“Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day”
- Millennium Development Goal #1
Economic development is one of the mainstays of the development field. Countries rate their success and development level by measuring how much their economies produce in each year, and there is an obvious link between poverty and income levels. Income is vital for meeting basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter, but can also have a significant impact on other development goals including healthcare and education levels; many organisations use income generation as a gateway to promoting other aspects of development, including education, sanitation and environmental management. One thing is clear, though: to be able to rise out of the poverty trap and cope with economic shocks such as droughts or changes in price, people need to have a secure, sustainable income.
Economic Development Organisations
Organisations in this field often work directly with producers or small business owners to provide information, education or skills training. This work has a heavy focus on improving the capacity of communities to produce products and identify markets for them. Depending on their particular needs, the clients of the organisations may be given training in how to market their products, access to improved technology, or sometimes just basic vocational training. Training in the principles of eco-tourism, for example, can help to generate wealth and manage the environmental impact of tourist activity. Providing these skills gives the communities a chance to build a sustainable income and to pass on the benefits to the next generation.
Micro-credit banks are another organisation working in the economic development field, and they have become increasingly prevalent in recent decades. Pioneered by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, micro-credit institutions grant small loans to small producers, often groups of women. The aim is to promote entrepreneurship amongst people who are denied access to traditional finance because of their lack of collateral, steady income or social status. By providing small, unsecured loans in conjunction with training and savings schemes, the institutions aim to help people pull themselves out of poverty and work towards sustainability.
Finally, Fair Trade organisations work to ensure that farmers and producers get a fair share of the income from their goods. They often work with the farmers themselves to help promote organic practices, and help them to achieve fair-trade certification and market their produce. By joining fair-trade networks and joining together to bargain on prices, producers can get a fair price which properly represents their contribution, thus enabling them to climb out of poverty.
What our volunteers do
Our volunteers have many skills to contribute to this kind of work. For those with a background in business, marketing or finance, the transition is clear, but this sector also requires people with skills in communication, education and technology to help our partners reach their full potential.