Yesterday, I introduced the notion that ending poverty in Africa was not simply about giving more money. I asked the question why governments were not promoting more sustainable models.

A model that I am especially interested in is called RAISE TRADE, and the idea behind this concept is the move away from exporting of raw materials from developing nations and adding value else where. The founder of this model Neil Kelsall is the brains behind a very successful Malagasy chocolate based on the RAISE TRADE model. This model departs from the models that enable cooperatives in Africa to simply own shares of companies as the well as the Fairtrade models, and enables value to be added at source which increases income for the producer as well as the government through tax revenues which is not possible if value is added elsewhere.

How might this work in practice?

Take OTTIMO CAFFE, a specialist coffee roaster from North London looking to source his coffee in a more ethical way, a Uganda based coffee cooperative looking to add value to their coffees before the coffee is exported, so they can earn a higher price for their produce, a government looking to earn more tax revenue from its cash crop ,  an investor looking to invest in a socially responsible venture, that will bring him good returns at the same time and finally a retailer who must source his products more ethically because his customers demand it!

Everyone of these people have some expertise to bring to the table and the overall goal here is to produce a fully processed coffee that can be exported to the western world at the Cooperative headquarter in Uganda. This is indeed that live case that I am involved in and I have been responsible for bringing all the parties together. I must add that it is early days yet as we work the details out but all the parties are in agreement that this is the way forward in the fight against poverty.

If this model is that fantastic I hear you say, why isn’t it being adopted on a much wider scale? Well that is the question I would like an answer too. But one thing  is certain, this is doable and Neil has proved that. Is it therefore a case of committment on the aprt of decision makers, Businesses, Retailers or investors? Who is responsible for making this practice wide spread?

The fashion industry has in many ways lead the way in the VALUE ADD movement, they have however let themselves down by unfair practices especially the working conditions of the producers, we have all heard about PRIMARK being associated to the so called sweat shops.

Do you have a view on any of the issues raised here? Please share it, in the meantime take a look at Neil’s presentation below.

In the next blog, I will bring to life a conversation I had with the CEO of the Investment Facility of Africa and you will learn why poverty in Africa is simply not about money

My immediate reaction to this question is another question. Why would anyone say so?

The reason I would ask such a question is because when you volunteer be it your time or services you do so of your own free will and often these have not been solicited and even then you can still walk away.

That being the case why then would someone make such a statement as “volunteering is a waste of my time”

I am not an expert at this but drawing from my personal experience of volunteering my time and or services that feeling of “waste of of time” arises when expectations on both sides have not been made clear or met.

I will illustrate this from my experience. I arrived here in the UK in 1991 and lived in Dalston East London for a while and apart my immediate family I didn’t know anyone else in Dalston and my working hours made it near impossible for me to make friends locally. One morning as I was walking to the shops I saw an advertisement in the window of a building occupied by the local Age concern branch. They were looking for people to visit elderly people in Homerton Hospital whom some reason or other didn’t have any visitors.

I was surprised to learn that they were people out there who did not have anyone visiting them whilst in hospital, because where I come from this is unheard of. But of course our African families tend to be very large.

I walked into the Age concern office and introduced myself and an hour later I was signed up for the volunteers training scheme prior to being allowed onto the wards or being attached to any of the patients. All of the trainees were local people and this met my need/desire of meeting and making friends with local people. We got on well as a group and continued to meet well after the training had ended.

I was assigned to a woman whose so had moved to Australia and this was the reason she has no one visiting here. I saw her every week and sadly she passed away six weeks after I started visiting her. I never felt that my time was wasted at all as my primary need or the reason why I had joined had been met.
Interestingly a few years later I used the experience I gained as a volunteer for age concern to gain a full time and paid position at another organisation. All things considered I gained a lot more out of this experience.

Sadly not all volunteering services go well as I was to find out when I volunteered by services to a school in Stirling Scotland. I helped with sourcing ethical clothing that could be used for the show. My expectations and certainly what was agreed was that I would be part of the show and present my work in Africa to a Scottish audience. From a business point f view this type of exposure is priceless and it would open up a whole new market so I gave all I could.

To my horror the school pulled out the day before I was due to travel to Stirling leaving me out of pocket and unable to recover my direct costs of my airfare as well as the money I had paid the ladies for the work they did.

