The project aims at the creation of a national network of marginalized groups of small-scale producers of agro and handicraft products in Egypt within the framework of a Fair Trade organization. Actions have been taken to support the network members in strengthening their representation and negotiation capacity and improve the marketing and commercialization of their agricultural and handcraft products on national and international markets.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs - General Directorate for Development Cooperation - ItalyLead applicant
L’organizzazione delle attività di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, componente essenziale della politica internazionale dell'Italia, fa parte dei compiti del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE), che demanda tali attività alla Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (DGCS) che è l’organo preposto ad attuare tale politica, in attuazione della legge n.49/87. La DGCS attua le linee di cooperazione e le politiche di settore nei diversi Paesi, stabilisce rapporti con le Organizzazioni Internazionali, con l’Unione Europea e con le Organizzazioni non governative; programma, elabora ed applica gli indirizzi della politica di cooperazione e le politiche di settore tra cui sanità, ambiente e sviluppo imprenditoria locale; realizza iniziative e progetti nei Pvs; effettua interventi di emergenza e fornisce aiuti alimentari; gestisce la cooperazione finanziaria e il sostegno all’imprenditoria privata e alla bilancia dei pagamenti dei Pvs; promuove e realizza la cooperazione universitaria.
Ayadi Masreya Foundation - EgyptInitiative partner
Ayadi Masreya Foundation (AMF) is an Egyptian Platform working to represent and empower small scale producers in handicraft and agricultural sector through heritage preservation and access to global market and socio-economic justice. The main activities of this Foundation are: · Field research and needs assessment analysis · Fair Trade Institutional-Building trainings & interventions on trade and business-related topics · Fair Trade Institutional-Building trainings & interventions on aspects related to the improvement of different socio-economic conditions & life-skills · Handicraft products improvement (product development, quality control, sourcing, etc.) · Technical assistance & vocational trainings through our network of trainers & experts · Consultancy on Fair Trade applications · Awareness-building & Advocacy support services on FT and its rationale
Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries - ItalyInitiative partner
COSPE is engaged in the field of international cooperation and solidarity promoting intercultural dialogue, fair and sustainable development, as well as human rights. Based on its mission supporting people to overcome conditions of poverty and social injustice, COSPE is committed in the implementation of over 80 projects in 30 countries worldwide. Its main fields of action are human rights, income generating activities and employment, gender policies and equal opportunities, environment and sustainable development, support to refugees and asylum seekers, communication and mass media, intercultural dialogue, anti-racism awareness and development education
“Empowering for change”: small-scale agro and handicraft producers play a vital role both in rural and urban areas for the supply of foods and other products. Despite this, their livelihood is deeply affected by many factors. A National network of marginalized groups of producers operating in the fair trade sector has been established in order to enhance their social and economic rights improving their representation and negotiation capacities and increasing the marketing and commercialization of their agricultural and handcraft products on national and international markets. The national network of 272 small Fair Trade producers is organized in 4 regional and 14 local Fair Trade committees. The activities of the network are implemented through three main units: membership and representation unit (M&R), business development services (BDS) and social welfare services (SWS). Each unit has developed its own system, procedures manual and its internal regulation.
In order to enhance and support the basic socio-economic rights of the most disadvantaged producers, especially women, and promote the development of small enterprises, an innovative in-house health insurance system inspired to principles of social justice, equal opportunity and equality has been set up. The payment of a small monthly fee to the local non-profit organization managing the service, the Ayadi Masreya Foundation (AMF), allows members the reimbursement of their health services expenses (up to fourfold the fee). A first contribution to establish the service was provided by the project. The benefits from this social safety system, which represents a unique experience in Egypt with 72 members regularly paying their monthly fee, have been enhanced by training activities to improve the quality and the marketing of products and microcredit loans that allowed the small producers to purchase more efficient machineries and make safer and more comfortable their work.
Small-scale agro and handicraft producers do not have full access to the basic socio-economic services, and they lack awareness on the available services. The demand for handicraft products has sharply decreased due to political, social, economic and cultural changes, while, at the same time, they lacked capital, knowledge and skills to access new national and international markets. As a result, the income of these producers has slipped further under the poverty line and their social position in the community has been further reduced, impacting also their health and food security. Small farmers, micro-enterprises and rural women were facing similar conditions: their activities did not even provide them with sufficient food security and income and they had no access to financing responding to their needs and few employment opportunities. Besides that, women tend to be even more marginalized due to cultural constrains making them much more vulnerable an excluded from social life
The project has accomplished and in some cases exceeded the planned results. One representation and membership structure, with 272 members, 4 regional and 14 local Fair Trade committees were put in place to improve the participation and representation of Fair Trade small producers.
