Bottom UP: Preventing a race to the bottom in the Ethiopian garment sector

Solidaridad, Cotton made in Africa, Danish Ethical Trading Initiative and MVO Nederland start a new project to promote a sustainable cotton and garment value chain, from Ethiopian cotton to European consumers.

Working conditions are a key priority in the new programme (photo: Annemarieke van de Broek)

During the 8th international conference on cotton, textile & apparel value chain in Africa (CTA 2019) at Bahir Dar University, the new EU funded project Bottom UP! will be officially launched. The growing interest of international brands to source garments from Ethiopia provides an opportunity to develop the sector in a sustainable way. That is why Solidaridad, Cotton made in Africa, Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands), with the support of the EU, start a project in Ethiopia to create a sustainable, transparent and inclusive value chain. The project aims to benefit 2,000 cotton farmers, 2,200 rural workers and 17,000 garment workers.  

Challenges in Ethiopian cotton and garments sector

The cotton and garments industry is the second most important growth sector for the Ethiopian government. However, a number of current challenges are hampering the projected growth of the industry and question the reputation of being a sustainable sourcing destination. The lack of a minimum wage that can ensure decent living conditions for workers is, for example, a major concern. Wages reported are as low as 26 USD per month, which is far below the World Bank poverty line.

Bottom UP!

The aim of the Bottom UP project is to contribute to a value chain that generates business growth, improves working conditions, promotes labour and environmental standards, and responsible purchasing practices in the cotton and textiles industry in Ethiopia and Europe by 2021. To achieve this, the partners will provide trainings and technical support to cotton farmers, commercial farms and ginneries to comply with sustainable practices and standards. They will facilitate direct links between European brands and Ethiopian factories for the uptake of sustainable cotton and provide technical support to factories to adopt sustainable practices. Additionally, potential international buyers will be informed about the opportunities and barriers for sourcing garments from Ethiopia and matchmaking sessions will be organized. Eventually, a consumer campaign in Europe will be conducted to raise awareness on the issues in the garment industry, but also on positive developments.

Read more about Solidaridad's programmes in cotton and textiles.