Enriching lives with ethical finance
UK-based, Shared Interest lends money to Fair Trade organisations worldwide. What makes us different is we do not usually require security. This enables us to reach farmers and handcrafters in remote communities, struggling to find finance elsewhere.
We are a Registered Society with 11,000 UK investors providing over £38m. We strive to be a responsible lender, recognised with a Queen’s Award twice, and in 2015 awarded the title of ‘most ethical finance institution working in the fair trade sector.’
Shared Interest currently makes payments to over 400 producer groups across 59 countries. Our main aim is to help smallholder farmers and handcraft groups, and we lend in two ways: directly to fair trade producers and to fair trade wholesale or retail businesses. We lend to support Fairtrade products such as coffee; fresh fruit, nuts, and cocoa, as well as handcrafts such as weaved baskets and furniture.
We want to do more than provide finance on fair terms. The Fair Trade organisations we finance say that, thanks to our supporters, they have helped transform their communities. For this reason, we like to keep up to date with issues faced by our customers. We find that our annual Producer Committee meetings facilitated by in-country staff in Peru, Ivory Coast, and Kenya, give producers the opportunity to discuss common issues and market trends. While it is not in our remit to provide a solution to these problems, sharing experiences can assist organisations in resolving their own issues.
For instance, citrus farming is a growing source of income in Ghana but climate change continues to be a big challenge, with fruit ripening early or crops being lost in their entirety due to the changing rainfall patterns. Nyame Akwan is a Fairtrade orange producer that is surviving commercially, despite these various setbacks.
Farmers approached Shared Interest for finance in 2015 when fruit flies were causing production losses of up to 40%. The loan allowed the group to purchase fertilisers for farmers and ultimately increase production volumes. Farm maintenance equipment helped reduce fruit loss to only 10%.
Education also helped improve yields. Previously, harvesting involved manually plucking the fruit with sticks, which led to spoilage. After training, the farmers began to hang wire nets under the trees to catch the oranges.
Thanks to Shared Interest investors, Nyame Akwan is helping over 100 farmers to earn a living. Chairman Mustapha Akubakar said: “Once our membership reaches 200, we would like to become a co-operative.”
See their website here.