In 1989, Beverly OTT and Olivier HAUVILLE lived in Lomé, Togo, where Beverly worked as Associate Regional Representative for World Neighbors and Olivier, while working on his
doctoral thesis continued independent consulting work. During this time both individuals began learning about and understanding poverty, not only in rural Africa, but also the impressive poverty
affecting urban regions where, at the time, few NGOs worked.
After undertaking an evaluation of a program in Lomé that had worked with street children for years, training them, trying to reintegrate them in society, Olivier discovered that many children returned to the streets after their trainings and education due to the lack of outlets for products that they had been trained to produce. In addition the children took to the streets due to the extreme poverty in their own family settings: parents separated, father nonexistent or unemployed, mother trying to do her best but having to sell during the day in order to provide for her children. The children are either sent to a third person (another distant family member in a "better" economic situation) where they often become servants (or run away), or they are given a little money to fend for themselves on the streets. However the means were so little that they had to beg, steal, or be sent to an "aunt's" home as a "domestic" to survive.
After studying this situation in addition to the situation and the history of prostitution in the area, Beverly and Olivier decided to act - to create a program: ECHOPPE - Exchange for the Organization and the Promotion for Small Entrepreneurs - literally meaning "A shop" in English.
In 1990, after completing her contract with World Neighbors, both Beverly and Olivier began by acting to change the face of poverty in urban Togo.
1990: Birth of ECHOPPE as an association. Reception of 1/3 of needed funding for beginning. Began with 10 small loans, then 20, analysing and redirecting work.
10/1990: Creation of the first small shop "Artisans du Soleil" in order to provide employment for young scholars without opportunities and to promote and create alternatives for local craftsmen (former street youth and the disabled) to find outlets for their products.
1991: ECHOPPE creates with local NGOs "Jeunesse, Bâtissons la Cité"(Youth, Let's build our nation), a program of work intensive projects for local poor youth in order to prevent manipulation at a time of political unrest and uncertainty. This program provided jobs for many of the town's poor enabling them to work together on civil engineering programs for the betterment of their country.
1992: At the request of the Minister of Youth and sports, ECHOPPE began work in neighboring Benin. A second store "Artisans du Soleil" was founded.
08/1992: The first "Artisans du Soleil" in France began in Angers. A small shop of 10 sq meters allowed the creation of an employment opportunity in France and the outlet for numbers of artisans in Togo and Bénin. This was the first such store to create jobs instead of using volunteer staff in order to sell products considered "Fair Trade".
1993: Small loans programs continue in both Togo and Bénin. Oxfam's program "RITA" publishes a "how to" book on small loans based on ECHOPPE's experiences.
1994: Devaluation of the local currency the Franc CFA in Togo and Bénin. The French government looked for programs to increase access to finances among the poor. ECHOPPE proposed to work with 200 tailors making mosquito nets and school uniforms sold to families and subsidized costs in order to help both poor and working populations. Over 6000 uniforms and 30,000 mosquito nets were made and sold via this program. Unfortunately, due to the still high cost of labor and lack of industrial infrastructure in Africa, it was impossible to continue as competition from Asia prohibited the possibility of continuing paying fair prices.
1995: ECHOPPE receives a co-financement from the European Community for enlargening the loans programs in Togo and Benin.
1997: ECHOPPE is co-founder of the French Faire Trade Platform uniting all French participants in fair trade to created the rules of what fair trade represents.
1998: "Artisans du Soleil" products are sold in large catalogues for fundraising for groups such as the French Catholic Relief Services and others.
1999: Artisans du Soleil Paris begins. Recognition important for this small but well situated and pretty shop.
2001: Artisans du Soleil begins as a franchise shop in Bordeaux (France).
2003: Shop in Angers is sold to an association which continues the activity, thus freeing the leadership to be able work with social issues and small loans. ECHOPPE continues to sell Artisans du Soleil products as a wholesaler in order to finance social programming.
12/2003: ECHOPPE coordinates first Fair Trade Village at Christmas market in Angers.
2004: ECHOPPE receives a human development prize from a highly reputed women's magazine for its work with women.
Contacted by local farmers looking for alternatives to large intensive farming in order to save family farms. Project took then 3 years to build.
2005: Organization of National conference on "Fair Trade and Discount Stores: What should we do?" Initiates first Community Supported Agriculture program in local area.
2006: ECHOPPE-Togo is born.
2007: Beginning of "Terre et Terroirs" ; middle size store selling fair trade and local farm products. Alternative to large discount supermarkets - tries to provide quality, fair prices and proximity.
2008: Beginning of program: "Town and Country" in Togo working with groups of women (beneficiaries already of ECHOPPE loans) in order to provide quality farm produce without middleman prices. Loans to local farmers assured of markets by the women in order to insure their production and provide outlets for their products
Beginning of the "africanization" of "Artisans du Soleil" This was essentially the liberation of the artisanal work from under the supervision of ECHOPPE. The crafts network was given tools and contacts with international fair trade organizations in order to "africanize" the process and allow local leadership to stimulate markets and be a go between local craftspeople and international outlets. ECHOPPE continued its actions looking at the economy on a wider basis in order to change how consumers could help the poorest - from farmers to craftspeople, in Africa, all over the world or in France.
2011: ECHOPPE-Centrafrique is begun by Central African women leaders.
If you would like to assist with the purchase of the truck for the Town and Country Program, go to www.crowdrise.com. In the search box, type Buying a Truck. You should see ECHOPPE's information on that page.
For those who have PayPal accounts, you may make contributions to ECHOPPE via this site, rubrique: "take action"