Fair Trade organic coffee production in Nicaragua — Sustainable development or a poverty trap?

Joni Valkila
Publication Date: 
This article assesses the impact of Fair Trade organic coffee production on the well-being of small-scale farmers in Nicaragua
Studying the results of organic management is crucial for evaluating the advantages of Fair Trade because approximately half of all Fair Trade coffee is also organically certified. A wide range of farmers, representatives of cooperatives and export companies in Nicaragua were interviewed during seven months of field work between 2005 and 2008. Fair Trade organic production raises farmer income when low-intensity organic farming is an alternative to low-intensity conventional farming. However, low-intensity farming produces very little coffee in the case of the most marginalized farmers, keeping these farmers in poverty. With higher intensities of management, the economic advantages of Fair Trade organic production largely depend on prices in the mainstream market.