Yesterday I participated in an online forum on the future of smallholder Fair Trade hosted by the Fair Trade Resource Nework. My presentation, in synthesis, went something like this:
Fair Trade and Fair Trade Certification have catalyzed smallholder farmer organization and empowerment over the past decade through their support for farmer-led cooperatives. But there are more than 10 million smallholder coffee farmers out there who are not part of cooperatives that would be recognized by the Fair Trade system. As a development agency working in lots of the places where farmers are underserved by cooperatives, we spend lots of time working to help make alternative models of smallholder farmer organization more equitable. So it should come as no surprise that we are interested in learning more about Fair Trade USA’s proposal to open the Fair Trade market to independent small farmers, and hopeful that its approach can improve farmer organization, social empowerment and economic development outcomes for farmers outside the Fair Trade system. Whether that qualifies as Fair Trade or not, it sounds like a development opportunity worth exploring.
Thanks again to the organizers at FTRN for the opportunity to participate, and my genteel debating partner, Rodney North from Equal Exchange, for the spirit of collaborative inquiry and discovery that characterized his participation.
Here are the slides from my presentation. (Hold the cursor over the slide to see the notes.)