The SWS put in place a welfare service providing 72 members with health insurance, 6 families with latrines, fresh water supply, disability devices and allowing over 200 members to improve their working conditions.
The BDS provides microfinance services that delivered 170 loans to the members. Two showrooms were opened and the producers were allowed to participate to 15 exhibitions and trained on quality, products finishing and design. A stable partnership with an US export Fair Trade organization, an SMS service to improve branding and media coverage and an handbook explaining the services available and one export readiness study to trigger products' commercialization outside Egypt were also developed.
Direct beneficiaries of the project are agro and handcraft producers from 14 Egyptian governorates. A large majority are women (85%) and they live in rural, urban, and semi-urban areas. Through the project support some of them could start their own business, for example in Siwa, where a group was backed in setting up a silver and embroidery production activity, or in Shalateen where women, through AMF, gathered in 4 groups and started use sheep leather to produce different items to be sold on the market and for personal use.
Also farmers had the opportunity to build both their technical and organizational capacities, in order to become “Fair Trade” producers.
AMF has been both partner of the project, because of its capacity to include a pool of potential members, and a beneficiary due to its needs to be empowered to effectively run the Egyptian Fair Trade Network of its small-scale agro and handicraft producers.
In order to properly implement the project a Project Management Unit was set up and composed of:
· 1 Project Manager
· 1 Project financial manager
· 1 Representation Unit Officer
· 1 Business Development Unit Officer
· 1 Social Welfare Unit Officer
In addition to that, 5 regional field officers were involved at later stage:
· 1 in South Upper Egypt Region (Aswan, Red Sea and Qena)
· 2 in North Upper Egypt Region (Sohag, Assuit and Minya)
· 1 in West Delta Region (Siwa and Matrouh)
· 1 in Delta Region (Becera and Sharkia)
Further staff was also hired to run the showrooms:
· 1 Marketing officer (Cairo)
· 1 Office boy (Cairo)
· 2 Sales officers (Siwa)
The main challenge that the project had to face was related to the Fair Trade certification. AMF submitted its application to IFAD that asked Egypt Craft Center (ECC) for a recommendation letter. ECC negative recommendation letter delayed the process. However, this did not stop the project and AMF found an alternative using an American Fair Trade organization. The completion of the procedure is in progress.
The project, following Fair Trade principle that encourages “better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production“ organized training and awareness campaign to boost environmentally friendly practices and technologies, a sustainable use of natural resources and responsible production methods. Though most producers were already aware of the environmental impact of their activities, the project spurred all the beneficiaries to maximize the use of raw materials in a more sustainable way, also using local tools and recycled or biodegradable packaging materials. Consistently with FT rules no GMOs were used and the promotion of integrated farm management systems to improve soil fertility and limit the use of agrochemicals were also boosted. The same approach was used also in handicraft production avoiding the use of chemicals in colors, fabrics and soap making, as well as the use of edible raw materials and woods from protected trees to produce craft.
Among the measures adopted to achieve sustainability there are: the decision to establish permanent showrooms, acting also as retail shops, instead of members' participation to temporary exhibitions, the signature of an agreement with a travel agency organizing regular tours to Siwa, the monthly income granted for teen years to the network by the interests on a bank account. Besides that, a micro credit revolving fund with a 100% rate of reimbursements allowed many small-scale enterprises in remote rural areas to improve their businesses and livelihood.
The commitment of beneficiaries had multiplier effects by triggering emulation spirit and the adoption of best practices. Gender mainstreaming contributed to modify traditional attitudes and behaviors which hamper women empowerment. The access to network's membership to women represented an important recognition of their role and capacity as development actors paving the way for women run associations and entrepreneurial activities.
In order to promote the handcraft products and the partners, AMF have produced personalized labels for each product sold on the market, reporting information regarding producers organization, areas of production and material used. In addition, several banners and brochures have been displaced during meetings, conferences and selling points in order to guarantee the dissemination of information as well as the visibility of the initiative. The foundation has also set up a permanent exhibition room in COSPE's office in Cairo, that can be visited to buy products. Finally, AMF occasionally organizes fairs and showrooms, mainly in Egypt, to promote the handcraft products and help the local producers to sell them in the national and international markets, especially Italy, Greece and United States. Another important result of the project is the creation of a website equipped with a database and an online catalogue with the list of all products sold, supported by a facebook profile.