Where we work
To promote BioTrade, the ethical, sustainable trade in resources derived from natural biodiversity, Helvetas works with local processors, traders, importers and exporters who are prepared to integrate the core values of sustainable use and social ethics into their business practices.
More meat. More palm oil. More rice. More everything. And as cheap as possible. The large-scale production of foodstuffs for foreign markets takes its toll on the health of agricultural workers and the environment, putting especially heavy pressure on highly biologically diverse ecosystems, as in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
Exporting herbs, flowers, roots and saps to industrialized countries is a viable and sustainable alternative to mass production of foodstuffs. Botanicals that have been used for generations to heal ailments or preserve beauty in Southeast Asia are increasingly in demand in the phytopharmaceutical and cosmetics industries in developed countries. The so-called BioTrade represents an opportunity of great promise for countries like Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. BioTrade protects forests because many of the plants concerned only thrive in intact ecosystems. It creates jobs because gathering or growing the plants is labor-intensive. And if prices are fair, it improves earnings across the board, from harvesters and farmers to workers and salaried employees in the processing, distributing and selling of these natural products.
We began with this project in Vietnam. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) now supports regional expansion of the project into the neighboring countries of Laos and Myanmar.
In one BioTrade project in Southeast Asia, Helvetas works with traders, processors and import and export companies that integrate the core values of sustainable use of the environment and social ethics into their everyday business practices. Our focus is on cooperation with selected local companies here that embrace these principles in working with local suppliers and look for suitable international sales channels.
We make our know-how in the development of new markets available to everyone, and put the local companies in touch with experts and advisers. The aim is to create a network of service providers with a shared objective: to promote domestic and international trade in ethically produced natural raw materials.
Helvetas also brings private businesses together with government agencies so the state can lay the necessary groundwork, which involves issuing reliable standards and regulations on the processing of medicinal plants, streamlining customs procedures, drafting fair labor laws, promoting exports and signing on to international BioTrade agreements.