Focus: Frontline - Serf

Nathalie Thomas,

WHAT IT IS: A charity set up by the fair trade tourism company Bespoke Experience. It seeks to reduce poverty in countries such as Mozambique

WHAT IT DOES: For its first project, Serf is building an education centre in the village of Guludo in northern Mozambique

HOW IT'S FUNDED: Bespoke Experience and individual donations

The white sand beaches and coral reefs of northern Mozambique may sound like paradise for visiting tourists, but for locals the picture isn't always so rosy. Mozambique is counted among the poorest countries in the world and more than three-quarters of the population survives on less than $2 (£1.12) a day.

Serf, the Social and Environmental Regeneration Fund, seeks to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty by funding health, education, agricultural and business development projects in towns and villages linked to fair trade tourist resorts. It was established in 2002 as the sister charity to Bespoke Experience, a sustainable tourism company that channels revenue from tourists directly to the local community.

"The aim is that the resort will eventually be run by locals," says Kate Willoughby, spokeswoman for Bespoke and Serf.

The village of Guludo will be the first area to benefit from Serf's activities.

The fund has already raised the £7,000 required to build an education centre next year, providing learning and sports facilities for children and adults.

Wider aims

Locals will build the centre, which has been designed free of charge by British architects Cullum and Nightingale, using only local materials.

However, Serf's aims lie beyond simply employing and feeding people, according to Willoughby.

"They're not just giving money and employing people," she says. "They're educating and encouraging them in all sorts of areas." Although teachers will have to be sourced from other areas of Mozambique to begin with, it is hoped that the education centre will eventually produce its own staff.

Serf is principally funded by Bespoke, which donates 5 per cent of all visitors' accommodation bills and a percentage of its profits. It is part of an expanding fair trade tourism movement that sets out to build sustainable tourist resorts in areas of extreme poverty. The objective is to provide a sustainable boost to local economies and to offer people the opportunity to work their way out of poverty. Fair trade tourism also ensures the bulk of money brought in by visitors stays within the local community.

"Before they arrived everyone was always hungry," the chief of Guludo says. "Now no one is hungry." The fair trade resort near Guludo employs 55 locals, lifting the village out of its previous zero per cent employment rate. Various shops and businesses have also opened independently thanks to the introduction of tourism to the area.

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