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    Grass-roots NGOs Develop Trade


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2006

    © ITC/S. Marx NGOs are part of grass-roots export development in ITC's poverty reduction programmes. Here, a community plans tourism development activities in Kim Bong, Viet Nam.

    Non-governmental organizations can bring complementary skills, knowledge and commitment to trade development projects, particularly those helping poor communities.

    Often, blocks to exporting are not directly related to trade matters. Poverty, HIV/AIDS, disabilities and cultural isolation are examples of issues that can stop people from running successful businesses. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) experienced in dealing with problems such as these can complement "traditional" trade development organizations to build export capacity.

    In a few cases, they have led export development. For example, NGOs concerned about the effects of intensive farming promote trade in organic products.

    Although NGOs may not be the first partners that spring to mind when designing trade development projects, our hunch is that their role is increasing, as in other areas of development. These roles are not well documented, so we thought we'd ask around - starting with our own staff.

    Choosing Good Collaborators

    by Fabrice Leclercq, ITC Senior Trade Promotion Officer ITC's Export-led Poverty Reduction Programme has worked successfully with NGOs since it was launched in July 2002. NGOs, with their close links to poor communities, are among our partners, though not necessarily our main ones. To give an idea of the types of partners we have, we work with the State Development Corporation in South Africa and a private company in Brazil. We created a foundation in Bolivia and work with a producers' cooperative in El Salvador.

    Find a match

    Selecting the right partner is critical to the success of our projects. We also think about how partners are able to work together as an interactive network, with regular workshops or other forms of exchanging information. We ask ourselves the same questions about a potential partner, whether it is a trade support institution or an NGO:

    • Ownership: Do poor communities have a voice in the organization, in both planning and implementation?
    • Leadership: Is the organization committed to helping poor communities, and will it cooperate and communicate with other stakeholders?
    • Financial sustainability: What is the organization's ability to generate sustained income? Are its accounting procedures accurate and transparent?
    • Capacity: What is the organization's capacity to implement, monitor and evaluate activities?
    • Services: What services (including advocacy) can the organization give to poor communities or its members or its customers?
    These guidelines are in our training toolkit, which govern how our Export Poverty Reduction Projects work. The guidelines are also useful for authorities and donors seeking to introduce poverty reduction projects into their development programmes.

    The toolkit has five volumes. It includes a major section on identifying, selecting and establishing links with programme partners, particularly NGOs.

    In the work that we do - integrating poor communities into existing production and export chains - we are exploring partnerships with NGO members involved in fair trade, as they may be suitable partners to boost producer efforts and help market goods.

    Contact: leclercq@intracen.org

    Community-based Tourism in Colombia

    by Matias Urrutigoity, ITC Trade Promotion Officer For us, it was very important that the NGO we work with in our community tourism project was formed by local people to develop the local economy and that it has the support of Colombia's national trade promotion organization, Proexport. This has been our guarantee of local ownership and proper institutional backing for the development effort.

    The project centres on San Andres and Providencia, small Colombian islands that are situated in the Caribbean off the Nicaraguan coast. The islands were once part of the British empire and the islanders are descendants of African slaves and speak English and Creole, in contrast to the rest of Colombia. Their way of life is more Caribbean than Latin American and is based on fishing.

    San Andres has been very popular with business people from mainland Colombia and other parts of Latin America for its location and relaxed atmosphere. But the cultural differences have kept locals from being integrated into tourism development. The hotel chains that built up facilities for holidaymakers were multinationals based outside Colombia. Most visitors came on package deals, bringing little money to the island. Because local supplies have not always been reliable or do not meet the desired quality, many goods and services used in the flourishing tourism business are imported.

    Local initiative

    Recognizing the problems, locals set up a foundation, Fundesap, some ten years ago to work towards sustainable social development. Proexport asked ITC and Fundesap to help promote the involvement of San Andreans in tourism services. We carried out a needs assessment in the region at the end of 2005.

    The project we developed will promote local tourism services through providing beach houses and room rentals, supplying the hotels and offering horse rides, restaurants and similar facilities. Hotels, by hiring local English speakers, can appeal to the English-speaking tourist market.

    Contact: urrutigoity@intracen.org

    NGOs Drive the Organic Movement

    by Alexander Kasterine, ITC Senior Market Development Adviser Now a $30 billion industry, the organic market was driven from the start by NGOs. In 1946 in the United Kingdom, a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists led by Lady Eve Balfour established the Soil Association, the first organization to promote organic agriculture.

