Awards 1999 The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organizations

The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organizations

The Winner: Traidcraft Exchange

Traidcraft Exchange seeks to fight poverty through trade. It helps craft, textile and food producing businesses in africa, Asia and Latin America to sell their goods in high-value and fair-trade markets in Britain and elsewhere. It does this by exploring these markets and by enabling enterprise agencies in six countries to help producers design, make and deliver suitable goods.

Thus rose oil and other essential oils, commanding a high price for a small volume, are an attractive product for land-locked Zambia where transport costs are high. Traidcraft Exchange sent a member of staff to Hong Kong to discover how the market for these oils operates, and passed on the knowledge through its Zambian partner, Zambili. On other occasions, it brings producers such as Neil Rafisura of Salay Handmade Paper in the Philippines to Britain and Europe to meet possible buyers and learn more about Northern requirements. It has enlisted leading High Street names, inclduing Liberty's, The Conran Shop and British Home Stores to help southern producers.

Traidcraft Exchange also enabled people from five countries to display 120 products in the International Spring Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Moses Phiri, whose intricate wirework was a big hit, said: "Coming to the Spring Fair has given me a new understanding of the market potential for my work."

Traidcraft exchange is the charitable arm of Traidcraft plc, a company well known through its 5,000 'fair traders' who, in churches and elsewhere, sell fairly traded tea, coffee, fruit and craft goods from overseas. Traidcraft Exchange was set up in 1986 to handle educational work and a growing number of requests from goods producers for help in developing their businesses.

In the early 1990s it began creating a network of partner agencies overseas which share the producer's culture. These partners in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia work with thousands of individual producers and groups.

Traidcraft Exchange helps partner agencies to organize themselves, to run workshops and to offer advice on design, quality and markets. It insists on a realistic approach. It advises producers to make things within their capacity and with materials which are locally available rather than imported. t is also keen that producers offer good working conditions and wider community benefits. In Zambia, with its partner Zambili, it has helped to set up a bureau of social accountability.

An evaluation for the British government of Amka, the Tanzanian partner said that over four years it has facilitated 750,000 worth of additional exports and 500,000 worth of sales in Tanzania. One of Amka's first acts after it was formed in 1994 was to hold a first trade fair in Dar es Salaam to alert international buyers to the rich variety of products available.

To support its overseas partners, Traidcraft has money from The National Lottery and from Britain's Department for International Development. For instance, the Association of Partners for Fair Trade Incorporated, in the Philippines, gets about a third of its income through Traidcraft Exchange, another slice from other agencies and 15 per cent from producer clients.

Less dependence on overseas cash is desirable. But it is unrealistic to expect overseas partners, concentrating on poor clients, to cover their costs from local income alone. Zambian farmers are struggling to recover after losing the price support they used to receive from the once-copper-rich government. Some were close to collapse when Zambili came to their aid, and many found it hard to pay the 200-dollar service fee, leaving Zambili fighting to maintain its work. Other partners face similar dilemmas meeting growing demand with limited funds.

One problem is that of finance for the trade which Traidcraft Exchange is making possible. Producers need money to buy materials and see themselves through the production period. Buyers in Northern markets are accustomed to paying 30 days or more after delivery. Traidcraft plc will advance as credit up to half the value of orders it places.

Traidcraft chief executive Philip Angier says: "Fair Trade is about justice not charity. It's about giving Southern producers equal access and opportunity in Northern markets. But customers will buy fairly traded goods only if, first and foremost, they recognise them as offering value for money. It's the job of Traidcraft Exchange to help producers ensure their products are well designed and highly marketable and that's why we promote them on their value and quality as well as the fact that they are fairly traded."