Local Solutions for a Global Economy


Building Inclusive Shea Economies

Implementing Partners:
Pagsung, Ecoventures , Africa 2000 Network , International Development Enterprises , Concern Universal

The Challenge

In Ghana millions of women Shea nut pickers and processors register among the poorest of the poor. Despite being the primary collectors of Shea nut, women lack representation throughout the higher levels of the Shea value chain and are subject to exploitation by middlemen through a structured monopoly of the local and national markets.

The Opportunity

GFI has partnered with Pagsung, an association of over 800 Shea Nut pickers and producers, to implement Building Inclusive Shea Economies (ElSE) to strengthen harra's rural economy and help women farmers become self-sustaining by creating a women farmers-led business model. Designed in consultation with multiple local and international partners, ElSE responds to the concerns of Pagsung members about the lack of integration of the Shea Value Chain. To strengthen the overarching livelihood goals, ElSE addresses market diversification, supply chain management and ovmership, and decision-making mechanisms, thus ensuring women producers' rights (including equal employment and land ownership).

On November 2010, the program received the SEED Award for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development, facilitated through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The award provided a $5,000 start-up grant and several benefits to Pagsung members, including access to a wide range of business services, support networks, and high-level profiling. Capacity-building activities focused on improved management practices for Pagsung leaders, including establishing clear governance, accounting, and revenue structures to ensure management sustainability.

GFI and Pagsung launched the South-South exchange as an opportunity for Pagsung to learn successful development strategies from GFI's partner, the Self Employed Women's Association of India. SEWA, through eight years of partnership and innovation, has seen significant advances in economic opportunity through greater value-chain ownership. SEWA's process offers a highly replicable model; and, thanks to a grant from the World Bank, the first exchange trip between GFI's partners Pagsung and SEWA became a reality in September 2011. Feedback from Pagsung indicates that the exchange was indeed a unique opportunity for the women to learn strategies for overcoming economic, legal, and cultural barriers and to develop practical business practices that adapt to women producers' needs.

ElSE is now working to seek funds to scale up production. Pagsung does not have storage facilities or space for women to select and process the Shea. With women doing most of the work at home, there is no traceability of the product, which is of key importance for larger buyers. To help the Pagsung women become competitive in the local and inter-national markets, ElSE's goal is to work with Pagsung to establish Transparency, Traceability, and consistent Quality as core business practices, as well as support the registration of Shea as a Fair Trade product.

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South-South Collaboration

Program Information

Implementing Partner: PagSung
Implementing Partner: SEWA

The India Ghana Women Farmers Partnership is a collaborative program that links women Shea nut pickers and processors from Ghana to the womanled RUDI MultiTrading Company in India to engage in a strategic program on opportunity, investment, and best practices in valuechain ownership of womenowned cooperative enterprises. A joint program facilitated by the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) for the PagSung Shea Nut Pickers and Processors Association of Ghana (PagSung) and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India. This knowledge transfer partnership and exchange program sought to improve the livelihoods of women Shea butter producers through collaboration, training, and improvement of a more robust market access and greater ownership of the Shea valuechain. The program economically empowered women producers by establishing greater ownership over their supply chain, building capacity among producers, and improving production quality to facilitate access to regional and international markets.

The India-Ghana Women Farmers Partnership is premised on three fundamental principles:

  1. Women - especially poor small holder farmers - offer one of the greatest untapped potentials for promoting sustainable economic growth and food security.
  2. Broad and sustained poverty alleviation requires livelihood opportunities, improved access to markets, enabling policy environments, and resources to make proven models accessible to women small-holder enterprises in developing nations.
  3. Successful models from the South provide valuable learning and effective partners for other South countries.

