Awards 2001 The DTI Award for Capacity Building in the Commonwealth

The DTI Award for Capacity Building in the Commonwealth

This award is given to a company or organisation which has established sustainable processes which spread and deepen practical understanding of the global trading system in developing Commonwealth countries, particularly where this fosters co-operation between the private and public sectors.

The Winner: ECOTA Fair Trade Forum, with Traidcraft Exchange


For many women heading households in Bangladeshi villages, craftwork is essential to survival. Handicrafts can be made at home or in small workshops with local materials and without expensive equipment. But it is hard to obtain a price which reflects the maker's time, skill and effort. There are two reasons for this. First, it is difficult to present handicrafts in a place where customers with money will see them. Second, they may not be what the customers want.

ECOTA Fair Trade Forum, which assists 32 organisations representing 100,000 handicraft makers in Bangladesh, is tackling both these problems, with the help of Traidcraft Exchange in Britain. It is getting the right products into the right shops with moneyed customers. Their four-year Bangladesh Export Marketing Assistance Programme was backed with 750,000 from Britain's Department for International Development and also by Oxfam and others. ECOTA is a Bengali word meaning 'unity' in English and standing for Effort for Craft Organisations' Trading Advancement. TX works with similar organisations in other countries.

Crafts from two ECOTA client groups won $30,000 worth of orders at the Ambiente fair in Frankfurt in the spring. Earlier, the Conran Shop bought leather boxes from an ECOTA client while Habitat bought terracotta planters from Heed (Health, Education and Economic Development), a non-profit making society which markets the goods of 11,000 craftworkers in Bangladesh and abroad. The boxes and planters were designed by Damian Evans on a visit to Bangladesh in 1999.

How the Bemap scheme has worked is like this. Traidcraft Exchange arranged for another British designer, Victoria Zeffertt to hold a design workshop for 17 organisations in Bangladesh in November 2000. She then visited ten groups and worked with them on designs for cushion covers, table runners, mats, bags and scarves, returning later to see their initial samples. Victoria was chosen because she works in the mainstream European market.

In December, finished samples were shown to buyers and designers in the United Kingdom. They made suggestions and some producers modified their designs. The final products won 10,000 of orders at the Birmingham Spring Fair, as well as the $30,000 worth in Germany.

Victoria returned to Bangladesh in spring 2001, Traidcraft Exchange this time standing back and leaving the arrangements to ECOTA.

ECOTA Fair Trade Forum and TX are now promoting a design purchase scheme. The idea is to keep on securing the help of designers involved in the European market without the expense of taking them to Bangladesh. ECOTA and TX are also encouraging Bangladeshi designers. The Bemap programme has created a demand for their help.

ECOTA clients range in size from organisations with $4million annual turnovers to others with as little as $2,500. With ECOTA's help in marketing and product development, their sales in the year 2000 were a quarter above 1999.

The Judges say

ECOTA deserves congratulation for its success in bringing small businesses into the global market and its contribution to socio-economic development, working in the deprived environment of one of the poorest countries in the world. The wide variety of support services offered by ECOTA to its members, ranging from business counselling, to quality assurance and funding, is admirable. The community has benefited greatly through employment and increased income among the most marginalized in Bangladesh: women, tribal groups and the disabled. The sustainability of the project through the new 'Design Purchase Service Scheme' and success in attracting interest from other organisations made ECOTA a most deserving winner. Traidcraft Exchange deserves special recognition for their advisory and funding partnership with ECOTA through the Bangladesh Export Marketing Assistance Project.