New Jobs for Poor Communities through Trade

Article excerpt

"Sutainable development," "environmental protection" and "trade that works for the poor" may sound like do-gooder slogans, but three totally different projects, involving a plant native to South Africa, a fashionable resort in Brazil and organic spices in India, achieve exaclty that.

There are some stories that tell good news. It is worth keeping this in mind in a world where bad news sells, fed by a steady diet of headline-grabbing slogans and superbly crafted but frequently hollow generalizations by the forces of "anti" - anti-globalization, anti-trade liberalization. It is hard to get a hearing for the infinitely moving stories behind the small, grass-roots, low-cost projects, whose aim is to give poor people no more than they would ask for - a hand to get started on the ladder of success. Then, backed by a modest but steady income, they will take it from there to make a better life for themselves.

These narratives are the true story of development, which starts out small and progresses gradually as knowledge and resources increase and are passed along. If the original target group is ten, benefits might accrue to 100; if the target group is 100, a thousand will benefit - then more, as the ripple effect works outwards.

This is how the so-called developed countries themselves developed.

ITC hears these kinds of development stories in field project reports from its staff and consultants working on its programmes in the developing world. Continuing our series of "portraits of trade development" launched during ITC's 40th anniversary year, here we zoom in on a new story and update you on two others.

In the first story, we recount the tale of how lifestyle products, derived from a local plant of the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, are helping create jobs in one of that country's poorer regions. Expert help and training from ITC, funding from an innovative public-private partnership and firm commitments from some overseas markets are slated to raise some 1,000 local people out of poverty.

Next, we take you to a Brazilian tourist resort, reputed for its beauty but marred by the existence of surrounding poverty. Now local communities are taking the logical step to improve their lives by providing a variety of products and services to their rich visitors. The most notable is a job-creating, low-cost, organic waste recycling project, based on a local invention, which transforms the waste 20 times faster than usual methods. The sale of products manufactured by local communities has also led to the creation of dozens of jobs and a significant rise in incomes.

In India, the final step of our illustrated journey, rural populations are being lifted out of poverty through a programme designed to take maximum advantage of an international market ready and willing to absorb locally produced spices and aromatic herbs. In just four years, exports grew sevenfold and average income fivefold with tangible benefits to well over 2,000 people.

"These success stories in three developing countries on three continents have meaning for all developing countries," says J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director. "They demonstrate how even modest aid to trade can create jobs and reduce poverty in poor rural regions."

South Africans tap into plants for people's health

Aloe ferox, similar to aloe vera, grows abundantly in one of the poorest regions of South Africa, the Eastern Cape. It possesses unique properties for healthy lifestyle products including drinks, teas, dietary supplements, medicinal applications and cosmetics.

Expanding the aloe ferox industry in order to export products has considerable development potential since the inhabitants of rural communities are integrated as tappers, processing-plant workers or distribution agents for aloe-based products.

Three years ago, ITC helped to launch a project to produce and export aloe ferox-based products. …