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Fair trade fair enough?

A common criticism of fair trade coffee is that very little of the price markup goes back to the farmers themselves. So now, if you really want to cut out the middlemen, you can buy 1,000 pounds of top-quality coffee beans direct from the farmers, thanks to Cup of Excellence. After a rigorous competition, these coffee-lovers select the best beans from six Latin American countries and auction them on their site.

World Bank aid for trade

The World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group has issued the first comprehensive and independent assessment of Bank assistance for trade. The report finds that despite greater openness, full benefits from trade are yet to be realized. The $38 billion in World Bank financing for trade programs since 1987 helped poor countries open markets, but were not as effective as hoped in boosting exports and growth, and fighting poverty.

Alternative energy fund proposed

"The developed world has a responsibility to help developing economies meet their energy needs in an environmentally sustainable way… So at the World Bank meetings in April... I will propose a World Bank facility -- a 20 billion-dollar fund for developing economies to invest in alternative sources of energy and greater energy efficiency."

That’s Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Hot charities

Social Edge and Global Giving have teamed up to launch the Global Giving Index. They pitch it as “a unique tool to help Social Entrepreneurs around the world monitor their progress, adapt their messaging or launch new social ventures.”

Update: Social Edge will also be covering the 2006 Skoll World Forum live. 

Drying-up growth

The lack of clean water and basic sanitation that afflicts up to 40 per cent of the world’s population knocks at least $556bn (£317bn, €458bn) a year off the world’s potential economic growth, according to the World Health Organisation, equivalent to about 1 per cent of global gross domestic product.

Trip to Marzar-e-Sharif

A colleague, Samuel Maimbo, recently came back from a Bank supervision mission to Marzar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, where he visited a cotton factory. He shared with me his diary from the trip, with some great pictures. A snipet:

The biggest disappointment was the state of the roads. They were in a complete state of disrepair. Potholes everywhere, waterlogged roads, mud and a complete lack of maintenance. It almost reminded me of Bossaso in Somalia.