Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 12:04 UK

A 'fairer deal' for Rwandan farmers

By Catherine Wynne
Business reporter, BBC News

Sir Bob Geldof and Bill Clinton
'Do you think I'm sexy?'

It's official. International development is sexy.

When Bill Clinton and Sir Bob Geldof entered the packed atrium of the London offices of the Department for International Development there was a sense of excitement, anticipation... and giggling.

"Clinton and I have been going through a who's-the-most-sexy thing over the last three days, and frankly as a rock star of some standing, I like to believe I am," Sir Bob said.

"I heard the familiar girlish screams as I came down the steps. But Clinton seems to win. Power seems to be sexier. I don't get it."

The former US President has used that power and influence to establish the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI) along with Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur who plans to give 1bn of his fortune away.

Fairer trade?

This week, they launched Rwandan Farmers coffee. Supped by Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations, it is a new brand of coffee which is owned by the coffee farmers themselves.

We never ask anybody to lose money. We just ask them to make money in a different way
Former US President Bill Clinton

They will receive not just a "fair" payment for their crop, but also a share of the profits.

"It is our chance to go beyond Fairtrade," Sir Tom said.

For a product to qualify as an official Fairtrade coffee, its producers must receive a minimum payment of $1.25 a pound, plus a so-called Fairtrade premium of 10 cents a pound which goes towards social programmes in their community.

But the 8,700 Rwandan coffee farmers who own the new brand will also receive 16% of the profits.

But don't mention the C-word.

"This is not charity," Sir Tom Hunter said.

"We ask the UK consumers to have a cup of coffee, but also here is the good that you do with it and it goes back in Africa and helps those farmers," he said.

Business case

Rwanda is one of the world's poorest countries, where people are not expected to live beyond 45 years of age and most rely on agriculture to survive.

Almost a million people were killed there in the genocide of 1994. Mr Clinton, who was US president at the time, has said that the international community should have done more to try and prevent the bloodshed.

It was his choice to focus the Clinton Foundation's efforts on Rwanda.

He explained to the audience, which included Marks and Spencer boss Stuart Rose and Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King, how a sound business case was central to the success of their programmes, including securing the world's least expensive Aids medicines.

"We never ask anybody to lose money," he said.

"We just ask them to make money in a different way, with a lower profit margin, a bigger volume and a certain return," Mr Clinton said.

As for whether it is a good time to launch a premium product in the UK, the boss of Sainsbury's, which will stock the Rwandan Farmers coffee, says there is still a growing market for Fairtrade products.

"Once people move to Fairtrade products, they move to them for heartfelt reasons and they don't go back," Justin King said.

Fairtrade seeks 50m investment
27 Feb 07 |  Business
Tracking the true cost of coffee
10 May 07 |  Business
Starbucks in Ethiopia coffee vow
21 Jun 07 |  Business
Profile: Sir Tom Hunter
18 Jul 07 |  Business
Country profile: Rwanda
25 Jun 08 |  Country profiles


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