    Today NGOs at all levels are drivers of organic agriculture, from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) that sets standards and promotes the sector at an international level, through to local farmer organizations.

     Chido Makunike of IFOAM's Africa Organic Service Centre leads a discussion on Internet marketing for organic and natural products in Accra, Ghana, as part of an ITC project.

    In developing countries' agriculture, NGOs have a multifaceted role. They organize farmers, provide market information, conduct training and act as advocates and even traders on international markets. Organic farming can give smallholders access to these markets while improving the health and local environment of communities.

    Specialized knowledge
    Organics is very "knowledge intensive". Farmers need to rediscover sustainable production techniques, find market information and understand about standards and certification. This is difficult for illiterate farmers and those living in remote locations. NGOs can bridge this knowledge gap through their close connection with farm groups and their ability to deliver training and advocacy.

    In organics, we work with national NGOs to ensure better project design and delivery. In Thailand, for example, ITC and Earthnet Foundation, a national NGO for organics, are training government officials and companies in production and export standards. In Ghana, ITC works with local organizations to train organics companies to use the Internet to find market information and market their products. 

    Contact: kasterine@intracen.org

    Our new Organics site:http://www.intracen.org/organics

    In Mozambique, Health Links Up with Trade Development

    by Monica Yesudian, ITC Project Development and Marketing Assistant Since 2004, ITC has been working with poor communities living in endangered forests in Mozambique's Sofala Province to develop environmentally sustainable wooden jewellery for export.

    The Irish Government provided financing. Sofala Investment Lda, a private company headed by social entrepreneur Allan Schwarz, plays a key part in helping the forest communities make the jewellery and launch small-scale reforestation programmes.

    The jewellery is now finding markets, but the project lost six of the 18 people it had trained to HIV/AIDS.

    Through Mr Schwarz, ITC came into contact with International Training for Orphans and their Survival (TIOS), an NGO in Mozambique. TIOS now runs a training course for the communities in HIV prevention, treatment and home-based care. It also supplies the forest dwellers with contraceptives and dietary supplements to boost their immune system.

    We also launched a community-based tourism project in the Maputo region involving Kulima, a leading local NGO that brings together farmers, academics and marketing companies. The project aims to build up the technological and institutional capacity of local organizations and growers to supply international hotels in the region. At present the hotels and large restaurants import some 90% of the food they consume, because of supply and quality issues with local products.

    Kulima, which made its name in primary health care initiatives, has branched out into agricultural work. Its role in the project is to train 300 to 400 farmers in good agricultural and composting techniques to improve their products and match tourism standards. ITC is supporting the project as part of the national Government's strategic plan to develop tourism in Mozambique between 2004 and 2014.

    Contact: yesudian@intracen.org

    Professionals with Disabilities Export Services

    by Pablo Lo Moro, ITC Senior Trade Promotion Officer For the past year, ITC has worked with a Brazilian NGO, the Instituto Paradigma, to find export opportu-nities for people with disabilities in the country's industrial hub, São Paulo.

    A former ITC consultant, Fernando Botelho (who is blind) researched Latin American NGOs working to improve the job prospects of people with disabilities. Mr Botelho found a number of active and creative NGOs in this field. His report made it clear that, although 70% to 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed, their main barrier is prejudice.

    From engineers and translators to kitchen workers in tourist hotels, Mr Botelho found examples of disabled people working in export services. Firms also turn their special abilities to economic advantage. For instance, a company doing quality control for fragrances in Argentina found blind individuals more productive.

    With this information, ITC took this project to the next stage. In a pilot initiative, ITC's Trade in Services section trained a small group of people in service exports. Instituto Paradigma deliberately chose people with university degrees, who had a good chance of making use of the opportunity provided. ITC picked São Paulo not only for its sheer economic size and dynamism, but also because of Brazil's far-sighted legislation on disabilities.

    Hands-on approach

    ITC took inspiration from the Ann Sullivan Center, a Peru-based NGO working with the mentally disabled. There, each person benefits from intensive, long-term coaching. In São Paulo, Paradigma also enlisted coaches for the pilot group - mainly volunteers from large service firms.

    Paradigma relied on ITC's methodology for developing exports in services, adapting it as necessary. The revised training materials can now be used in any future projects for professionals with disabilities.

    ITC funded this innovative project as a test case from its own, limited resources. We believe the methodology has plenty of scope for replication, in Brazil and elsewhere. 

    Contact: lomoro@intracen.org