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The Effects of Fairtrade on Deforestation Among Cocoa and Coffee Producers

Ghana, Ivory Coast, Colombia, Peru, Honduras
June 2023 – February 2024.

An analysis of the effects of Fairtrade’s financial regulations and other Fairtrade interventions on deforestation at the producer level.

Programme background

Fairtrade’s new Theory of Change assumes that its interventions – standard requirements and tools, pricing tools, producer support including climate academies and deforestation data and intelligence – will contribute to building climate resilient practices of Fairtrade producer organisations. Currently, there are only two recently introduced criteria for deforestation in the new Theory of Change. And deforestation data is insufficient.

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A series of internal and external factors will drive Fairtrade producers’ adoption of deforestation monitoring tools and investments in tackling deforestation risks:


KIT Royal Tropical Institute, together with The Chain Collaborative, Expressing Origin and local, origin-based researchers, are performing a quantitative and qualitative assessment on the effects of the Fairtrade system on deforestation at the producer level. The objective of this study is to assess if and how Fairtrade incentivises or de-incentivises deforestation by means of its standards and tools including the Fairtrade Pricing and Premium Regulations its engagement on the ground with producer organisations and farmers.

The main research question is:

The geographic focus of this research was limited to countries with a high number of Fairtrade producer organisations engaged in cocoa and/or coffee production: Ghana, Ivory Coast, Colombia, Peru and Honduras. The timeline is June 2023 – February 2024.

Approach and Methods

KIT designed a mixed-methods approach rooted in Realist Evaluation which is used to a) identify which factors lead to achieving (or not) certain results, and b) clarify how certain interventions cause (and/or contribute to) outcomes and impacts. This further enables Outcome Harvesting which leads to an understanding of what has changed (including unintended and indirect changes) as a result of interventions.

KIT also applied an innovative technological change framework proposed by Glover et. al. (2019) which  breaks down Fairtrade’s newest interventions (e.g. SPOs’ monitoring systems and data on deforestation) into technology change processes with four aspects: propositions, encounters, dispositions and responses (PEDR).

Three main types of data collection methods are used in the study: a comprehensive desk review; semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with Fairtrade stakeholders (e.g., National Fairtrade Organizations, Fairtrade Producer Networks, the Fairtrade Center of Excellence Climate & Environment); and a survey of cocoa and coffee farmers and managers of cooperatives and associations. The “Lot Quality Assurance Survey” included small, random samples of 19 members from target producer organisations (three per country).

Results and Recommendations

The findings will be used to inform Fairtrade and its key stakeholders on effective ways to curb deforestation, better protect forests, biodiversity and climate (e.g., update of standards, pricing & economic tools).

This will be available in the first quarter of 2024.

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