Globalisation > Agricultural Standards: Research Project > Fairtrade Africa
Fairtrade Africa Impact Evaluation Project
The Fairtrade voluntary system of social development through trade via global supply chains to large markets was designed to alter the historically unequal terms of trade between farmers and farm workers in developing countries on the one hand, and buyers of their products in the developed world on the other. Fairtrade certification of producer’s organizations attempts to regulate production by setting and enforcing specific standards, and in return ensure minimum farm-gate prices and premium payments to certified producer organizations for social investment. Fairtrade support structures and governance attempts to build markets, provide producer support, facilitate networks and exchange, and monitor, evaluate and disseminate learning. This system is designed to foster social equity and inclusion; livelihood stability and growth; more effective organization; better management of natural resources; local and national development in agriculture; and access to global markets.
Fairtrade market growth has outperformed conventional markets in agricultural products during the sharp economic downturn since 2008, albeit from a small niche position in most agricultural commodities. However, Fairtrade markets will only continue to grow if consumers are convinced that their purchases of higher priced Fairtrade products contribute meaningfully to social development for producers. Likewise small farmers and hired labour producers will only continue to participate in the Fairtrade certification program, incurring the associated costs, if they can see that doing so sustains and improves their livelihoods and power in markets beyond what they might otherwise achieve. Both consumers and producers therefore need credible evidence of the impact of Fairtrade on farmer and farm worker livelihoods, development, and empowerment in widely differing contexts. The Fairtrade certification system and Fairtrade support organizations (such as Fairtrade Africa and the Southern Africa Fairtrade Network) provide rich certification audit data at the producer organization level and in- depth studies of impact in particular regions or product groupings. However, routine collection and dissemination of smallholder farmer and worker level data at a large scale is missing thus far.
SLF has been contracted to assist Fairtrade Africa, one of the three Fairtrade continental producer network organizations, to develop an impact assessment policy of Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) certification and support for African Fairtrade producers and workers. In parallel to this exercise, SLF will engage Fairtrade support organizations in Africa and internationally in piloting indicators and methods for producing impact measurement data at the smallholder farmer and worker level to measure and attribute livelihood and empowerment changes (whether positive or negative) taking place in the context of Fairtrade certified cooperatives and “hired labour” producer organizations. The Project aims to produce a scalable framework for verifiable and comparable livelihoods data on which to base ongoing evaluation of the Fairtrade system in Africa in its country contexts. SLF will conduct pilot baseline impact studies in three African countries (South Africa, and one each in East and West Africa), which will create a framework for Fairtrade Africa to roll out continent-wide baseline measurements of impact, on an ongoing basis for the future, in line with Fairtrade’s global commitment to impact assessment.
The project will be informed by global scientific work on rural development indicators, and Fairtrade International’s own work on change attribution (Theory of Change). The most challenging aspect of the project will be achieving participation by small holders and plantation workers and involving them in developing and selecting relevant and appropriate indicators and measurement techniques, and dissemination of findings.