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From Fair Trade practices to fairer international South to North trade (the experience of Echoppe)

Pierre Zanou, Ginette Adiffon Saizonnou, abril 2006

Presentation and analysis of South – South , Inter-Africcan or North – South

ÉCHOPPE (Échanges et Organisation pour la Promotion des Petits Entrepreneurs)

1 - Presentation of the Échoppe Association

1.1 Objectives of the Association

Échoppe is a non-profit-making lay association. The main objective is to fight poverty and social exclusion, which are factors that annihilate human beings and their potential.

Action is essentially centred on the promotion of small-scale production activities, service or trade, which constitute the main alternative to the insufficiencies of the modern economy in terms of active new job creation, particularly for women and young people. Given that economic integration constitutes one of the most efficient means of social integration and personal promotion, the main objective of our Association is to help the most impoverished people gain access to activity that will generate income. In order to do this, we have set up different actions such as helping young craftspeople to establish themselves, technical training and professional retraining, supporting innovation and trade, without overlooking the complementary social actions such as health and nutritional education and literacy training as well as promoting family planning.

To date, ÉCHOOPE is implanted in Lomé in Togo, Cotonou in Bénin, and Bamako in Mali.

2.2 Major achievements to date and partnerships

Some of our major innovations and initiatives:

  • Échoppe is the first structure to have set up a micro-credit system in Africa (in Lomé in 1990 and Cotonou in 1993). It is aimed at the most socially excluded women, and works together with OXFAM and the CCFD. Today, these systems have become truly independent Mutual Societies, that owe their success to the strength of the social accompanying of the beneficiaries.

  • In order to limit the impacts of malaria in Bénin, ÉCHOPPE manufactures impregnated mosquito nets with the support of the Caisse Française de Développement. It is the first time that such a product has been available in Bénin. From 1994-98 more than 12,000 nets were sold at cost price.

  • The Artisans du Soleil network:

  • In 1993 Échoppe created the Artisans du Soleil, a distribution network aimed at helping arts and crafts people to sell their produce. It implements the main criteria of Fair Trade.

  • Today this network includes an independent shop in France in Angers as well as a purchasing platform 40 km from Angers.

  • The product range includes over 350 products made in Bénin, in Togo and in Mali, which fall into several categories: material, wood, ironwork, jewellery etc. The range, which is constantly enriched by the innovations that the craftspeople regularly propose.

  • Échoppe has created and trained a network of street children and disabled people.

  • Important actions in France:

  • Échoppe is a co-founding member of the Fair Trade Platform The Fair Trade Platform is a French body that represents the players of fair trade, and is composed of a bout thirty associations and companies. It lobbies public authorities and carries out research on the stakes of Fair Trade. It works at raising public awareness and supports local actions.

  • Échoppe is also co-founder of the Internet site www.commercesolidaire.com that sells fair trade products on line

2- Description of the project framework

Ø Arts and Crafts

One of the main activities of our association is the selling of artisinal products made in Bénin, Togo and Mali according to Fair Trade principle and sold under the Artisans du Soleil label. Our French headquarters acts to some extent as a purchasing platform aimed at supplying all the shops that sell fair trade products in France. Our Cotonou and Lomé offices provide the interface between the headquarters of the African craftspeople. Their job is to place orders with the craftspeople, collect the goods and ship them to France. The Bénin craftspeople (50 in all) make mainly clothes and pictures. They also weave and do metalwork. In Lomé, where there are 20 people, the main production is wood and ironwork.

This network of craftspeople has developed over the years, and the increase in sales has led to new people with professional qualifications, but who find it difficult to live from their profession becoming involved. There are also people in a state of total economic exclusion, who have learnt a profession. Thus over more than a 10-year period, Échoppe has regularly guaranteed part of the income of 70 craftspeople.

  • Fair Trade

Through the commitment to craftspeople in Bénin and Togo, Échoppe proposes an efficient alternative for reducing the inequalities caused by the breakdown of the world economic situation. In effect, convinced that there is another way of trading without any of the stakeholders being hard done by, Échoppe has based its action on the principles of fair trade:

  • Ensuring fair pay to craftspeople, thus enabling them to meet basic needs (food, health, education, housing)

  • Guaranteeing the respect of basic human rights (e.g. no child labour)

  • Establishing sustainable relationships between the various economic partners

  • Preserving the environment

  • Offering consumers quality products.

In Europe in 2001, Fair Trade represents o turn over of 373 million euros and involves 800,000 producers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Europe is the main destination of fair trade products. Let us emphasise that 4 countries make up the most dynamic part of this market: Switzerland, The Netherlands, G.B. and Austria. In France the fair trade turnover is following an exponential growth curve. It has gone from 6 million euros in 2000 to 45 million euros in 2003. We can project a similar progression in the years to come, given the work of awareness raising of fair trade in France and in Europe.

  • The Artisans du Soleil Group (GAS)

Under the guidance of ÉCHOPPE; most of the Bénin craftspeople (37 to be precise) created the Arisans du Soleil cooperative in 2003. One of their first significant actions was taking part in the National Arts and Crafts Fair of Bénin (SNAB) in 2003 and again in 2004.

This cooperative was created with a view to empowering the craftspeople.