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Microcredit and Fair Trade for Sustainable Development

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Small business owners and co-ops in developing countries are now receiving micro-credits or loan from French financial institutions to upgrade the operational standards of their businesses and the quality of their products and services so that they can compete well in the local market or get fair trade certification to enter European market.

In a discussion about solidarity economy in TV5 Monde on Thursday, 1 October 2009, Indonesian born singer now living in France, Anggun Cipta Sasmi expressed her concerns over the living condition of small producers in Indonesia. She said that certain banks in Indonesia do not lend money to the poor although there is a bank called Bank Rakyat Indonesia that provides loan or microcredit to small business owners.

Tristan La Comte, president of d'Alter Eco, a sustainable economy oriented financial institution, said that his organization provides loans to cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast. The loans that they provide are used to improve the quality of cocoa beans including providing explanations in every packaging of the chocolate milk bar that they sell in the market about how the revenues are fairly shared and how much the carbon footprint it emitted to make the product. In other words Tristan La Comte wants to inform the customers that the business which their support applies fair trade that is more advantageous to farmers, manufacturers and consumers.

In response to such explanation, Anggun C Sasmi commented that she likes eating chocolate. For her, it is good to know that the chocolate bar that she eats is good for her body, safe for the environment and profitable for the small producers who grow the cocoa plants.

Financial expert Eric Lesueur from a financial institution in France said that his institution currently supports drinking water project in Bangladesh in partnership with Muhamad Yunus' Grameen Bank. Similar micro-credit schemes are also provided for women entrepreneurs in India, coffee producers in Laos, cancer treatment hospital in Northern Africa and photovoltaic projects in Europe as well as many other projects around the world.

An African financial institution in Mali has even claimed that in every loan contract, every business owner, mostly women, is asked to plant at least three trees to fight desertification of Africa.

In their opinion micro-credit and fair trade are powerful financial tools for sustainable development around the world. In addition, they can ease tension between people in southern and northern countries. It is hoped that the social responsible investment will affect and improve the living condition of billions of people around the world. This report was written by Charles Roring

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