Creating Livelihood Opportunities

GFI partnered with Ghana’s PagSung to identify targeted interventions and help create greater economic empowerment for women Shea nut pickers and processors through improved market access and valuechain ownership. The exchange of information, issues and opportunities that emerged ran a very similar course, and raised common themes to the issues and barriers faced by another GFI partner, SEWA of India. The process that SEWA has followed has the ability to offer a highly replicable model and as a result presents a clear opportunity for introducing an impactful South‐South exchange program between SEWA and PagSung. Recognizing the potential of this exchange, GFI introduced the idea of a South‐South capacity building collaboration with SEWA to Pag Sung, and the response was an enthusiastic approval of the idea.

Under the collaboration, the women leaders of the RUDI Multi‐Trading Company would provide targeted knowledge and training inputs to Shea nut pickers and processors with the goal of creating a robust trade facilitation structure within the PagSung organization. The knowledge transfer partnership will seek to create greater ownership of the Shea value‐chain for the women of PagSung based on the model that has effectively created this ownership for the rural women farmers of RUDI in Northern India. The program:

  • Had women farmers from PagSung visit India to observe, learn, and adopt practices from SEWA’s RUDI trade facilitation centers, which consolidate product and processing, provide training and a safe space for collaboration and business development, and create a model of how the link between the network of producers and buyers served by RUDI is structured.
  • Had women farmers from SEWA visit Ghana to access the implementation of ideas exchanged in the first visit. Additionally, help locally guide the implementation and integration of a value chain that connects grass‐root producers with buyers and gives women ownership of their product.

The Exchange: Applying the SEWA Model

GFI has worked with SEWA, and its over one million women producers, since 2002 to create a wellestablished, highly impactful model on rural agriculture supply‐chains for women that have evolved into the private SEWA enterprise known as RUDI. RUDI has proven to help organize and empower women small farmers and producers to gain participation and ownership in the agricultural supply chain, increase income and livelihood opportunities among rural poor women, enhance the quality, capacity, and efficiency of production through the use of technology, information, and support, and have an achievable target of sales turnover from USD$ 1.2 million this year to USD$3 million by the end of 2012.


GFI, in partnership with SEWA and PagSung, sought to economically empower women Shea nut pickers and processors in Tamale, Ghana by improving production practices and product quality, helping access larger, sustainable markets, and providing business, financial, and supply chain training. Overall, the program:

  • Improved wages and generate employment by creating effective linkages to local, regional and international markets that provide sustainable livelihoods for women Shea nut farmers.
  • Engaged policy makers to provide greater support and access for women small holder Shea farmers.
  • Facilitated improved communication and more stable relationships across the Shea nut sector and with other sectors that will allow for better market knowledge and adaptation.
  • Increased food security for rural communities by improving inputs, providing technical support, and by creating more responsive markets through improved facilitation and communication.

Program Activities

The South‐South Collaboration: India‐Ghana Women Farmers Partnerships incorporated the following activities:

  • Learning exchange by PagSung to experience firsthand how the RUDI model is working. Focus will be on understanding the organizational structure, management systems, member involvement and benefits, outreach and incentives. As well as systems of accountability to members through the organization of general meetings, book‐keeping and ensuring the success of various product lines
  • Technical assistance from SEWA to organize, lead and empower women grassroots producers moving towards a greater voice, ownership and influence of the Shea value‐chain
  • Study of international best practices and local analysis by PagSung and SEWA towards improvement of collection, processing, packaging and transportation of Shea products
  • On site assessments by SEWA to monitor the implementation of the key elements learned in the primary visit
  • On‐going channels of communication for continued support

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Promoting Informal Labor Rights (PILAR)

Program Information

Program Supporter The US Department of State

Implementing Partners
Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Humanísticos (INEH)
Asociación de Investigacion y Estudios Sociales (ASIES)
Poliarquía Consultores

GFI implemented PILAR (Promoting Informal Labor Rights), a two-year project funded by the US Department of State to improve government capacity to collect data on the informal sector while developing strategies that encourage formalization and provide capacity building to informal sector workers in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Using GFI’s multi-stakeholder approach, we have worked with a broad range of formal and informal worker organizations, government ministries, the private sector, and key civil society organizations.

