Cotton production has been a central component of Ethiopian life for centuries. The traditional clothing has always been made of locally cultivated cotton spun on drop spindles by women, and woven on hand looms by men. Most rural people living in areas where cotton grows have the skills to process the fiber themselves.

Sabahar only uses cotton grown in Ethiopia. The main area of cotton production is the Awash valley, though it is also grown in Gambella, Humera, Metema and in the south (Arba Minch). A significant percentage is rain-fed production by local farmers on small plots, while some is grown in larger, industrialized farms. Unfortunately, there is no organic or Fair Trade certification system in Ethiopia for cotton, so we cannot say that our cotton is organic. 

Sabahar had been previously purchasing semi-processed, unspun cotton from a trading company in Addis, however, starting early 2021 we proudly purchase from a ginnery close to Arba Minch. The quality of this new cotton quite significant. Machine-spun cotton thread from spinning mills, mainly the Adama Spinning Factory in Adama, is also used.

The carded, unspun cotton is distributed to women in various areas of Addis Ababa who spin thread using a drop spindle. We work with over 80 women spinning cotton in their own homes.  The skill of hand-spinning cotton is passed down through generations from mother to daughter - usually as an income-generating activity when there is time.