Presentation Title

Specialty Coffee Certification and Livelihoods in Chiapas, Mexico

Authors' Names

Meghan Montgomery

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

The global market for specialty certified coffee, including organic, fair trade and Rainforest Alliance, is rapidly expanding in the global market in response to changes in the ecological, economic and social conditions of coffee production systems. Certification represents a strategy that promises to further conservation goals while giving producers a stronger position in the production system, promising higher prices, trade network access and training to improve cultivation practices. Recent research indicates that the benefits of certification are not universally conferred on producers and that there is a lack of understanding about the constraints that small-scale growers face in becoming certified (Mendez et al. 2010). In order for certification programs to achieve conservation, economic and social justice goals, it is critical to understand the factors that limit certifications’ impact on small-scale farmers (Gobbi 2000). This study explores the dynamics of small-scale coffee production and certification in Chiapas, Mexico in order to understand the social, economic and ecological challenges that limit certification system impacts. Certifying organizations, notably Fair Trade International and the Rainforest Alliance, claim to leverage consumer values to further social, economic and environmental justice goals. Research into the real and perceived effects that these programs have on producer livelihoods is of critical importance in order to understand and improve their impact.

Coffee farms in Chiapas border intact protected landscapes and biosphere reserves, and have the capacity to maintain ecosystem services of local and global significance if managed in an ecologically sound manner. Much of the previous research on coffee production practices has focused on specific ecological processes that sustainable cultivation can enhance. However, there has been less attention on understanding how to work with growers themselves to promote and effectively apply ecosystem-based adaptations.

In order for the ecological benefits of certified coffee production to be fully realized, the production practices need to be applied at a broader spatial scale. Additionally, certification has the potential to provide critical benefits to small-scale growers by providing higher prices and training resources to offset production costs. However, many small-scale growers have difficulty in accessing these resources, limiting the efficacy of certification’s economic and ecological impacts.

This research examines that factors that constrain small-scale coffee growers’ abilities to adopt specific ecologically-based production practices on their farms. The study takes a qualitative methodological approach, using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with small-scale coffee growers in one community in Chiapas. These data are augmented by quantitative data gathered through a randomized close-ended survey and empirical information about income and yields in order to analyze the real economic influences of certification.

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Apr 27th, 9:00 AM Apr 27th, 9:15 AM

Specialty Coffee Certification and Livelihoods in Chiapas, Mexico

UC Ballroom, Pod #4

The global market for specialty certified coffee, including organic, fair trade and Rainforest Alliance, is rapidly expanding in the global market in response to changes in the ecological, economic and social conditions of coffee production systems. Certification represents a strategy that promises to further conservation goals while giving producers a stronger position in the production system, promising higher prices, trade network access and training to improve cultivation practices. Recent research indicates that the benefits of certification are not universally conferred on producers and that there is a lack of understanding about the constraints that small-scale growers face in becoming certified (Mendez et al. 2010). In order for certification programs to achieve conservation, economic and social justice goals, it is critical to understand the factors that limit certifications’ impact on small-scale farmers (Gobbi 2000). This study explores the dynamics of small-scale coffee production and certification in Chiapas, Mexico in order to understand the social, economic and ecological challenges that limit certification system impacts. Certifying organizations, notably Fair Trade International and the Rainforest Alliance, claim to leverage consumer values to further social, economic and environmental justice goals. Research into the real and perceived effects that these programs have on producer livelihoods is of critical importance in order to understand and improve their impact.

Coffee farms in Chiapas border intact protected landscapes and biosphere reserves, and have the capacity to maintain ecosystem services of local and global significance if managed in an ecologically sound manner. Much of the previous research on coffee production practices has focused on specific ecological processes that sustainable cultivation can enhance. However, there has been less attention on understanding how to work with growers themselves to promote and effectively apply ecosystem-based adaptations.

In order for the ecological benefits of certified coffee production to be fully realized, the production practices need to be applied at a broader spatial scale. Additionally, certification has the potential to provide critical benefits to small-scale growers by providing higher prices and training resources to offset production costs. However, many small-scale growers have difficulty in accessing these resources, limiting the efficacy of certification’s economic and ecological impacts.

This research examines that factors that constrain small-scale coffee growers’ abilities to adopt specific ecologically-based production practices on their farms. The study takes a qualitative methodological approach, using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with small-scale coffee growers in one community in Chiapas. These data are augmented by quantitative data gathered through a randomized close-ended survey and empirical information about income and yields in order to analyze the real economic influences of certification.