Engaging Stakeholders to Assess the Problem

Beginning in 2008, GFI conducted national public opinion surveys and focus groups on obstacles and barriers to formalization as well as on ways to extend labor rights to the informal sector. In Guatemala, the survey revealed that a significant percentage of informal workers (67%) are agreeable to registering and paying taxes if the processes are clear and workers gain access to government services such as social security. In Nicaragua, 64% of workers surveyed stated that the lack of access to social security was the worst aspect of informality. From the data assessment, GFI developed discussion topics, which addressed the most pressing needs - while searching for consensus. These topics were discussed at national roundtables and also tied with the design of a schedule of trainings for informal workers.

The national roundtables in each country focused on strategies for formalization looking at cross-cutting issues such as labor rights, women and informality, and vulnerable groups. The strategies included incentives - for example, social security and better access to financial services and credit - to bring informal workers into the formal economy and improved government practices - such as streamlining bureaucratic practices and improving tax collection. Participants of the roundtables, as well as various individual meetings, included government leaders, labor union officials, civil society leaders, private sector representatives, and informal workers. PILAR worked to influence policy makers by building consensus among the private sector and civil society, finding government allies, and working with multi-lateral organizations, such as the ILO, to cement policy recommendations under internationally-recognized standards.

Focus on Workers

To complement GFI's top-down strategy, roundtables kept in direct connection with informal workers' needs by providing bottom-up trainings on a wide range of topics, including computer skills, budgeting, complying with government requirements, accounting and financial management of microenterprises, assertiveness trainings for domestic workers, and more. In this manner, PILAR took a new approach to formalization: GFI assisted self-employed street vendors in setting up their own association (FENTRAVIG), which today has over 2,000 members. We further worked together to start a cooperative, allowing them to import goods and reduce costs by ending dependence on middlemen. Working directly with government, we encouraged relationships with municipalities and helped promote policies, currently in effect, to benefit workers and enterprises. Finally, PILAR encouraged workers to be part of the political system and bring their needs to the table in an effective manner.

A tangible result of PILAR is the Roadmap to Formalization, a document that compiles the consensual recommendations of the many stakeholders. The Roadmap's specific proposals are different in each country, as it is based on the cultural, political, and economic realities of the diverse sectors of workers and microenterprises as well as on each country's laws. However, the core findings can be systematizes: First, decent work is the Roadmap's guiding principle. It was clear through the survey and national roundtables that improving competitiveness and extending labor rights is not mutually exclusive; in fact, formalization can serve as a tool to establish long-lasting business and attract sustainable investment. Second, one of the pillars of good governance is sound information; hence the roadmap focuses on improved labor statistics for the design of government programs. Taxation is also at the crux of formality. Informal workers and enterprises pay "taxes" in the form of bribes or other hidden costs, which through effective governance can be directly collected and used for improved government services. Finally, reducing administrative barriers is necessary to ease the entry of workers and enterprises, taking into consideration the high level of illiteracy and the importance of work hours for street workers. To start implementing integrative policy, the Roadmap recommends launching a simplified registration system called "monotributo."

This will allow workers to register with ease and pay a set fee, which gives them access to social security and other benefits of formalization. The roadmap was presented on October, 2010, at the National Palace in Guatemala City by GFI's President, Karen Tramontano to Mr. Edgar Rodriguez, Minister of Labor, who accepted it on behalf of the Guatemalan government. During the presentation, the Minister of Labor committed his government to work on the implementation of the recommendations, stressing the importance of the Roadmap as a tool for the design of effective public policies and requested the future assistance of GFI. In Nicaragua, Verónica Rojas, Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce (MIFIC), stressed the importance of the Roadmap's recommendations for reaching out to informal workers in a more effective manner and ensure the most successful application of the "One-Stop Window," for which GFI currently assists in it's outreach and dissemination strategy.

