JAFFEE D., Washington State Univ. Vancouver, USA
This study, based on extensive ethnographic and survey research in Zapotec indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca between 2002 and 2005, offers one of the first comprehensive investigations of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of fair trade. It compares members of the Michiza producer cooperative in the Rincón de Ixtlán region, whose certified organic coffee is sold on the international fair trade market, with unorganized conventional farming families in the same region who sell their harvests through local intermediaries. It offers a nuanced analysis of both the effects of fair trade on the household and community economy and the limits of its impact.
The study finds that access to fair trade markets generates significant household- and community-level benefits for many participants, enhancing family incomes and improving food security. Fair trade results in increased gross household incomes, but producers have higher costs of production as well. Participation in fair trade is linked with lower levels of debt, and households participating in fair trade markets are more food secure than their conventional counterparts.
However, fair trade’s ability to deliver such improvements to producers, and to attract additional participants, is constrained by several factors. Among these are the added costs and labor burdens of certified organic coffee production, and substantial erosion of the purchasing power of the fair trade minimum prices. In fact, the fair trade farmgate prices in many cases do not even cover farmers’ costs of production. While fair trade does make a tangible difference in the livelihoods of many producers, these benefits are at present insufficient to persuade most non-member households in these communities to join the cooperative organization.
The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening and reforming the international fair trade system so that participation in fair trade would again represent a substantial improvement in livelihoods for these small producer participants.
© FTIS - 2008 - Tous droits réservés. : 16/07/2008