Discussions are still underway to resolve this so I can’t say anymore than this. In this example I feel that the volunteering of my time to enable the school to access Fair Trade clothing from our producers in Tanzania was a waste.

Compare therefore the difference between the two tales/experiences!


If you have only experienced the first example you maybe encouraged to seek out more voluntary opportunities but on the other hand if the sum total of experience is as described in example two you would be forgiven for never wanting to give your time or services free of charge.

If you have been a volunteer I would love to hear from you with your experiences on what worked well as well as that which didn’t

These were the questions put to a panel made up of Kate Allen from Amnesty International, Andy Atkins from Friends of the Earth and Barbara Crowtherfrom the Fairtrade Foundation last Saturday( 28 February 2009) night in Woking Surrey.

These are all important issues that face us all but perhaps more so folk in the developing world. My take on this is poor people suffer the worst human indignity known to man, live in the most appalling environments, (if you have been to shanty towns  South Africa you may know what I am talking about) and pay the most for services and goods. The question is what can be done to correct all this?

In terms of fairtrade, I must agree that a lot has been done to highlight the plight of developing country producers and having met one of them on Friday 27 Feb 2009, I realised how important it is to have someone that advocates for these folk. you can read more about that farmer here .

The question I had for Barbara, was “why is it that cotton is certified as a FT product but the textile out of the cotton isn’t” another was “why can’t value be added to Coffee for instance at the country of origin so that the farmers can earn more and those governments can collect more by way of tax revenue? Credit where credit is due, Barbara acknowledged that the FT foundation could do more work in this area and that they have started looking at it especially in South Africa.

Human rights, I must admit Kate’s job can’t be easy and possibly takes her and her colleagues in some of the msot dangerous places one earth. My interest in this area is premised on property rights for women. In my view women are very important to the economic development of African economies in particular,  but the lack of property rights especially agricultural land and housing rights lives them and their children vulnerable to abuse an potentially a life time of poverty.  Kate’s job cannot be easy in this area in particular especially as in some part of the world women are still perceived as the personal property of the man and over the last two years I have met an awful lot of women in that situation, without a voice or anything to call their own. How do we change this? One way would be an increase of formal education for women.

Andy had a sense of urgency about him that left you in no doubt that if we don’t do anything about climate change today then we are heading for some tough and frightening times ahead.  He called for the World Trade Organisation rules to be re written and with emphasis on social and environmental consideration as well as for business to behave more sensibly. He made an interesting note too, it appears the recession has had the impact of reduced emissions as factories have closed. But how are those people that used to work in the factories managing financially.

Do you feel like we are in a Catch22 here? I certainly  do  and have more questions on this matter

Can climate change /environmental degradation be avoided altogether? How easy would that be? Can the poor afford to care about the environment? these are not easy questions and I certainly do not have the answers to them.

When I lived in Uganda and worked in a town called Jinja I used to drive through a forest that seemed to go on for ever before I got my destination, and one could hardly see beyond  a few yards for the thickness of the forest. I went back to Uganda in August 2008 and had the chance to head east and drove through the same  forest.

I was surprised at what I saw, most of the trees had been cleared and some of the land was  being used for food growing, another reason the trees had disappeared I was told was people cutting them down for fire wood and charcoal. Although folk here could use solar energy as opposed to cutting down an entire forest they do not have the means  to tap into such technology.

What they do is entirely reasonable as far as they concerned, they are using whatever is available in their environment to stay alive, earn a living etc.  We here in the west may not have such concerns but the actions of these folk may have implications for us. It therefore appears to me that one way forward would be to work with such folk and help them develop technology that would help them use what is in their environment without damaging  it.

Travelling further east towards the town of Jinja at the source of the River Nile and you find remnants of what was the Owen falls dam a source of hydro electricity, but with water levels so low, not enough electricity can be generated, to export to neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, consequently power outages are very common in most towns in Uganda.

Imagine if you will a barber who would earn more money cutting hair with an electrical trimmer as opposed to a pair of scissors. It is Saturday when he can expect to make the most money but at 12 noon there is a power cut for 4 hours!  The poor chap has no access to a power generator as he can’t afford one, but a another barber down the road whose shop is located inside a 5 Star Hotel has no such problems as the Hotel has a power generator.

What are you are views

Is there a time to be Fair? Is climate change more urgent than global poverty or human rights?