Monitoring the wages and labour conditions on thousands of small farms is costly and therefore rarely done.
Photo: J Sellare


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Fairtrade certification benefits the employees of agricultural cooperatives but do not necessarily improve income of farm workers, say researchers who investigated the situation in smallholder farming in Côte d’Ivoire.

A new study from the University of Göttingen in Germany and international partners has analysed the effects of Fairtrade certification on poor rural workers in Africa. The results show that Fairtrade improves the situation of employees in agricultural cooperatives, but not that of workers in the smallholder farm sector, who are often particularly disadvantaged. The study was published in “Nature Sustainability”.

When consumers of cocoa, coffee and other tropical goods, decide to purchase products with the Fairtrade label, they pay a certain premium, expecting to help improve the socioeconomic conditions in developing countries. The study authors wanted to know whether Fairtrade was really benefiting poor rural workers in Africa. For the study, they collected representative data from 1,000 cocoa farmers and workers in 50 different cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, where the largest cocoa producers and exporters world-wide are to be found.

Monitoring of certifications standards at farm level too costly

“Previous studies had analysed the effects of Fairtrade on smallholder farmers, ignoring that these farmers also employ agricultural workers for crop cultivation and harvesting,” says Matin Qaim, an agricultural economist at the University of Göttingen.

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