Page 10, 31st July 1981

31st July 1981
Page 10
Page 10, 31st July 1981 — `Teaching my brother to fish'

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Organisations: Tearcraft
People: Beth Webb, Thatcher


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`Teaching my brother to fish'

"IF YOUR brother who is living with you falls on evil days, and is unable to support himslf with you, you must support him as you would a stranger or a guest ... you are not to lend him money at interest or give him food to make a profit out of it.". (Leviticus 25: 35. 37).

WHEN Mrs Thatcher made cuts in last year's real terms in development aid to the Third World, she said that until Britain's economy was 'straight' then we were not really in a position to give anything to anyone else. When our economy flourished again, we would be able to give much more generously than the few crumbs we could offer now. Let us hold onto our 'crumbs' she said, so that we may give whole loaves sometime in the future.

Meanwhile. Lazarus dies. and is taken to the bosom of Abraham.

The textile industry in Sri Lanka produces plenty of cloth, but it lies stored in the mill

warehouses because Third World countries are only allowed to sell a given quantity of certain types of fabric and clothing to the West.

The EEC's 1974 imports limitation agreement (MultiFibre Arrangement) w as originally a temporary measure to allow European textile industries to pull themselves together. but 1978 the M FA was renewed and 'made even more stringent.

The rich nations argue that trade between themselves is 'fair'. because they import and export to each other equally and maintain the trade balance nicely thankyou. But they argue that trade coming in from the Third World is 'unfair'. because more is being exported from these countries, than is being imported.

In bald terms, the EEC does not mind importing cotton from almost starving Sri Lankan weavers. as long as the Sri Lankans spend their wages on Western (and to them, luxury) goods.

Financial handouts are only of limited value for a limited time. One slogan which used to be popular among aid societies was "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life."

One organisation set up specifically to "attempt to redress some of the economic injustices in the world ... and to demonstrate C id's desire for love

and justice in the world through responsible and fair trading" is Traidcraft, an ecumenical marketing agency for Third World craft products in the West.

Traidcraft is not a fund raising body as such, but tries to help create stable and prosperous societies through encouraging labour intensive employment and rural industries in co-operative schemes. The groups they support use appropriate technology: that is local skills and raw materials rather than imported plastics, microchips and Western technology,.

In the two and a half years since Traidcraft appeared as an offshoot from the evangelic organisation Tearcraft, they have provided permanent employment for 2.000 people.

Traidcraft explains: "In dealing with groups in the Third World, we are trying to offer continuity

of orders and general marketing assistance which will enable us to grow. and to extend our services. We expect local producers to provide reasonable working conditions. fair wages by local standards, a community-based industry which does not strain the worker's family unity like it does in the West. Traidcraft like their producers to sell some of their goods locally. Our job is to provide the export market which will enable growth of the industry — often they could never survive locally.

"Though the figures are small, these exports help to redress the vast imbalance of-trade between the rich and poor countries which is so unjust and unChristian."

The types of craft industries that Traidcraft encourage are highly skilled. but only need a few weeks to learn, so that most people are employable, but the end product is very artistically desirable in Western eyes.

Traidcraft has found "substantial educational value" in marketing Third World products in the West. "It enables the purchaser to think of people in Third World countries as producers, rather than as objects of charity," said a spokesman.

"In some cases, it leads to the questioning of discrepancies in income, apparent in contrasting the extensive work involved with the low price paid for such skilled work."

Traidcraft does not see its work as blindly giving work to the poor at the expense of British and Western industry without regard to rising unemployment and threatened family life in Britain. Taking the example of textile imports again, the "unfair" import controls means that customers in Britain have to pay more for their clothes because mostly only the expensive Western products are available.

Also, although British textile workers may temporarily save their jobs, those working in industries which sell products to poorer countries may lose theirs, because the population in those countries have become too poor to buy Western goods.

Among those threatened are textile machinery workers — 30 per cent of their exports in 1978 were to developing countries.

Also threatened a re manufacturers of industrial engines (20 per cent of their exports were to developing countries in the same year), construction and earthmoving equipment, valves and compressors, electronic capital

goods. vehicles and electronic engineering goods.

"Traidcraft secs its responsibility to the poor of th, world as a Christian obligati° to 'feed the hungry and clothe the naked" whatever their relig n. put more than economic or olitical, their work is human.

Work for a few can mean hope for thousands. A little prosperity in Mausaid. Bangladesh. has opened up an agricultural programme in the area, a home for mentally handicapped children. and a travelling dispensary from a local convent.

Skills and crafts are useless without the markets to sell them. and the markets are too weak to sustain the workers unless the West is willing to give the poor a chance.

Traidcraft is just one organisation which is determined to fight for that chance.

"And the King will answer, 'I tell you solemnly, insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."

Beth Webb

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