Environmental and Social Effects of Fair Trade Coffee Production

EPA Grant Number: U916225
Title: Environmental and Social Effects of Fair Trade Coffee Production
Investigators: Jaffee, Daniel S.
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $83,540
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Behavioral/Social Sciences


The objective of this research project is to examine empirically the extent to which fair trade arrangements improve environmental, social, and economic conditions for those on the production end of the commodity chain, by examining these effects in the context of the current world coffee price crisis, marked by rapidly growing rural poverty and malnutrition in coffee-producing zones. According to Karl Polanyi, the rise of market economies has removed or "disembedded" markets from the social relations in which they were originally based. Current literature on the growing fair trade movement posits that it addresses the need to "re-embed" the market into that larger framework of social relations.


This research project compares organized indigenous coffee producers in the Sierra Juarez region of northern Oaxaca, Mexico, who participate in fair-trade markets, and their neighbors who must sell coffee through conventional market channels. It examines whether access to fair trade (and organic) markets, with their attendant price premiums, plays a role in enhancing household incomes and food security, preventing abandonment of coffee plots and protecting the highly biodiverse shade coffee agroecosystem. I will employ several methods to gather both qualitative and quantitative data on environmental and social conditions, including participant observation of coffee processing and organizational activities; semistructured interviews with farmers/producers, family members, co-operative leaders, and others; observation of coffee and subsistence crop plots; and structured questionnaires with fair-trade and conventional-producer households.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, coffee production, shade coffee agroecosystem, fair trade, Mexico, fair-trade markets.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final