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The Impact of Fair Trade

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International trade -- Moral and ethical aspects, Unfair competition, Free trade -- Social aspects, Coffee growers -- Mexico -- Oaxaca (State)


Chapter 9.

This study, based on extensive ethnographic and survey research in Zapotec indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca between 2001 and 2005, offers one of the first in-depth investigations of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of fair trade. It examines the specific ways that fair trade has affected small producers in two coffee-dependent villages during the midst of the recent severe global coffee price crisis. The study compares members of the Michiza producer cooperative in the Rincón de Ixtlán region, whose certified organic coffee is sold on the international fair trade market, with unorganized conventional farming families in the same region who sell their harvests through local intermediaries. This chapter centers on the results of an in-depth household survey that compares economic, social and environmental conditions for 51 coffee farming families—half of them benefiting from the extra income and the advance credit generated by fair trade, and the other half selling their harvests onto the conventional world market in the midst of the worst coffee price crisis in history. It also explores the contradictions that can arise in rural communities where only some households participate in alternative markets offering more favorable terms of trade, and identifies some of the limitations to fair trade’s social impact at the local level.


This is the author’s version of a book chapter that was accepted for publication in The Impact of Fair Trade. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication.

A definitive version of chapter 9, 'Better, But Not Great': The Social and Environmental Benefits and Limitations of Fair Trade for Indigenous Coffee Producers in Oaxaca, Mexico was subsequently published and in Ruerd Ruben (ed.), The Impact of Fair Trade (pages 195-222). Wageningen, Netherlands: Wagenigen Academic Publishers.



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Wagenigen Academic Publishers