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Growth Strategy in an Era of Free Trade

For poor nations highly dependent on textile and garment exports, the 2005 expiration of the textile quota system (the Multi-Fiber Agreement or MFA) could potentially be devastating to their national economies. Nowhere is this fear more genuine than in Cambodia, whose economy is more dependent on textiles and garment manufacturing than any other in the world. However, unlike most textile producing countries, Cambodia has a unique advantage in the post-quota environment; a labor rights verification system administered by the International Labor Organization that provides rights protection to Cambodians and brand security to buyers.

The Challenge

Can Cambodia’s success story be sustained as its preferential access to lucrative markets is eliminated? Can its approach to promoting business and labor interests be reproduced in other countries?

With support from the World Bank Group and the US-ASEAN Business Council, in 2004 GFI designed and implemented an engagement process to explore ways to use this uniquely just, innovative advantage to protect and expand Cambodia's textile exports. Joined by the European Commission, Australia AID, and the United Nations Development Program, in February 2005 we organized a 2-day conference of leading CEOs, government officials, and other trade and development experts to discuss Cambodia’s unique opportunities in the global marketplace. Hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the conference highlighted Cambodia’s leadership potential in defining new best practices in global trade and investment, and the many reforms aimed at making Cambodia a premier destination for business.

How GFI Addressed the Challenge

In July 2005, GFI collaborated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Oxfam America to bring the discussion to American policymakers. More than 200 experts from government, industry, and civil society joined us for a wide-ranging discussion of the fate of textile workers and industries in the 21st century.

In 2006, GFI began to extend its work on textiles to other regions of the world, focusing first on the countries participating in the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement. Our efforts to make the global economy work for poor producers is helping bridge the gap between Central American industry, labor, and government, thereby increasing the prospects of better lives for workers and healthier profits for industry (see our hand-out on the Central America Work Program).

Countries like Cambodia face several challenges in the post-MFA context. They must successfully convert its verification system to meet the needs of the private sector, rather than governments, and do it in a way that conveys transparent and credible information to the media and the activist community that has created and motivated the demand for brand security in the first place. They must also establish and maintain successful market niches for themselves and their industries. While premium buyers have sustained this movement until now, the key to long-term success lies in securing business from a wider array of buyers that may be interested not only in high-quality product from Cambodia, but also in their reputation-safe production environment. GFI and its partners will be there, every step of the way.

Sustainable Forestry Program

Program Information

The Challenge

More and more consumers worldwide insist on using sustainably harvested timber and responsibly produced wood products. Corporate buyers and public procurement officers are responding to this demand by sourcing products from producers that can provide them with certifications of properly managed forests, and for tighter scrutiny over the legal origin and production methods of wood products in the market place.

Recently, the demand for certified wood products has begun to have an impact on policies aimed at protecting Indonesian forests, some of the most beautiful but least protected tropical hardwood forests in the world. Policy changes are designed to reduce the amount of lumber harvested, and—more importantly—to suppress illegal logging by strengthening law enforcement.

How GFI Addressed the Challenge

Despite the demonstrated political will at the national level and some excellent new public-private partnerships, the campaign for sustainable forestry in Indonesia is still in its early stages, with much work remaining. To strengthen this campaign, in 2005 GFI convened a coalition of multilateral organizations and civil society institutions— including the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, PENSA, the World Wide Fund for Nature, The Nature Conservancy and the Global Fairness Initiative— to assist the Indonesian government’s national campaign against illegal logging by generating a set of policy recommendations to encourage increased forest certification.

These recommendations are based on a comprehensive study of global best practices in supply-side incentives for sustainable forest practices. The Motivating Sustainability project study investigated winning—and losing—strategies currently being used in tropical and temperate forests throughout the developing world. Local forest experts then applied these findings to the complex and changing social, political and economic realities of the Indonesian forest sector.

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