IDS research examines the impacts of fair trade for producers and workers
Research from Institute of Development Studies has shown that Fairtrade-certified bananas are improving producers’ and workers’ incomes in several countries, and improving working conditions.
But the system continues to face challenges addressing poverty and inequality, and supporting worker organising.
Systems known as ‘fair trade’ are trading partnerships that seek greater equity in international trade. The ‘Fairtrade’ label used on many products in the UK is one type of fair trade system, and is coordinated by the organisation Fairtrade International.
Nearly one in three bananas sold in the UK are certified under the Fairtrade label.
IDS was commissioned to research Fairtrade bananas by the UK-based Fairtrade Foundation, and published in the IDS report Fairtrade Bananas: A global assessment of impact. The Fairtrade Foundation responded to the findings with a report summarizing the findings.
Demonstrating benefits of fair trade for producers and workers
The IDS study focused on the impact of fair trade bananas for smallholder farmers and plantation workers in Ghana, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and the Windward Islands.
Report author and former IDS researcher, Sally Smith said, “I am thrilled that the Fairtrade Foundation has supported the publication of this report, and see it as a clear sign of its commitment to transparency, accountability and learning within the Fairtrade system.”
Findings from the research highlight the important role fair trade has to play in supporting farmers’ efforts to build strong collective enterprises and to secure decent returns for their bananas. This has helped them overcome challenges associated with the dominance of multinational companies and supermarkets in the banana sector, including long-term decline in prices.
The report cites the progress that has been made in achieving better terms and conditions for plantation workers, including tackling the widespread use of casual employment as a way for employers to avoid their obligations to workers. The research findings also highlight the contribution that fair trade has made in encouraging more environmentally sustainable production among banana farmers.
Challenges remain in addressing poverty and unequal power in value chains
The report also identifies some weaknesses in the Fairtrade system for dealing with issues of poverty and inequality, lack of organisation among workers and the greater political and economic influence wielded by large organisations involved in buying and selling bananas.
The report makes several recommendations for addressing these issues:
- more support for poor and marginalised groups
- a focus on freedom of association and collective bargaining for workers
- greater consideration of value chain dynamics in policy decisions.
Fairtrade Foundation responds to recommendations on fair trade impacts
In its report summarizing the IDS research, Fairtrade Foundation published a detailed response to each of IDS’ recommendations.
Smith reflected, “Although the research found that there are many challenges still to be overcome, it is clear that with this willingness to learn and improve the Fairtrade system will make an even greater contribution towards securing a better life for banana farmers and workers around the world.”
The Fairtrade Foundation report outlines both the steps taken since the research was carried to tackle the issues identified, and the areas in which more should be done.
Image credit:Jacob Silberberg/Panos
Related Content - News & Blogs
BLOG: Public Private Partnerships for agriculture in Kenya: new FAO report
From the KNOTS team blog
BLOG: how smallholder agriculture contributes to food security and nutrition
From the KNOTS team blog
BLOG: If we want to tackle hunger and undernutrition, we must invest more in agriculture
Guest blog by Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chair of the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development
Related Content - Publications
Related Content - Events
The Search for Stability through Stabilisation: Case Studies from Afghanistan and Nepal
28 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, Institute of Development Studies
India’s dream run, 2003-2008
29 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, IDS
Will the BRICS Bank change development and shift the global balance of power?
11 June 2013 18:00 to 19:30
Committee Room 16, House of Commons