Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download


D+C Vol.42.2015:2 27 of Sussex in Britain. The second was prepared by the Centre for Evaluation (CEval) of the University of Saar- land in Germany. According to CEval, Fairtrade “lays the essential foundation for successful and sustainable rural development”. The researchers stated that the Fairtrade approach allows farmers to take ownership of development by participating in strong democratic or- ganisations. The CEval study appreciated that farmers with Fair- trade certification feel a greater sense of independence and empowerment. They actively participate in deci- sion-making and have a bearing on the design of devel- opment projects that affect them. One reason is that Fairtrade provides support to producer groups and as- sists them to become organised. The guiding idea is that they gain greater control of their futures by co­ operation. CEval pointed out that the adherence to Fair- trade standards “improves working conditions, gives security to farmers and workers and protects the envi- ronment”. Keep getting better One of the Fairtrade principles is that production prac- tices should keep improving over time. For instance, the shift from conventional to organic farming is encour- aged. According to the NRI/IDS study, the continuous- improvement approach is working out. The scholars stated that Fairtrade standards have led to “significant environmental benefits”. The reasons include “the re- duction of the use of harmful pesticides, better disposal of chemical containers, introduction and strengthening of sustainable farming methods”. Synergies with or­ ganic farming are acknowledged. Fairtrade farmers enjoy a sense of economic securi- ty thanks to the minimum price that reflects their aver- age costs for sustainable production. In addition, the Fairtrade Premium, paid on top of the selling price, en­ ables farmers to invest in projects of their own choice on their farms in their communities. CEval appreciated the difference the Fairtrade minimum price and Pre­ mium make: “The Fairtrade Premium offers farmers and workers the important opportunity of participation in community development.” The authors emphasised that farmers and workers assume new responsibilities, acquire new skills and get involved in other areas than farming. The CEval study concluded that “the invest- ments made with Fairtrade premium money often im- prove the living conditions in rural communities”. In West and Central Africa the minimum price Fair- trade paid was found to be significantly higher than the standard price paid by national marketing agencies run by governments. It was up to 49 % higher in Senegal and Cameroon and even up to 78 % higher in Mali. In India, the impact of the minimum price was not as strong because market prices were generally higher there. Nonetheless, the minimum price for Fairtrade cotton still made a difference. The rural families con- cerned were aware of the additional income improving their outlooks in terms of food security, health care and children’s schooling. They knew that they were faring better than farmers growing cotton in the conventional way. The Fairtrade Premium is often used for social projects that benefit entire communities, for example in terms of education and health services. Fairtrade Inter- national’s own evaluations have shown, moreover, that cotton-producer organisations invest in improving farm activities. In 2013, all premium payments for Fair- trade cotton amounted to € 644,000. More than one third of this sum was invested in farm-related invest- ments, including tools, seed, soil management, ponds, drip irrigation and organic fertilisation. Demand matters For obvious reasons, the success of Fairtrade hinges upon sales. In a journal essay in 2012, experts from the multilateral International Cotton Advisory Committee spelled out a drawback: “While farmers are required to learn new crop-management techniques and, in most cases, face additional production costs, demand for their cotton is not guaranteed.” In the wake of the finan- cial crisis of 2008, the sales of Fairtrade cotton declined in rich nations. This trend had a severe adverse affect on producers, particularly in West Africa. In addition, agri- cultural inputs have been getting more expensive, re- ducing the profit margins of farmers. As a result, farm- ershavefewerincentivestotaketheFairtradeapproach. Some of them have told Fairtrade International that they have begun to focus on other crops and alternative ways of earning money. The new Fairtrade Cotton Program was designed to rise to this challenge. It makes it easier for garment brands to commit to the Fairtrade approach, enabling them to use Fairtrade cotton in their manufacturing of clothing and textiles, rather than creating a specific Fairtrade cotton range. The approach can serve their social-corporate responsibility and helps to improve farmers’ lives. With the appropriate support, farmers can and will invest in a more sustainable future, taking into account environmental, economic and social aspects. The Fair- trade approach boosts farmers’ resilience. This is an ­urgent matter – not least in view of climate change. ­Un­usual weather, unprecedented droughts and devas- tating storms have terrible impacts on agriculture. Fair- trade offers a good way to improve quality, productivity and environmental sustainability. Links: ImpactstudybyNRI/IDS: Fairtrade_Cotton_Assessing_Impact_in_Mali__Senegal__Cameroon_and_India__ main_report.pdf ImpactstudybyCEval: Fairtrade_Impact_Study.pdf Anup Kumar Singh works for Fairtrade International. He is the organisation’s global product manager for cotton. [email protected]