Lenzie resident with an Interest in fair trade

Shared Interest offers low-cost loans to fair trade businesses in the developing world

Lenzie resident Tracy Mitchell is aiming to boost fair trade in Africa and Latin America through her work with Shared Interest, the world’s only 100 per cent fair trade lender.

Tracy recently introduced Jo Swinson to the work of Shared Interest, which is based around a simple but innovative idea: to provide a lending facility to fair trade businesses in the developing world.

Last year, Shared Interest lent over £30 million to 41 countries and the group has set itself an ambitious target to treble this amount by 2012. Shared Interest was recently recognised for its strong track record in Sustainable Development with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the most prestigious of the UK awards for outstanding business performance.

Tracy Mitchell, Shared Interest’s Foundation & Programme Manager, said:

“The early stages of starting a business are difficult in any circumstances, but especially so if it is a fair trade business in a developing country. There is no lack of enterprising businessmen and women, but many struggle to keep themselves afloat while they wait for a cash return on their goods supplied to retail outlets.

“It can be difficult for the fair trade producer or artisan out in the field, who can’t afford to pay staff or cover operation costs without making some sort of revenue in advance. This is where Shared Interest comes in. With regional offices in Costa Rica and Kenya to focus activity in Central and Latin America as well as Africa, we pool money from UK investors to lend businesses the funds they need to survive commercially.

Shared Interest: Tracy Mitchell

Tracy Mitchell has helped develop Shared Interest projects in Africa and Latin America

“We have been involved in establishing some fantastic projects at Shared Interest, from support the traditional pottery skills of Twa people in Rwanda to helping small organic coffee farmers in Costa Rica. Shared Interest is about trade, not aid, and is an incredibly rewarding organisation to be involved in.”

Jo added:

“East Dunbartonshire has a established a strong track record on fair trade and through Shared Interest, Tracy is further strengthening these credentials. The organisation is founded on a simple premise, in terms of providing the financial support to fair trade businesses that they need to operate commercially. Shared Interest has broken new ground in the field of international development and was rewarded recently with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

“Shared Interest depends on attracting investors to continue encouraging fair trade businesses in Africa and Latin America. When Parliament returns in October, I will be seeking to put forward a motion to raise awareness of the valuable work carried out by Shared Interest.”

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