The Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative – Partnerships for sustainable supply chains

The Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative (SSCI) has emerged from an ideas competition organised by the Global Programme “Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains” run by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and aims to mobilise the private sector for transformation projects and make cotton supply chains more sustainable. Its first annual meeting was held on the occasion of the Cotton Week in Bremen/Germany.

In late 2021 and early 2022, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) launched four projects in the context of the Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative (SSCI). The aim of the initiative is to promote the engagement of private companies and promote innovative ideas in order to make cotton and textile supply chains in Sub-Saharan Africa more sustainable.  

The initiative presented initial results during the international Cotton Week, at its first annual meeting of stakeholders.

Cotton Week in Bremen

In the Hanseatic city of Bremen, the last week of September was all about cotton. At the Bremen Cotton Week, international industry experts came together to discuss various issues. The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Stakeholder Conference kicked off the week. The two-day conference presented innovative and sustainable solutions to challenges along the supply chain. 

The International Cotton Conference was held at the Bremen Chamber of Commerce on the 29th and 30th September and also focused on global supply chains.

The Cotton Conference’s motto, “Cotton Decoded”, highlights the enormous complexity of the global sector and the multitude of its players. For example, the topics of supply chain transparency and traceability are at the top of the agenda for the globally active companies in the sector – also because of the growing requirements the industry has to meet and due diligence obligations it needs to fulfil.

Cooperation between companies from the private sector and organisations at international or national level in the production countries can drive change in a holistic way.

Ideas competition generating new cooperation

The Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative (SSCI) is an example of a new format that paves the way for international cooperation. Having emerged from an ideas competition of the GIZ Global Programme “Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains”, the SSCI aims to mobilise the business community for transformative projects while making cotton supply chains more sustainable.
At the end of last year, four projects with high impact potential emerged from the SSCI.

The resulting project ideas are adapted to the needs of the actors along the supply chain. The participating companies exert a decisive influence on the conditions along the supply chain based on their market power. At the same time, demand and local impact are to be ensured by involving partners in the production countries. In this way, effective and at the same time sustainable partnerships have been created.

Projects are currently being implemented in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa – in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Togo and Chad. For instance, they are strengthening the organic cotton sector, promoting sustainable production with the use of fewer inputs and less environmental impact, improving crop traceability via digital platforms and helping smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change. In this way, around 240,000 people are reached in the producing countries.

The annual meeting of the SSCI is meant to bolster the network of participating companies and organisations across the consortia. In doing so, all actors are to benefit from their different perspectives.

In order to anchor the desired changes sustainably, it is important to learn from the experiences of all actors. In this respect, the SSCI forms a common umbrella – with great potential to further advance social-ecological change in the cotton supply chain.

Saskia Widenhorn, head of the Cameroon component and the Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative of the GIZ Global Programme "Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains", Bonn, Germany.

More information:
The Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative 
The Cotton Made in Africa Initiative

This article first appeared at and is part of a media cooperation between Rural 21 and One World - No Hunger.

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