Page last updated at 01:37 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Mixed fortunes for charity gifts

Goat alongside Harrods shopping bags
Gifts on offer include goats, chicken and herds of llama

Sales of so-called ethical gifts are booming despite the economic downturn, according to the charity Christian Aid.

The number of items (such as bicycles and mosquito nets) bought for people in poorer countries rose from 506 last October to 2,390 in October this year.

But other charities said while people were still buying such gifts they were generally spending less.

Oxfam said it was a "tough year" for consumers and World Vision said it was feeling the impact of the recession.

The UK's ethical market is growing steadily and last December, the Co-operative Bank valued it at 32.2bn.

Developing world

Christian Aid said sales of its Present Aid gifts had increased 372% compared with the same time last year.

Current figures suggested the proceeds would "substantially" exceed last year's fundraising total of 2.1m, it added.

Daniel Charles, head of Present Aid, said: "You might think that with the economy as it is we'd be seeing a decline in the number of people buying ethical gifts like these over the festive period.

"However, from baby buffalo to cans of worms, watering cans to mosquito nets, it seems Britons are shunning socks and soap on a rope in favour of virtual gifts to help people in the developing world."

Perhaps, with everything going on with the collapse of the banks, there's a fear of greed
Dominic Nutt, Save the Children

Dominic Nutt, from Save the Children, told the BBC News website: "We're certainly seeing no downturn at all.

"I think this kind of gift giving is part of Christmas now and maybe it's also part of a cultural shift that seems to be going on towards less avaricious things - organic, Fairtrade, and so on.

"Perhaps, with everything going on with the collapse of the banks, there's a fear of greed, of what got us into this situation in the first place and that's leading people to think of charities more."

'Mega gifts'

Oxfam's gift service launched in 2004 offers small projects, like building a toilet or training a teacher.

Paul Vargas, head of Oxfam Unwrapped, said: "People are spending a little bit less.

"The average value of gifts bought is down, although people are definitely still buying. It's just a tough year.

"It's also early days for this Christmas so I'd encourage anybody out there who's buying a present to think of getting someone a charity gift.

"The British public are fantastic and even when times are really tough they do still want to help people in need."

A spokeswoman for World Vision said its expensive "mega gifts" had proved very popular, among them a 15,000 bore hole bought for a village.

"It's fair to see we are seeing some effect of the recession, but we are also seeing very generous people as well," she said.

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