Nav: Home

Unforeseen impacts of the fair trade movement

March 20, 2017

Fair trade certified coffee is the kind of phrase that sounds good on a Whole Foods shelf, the type of marketing that merges first world affluence with third world resource. For the average consumer, it implies fairness in labor and wealth, the idea that small producers profit directly from the products and goods they produce.

The reality is far more complex, says Lindsay Naylor, assistant professor of geography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment whose paper, "Auditing the Subjects of Fair Trade: Coffee, Development, and Surveillance in Highland Chiapas," was published recently in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

In research that has taken her to the shade grown coffee plots of Mexico and the communities of indigenous Maya who work in them, she has discovered that this seemingly altruistic concept often has unforeseen impacts, and complex political origins.

In the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas, for example, where fertile soils grow an estimated 60 percent of Mexico's total coffee output, the coffee business benefits the Mayan community, but in some ways, also has them trapped.

"Fair trade has assisted families, but it's also served as a security blanket with little mobility," she says. "Coffee producers are marching in place."

Labor prices have been raised only once since fair trade labels first originated in 1988, and most farmers make around $500-1,000 each year.

But the power of the crop also goes beyond profits and pay, becoming at times a political weapon.

As an example, Naylor points to the 1997 Massacre of Acteal, in which 45 men, women and children participating in a Catholic Mass for peace were slaughtered.

"Their pacifist response to violence was to create a coffee cooperative," she says of their Maya Vinic coffee. "Truly rising from the ashes. That's what makes the fair trade movement so fascinating."

Naylor is one of the foremost scholars on the topic, having previously published, "Some are More Fair than Others: Fair Trade Certification, Development, and North-South Subjects," in the 2014 issue of Agriculture and Human Values. She was also quoted in a Yes Magazine article on "How to Become a Citizen Eater: A Trip Behind the Labels of Your Ethnic Cup of Coffee."
-end-


University of Delaware

Related Agriculture Articles:

Urban agriculture only provides small environmental benefits in northeastern US
'Buy local' sounds like a great environmental slogan, epitomized for city dwellers by urban agriculture.
Scientists say agriculture is good for honey bees
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health.
Widely accepted vision for agriculture may be inaccurate, misleading
'Food production must double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population.' This truism has been repeated so often in recent years that it has become widely accepted among academics, policymakers and farmers, but now researchers are challenging this assertion and suggesting a new vision for the future of agriculture.
New effort to promote careers in agriculture, natural resources
A new round of grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is designed to promote careers in agriculture and natural resource management, and educators with the University of Tennessee Departments of Plant Sciences and Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications (ALEC) are among the grant recipients.
Corn yield modeling towards sustainable agriculture
Researchers use a 16 year field-experiment dataset to show the ability of a model to fine-tune optimal nitrogen fertilizer rates, and identify five ways it can inform nitrogen management guidelines.
Small-scale agriculture threatens the rainforest
An extensive study led by a researcher at Lund University in Sweden has mapped the effects of small farmers on the rain forests of Southeast Asia for the first time.
Space agriculture topic of symposium
New frontiers of soil and plant sciences may grow crops in space.
Measure of age in soil nitrogen could help precision agriculture
What's good for crops is not always good for the environment.
Invasive species could cause billions in damages to agriculture
Invasive insects and pathogens could be a multi-billion- dollar threat to global agriculture and developing countries may be the biggest target, according to a team of international researchers.
Males were saved by agriculture
The emergence of agriculture is suggested to have driven extensive human population growth.

Related Agriculture Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".