. Bottlenecks and gatekeepers between local actors and the market are a key obstacle to ensure a living income for farmers and living wage for their workers. At the same time, West African farmers are negatively impacted by unfair subsidies in other cotton-producing countries (e.g. USA, EU, China) that distort prices and result in abnormally-low prices paid to African cotton farmers.

“We call on the European Union, G7 and West African governments to increase trade opportunities for the 10 million cotton farmers in West and Central Africa” stated Moussa Sabaly, President of the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCA). “Without small-scale farmers, there will be no more cotton in textile supply chains.”

Cotton exemplifies the inter linkages between the trade, development and achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which recently replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals. These goals are directly relevant to Fair Trade, a best practice multi-stakeholder partnership that, from the outset, has addressed sustainable development along the entire supply chain.

The adoption of the Global Goals by the European Union, G7 and West African governments and the implementation of public policies and initiatives towards fairer and more sustainable cotton supply chains will serve as indicators of how much political will there is to achieve the new Global Goals.

“The Fair Trade movement looks forward to working with the private sector and governments to make textile supply chains fairer and more sustainable, in particular for small-scale cotton farmers,” stated Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

The French Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Max Havelaar France and the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCa) organized the launch of ‘Power to West African Cotton Farmers’ (PDF) at the Cotton Forum 2016 in Paris to foster new opportunities for economic and institutional partnerships between Fair Trade cotton farmers, textile companies, financial organizations as well as West African and European institutions. Representatives from African and European governments as well as the European Commission will participate in a workshop, together with FTAO, to discuss the role that public institutions can have in support of Fair Trade cotton.

“Cotton farmers are the first and forgotten step of a long and complex production chain that ends in our wardrobes. Economic and institutional stakeholders must enable those who grow our clothes to make a living with their work. Fairtrade is the answer to this challenge,” stated Dominique Royet, CEO of Max Havelaar France.

Learn more at the Fair Trade Advocacy Organization.