Journal of Fair Trade Latest Issues

Below you can find the table of contents for the latest issues of Journal of Fair Trade. All articles are Open Access and links to each article are provided below. The journal is hosted on JSTOR and can be found here to read online. 

The meaning of Fair Trade for wild plants

Rie Makita

Rie Makita is a Professor in the Faculty of International Social Sciences at Gakushuin University, Japan. Her recent research focuses on relationships between global value chains and sustainable livelihoods. Her publications include Fair Trade and Organic Initiatives in Asian Agriculture: The Hidden Realities (Routledge, 2019).


Where the Fair Trade initiative is applied to wild plants, two contradictory objectives may arise: that of conserving a target plant species (conservation) and that of increasing income from it for collectors (poverty alleviation). As identified through my fieldwork in India, a Fair Trade certification for wild plants has been introduced for different purposes, including
(a) to teach the local community the forgotten value of natural resources (conservation),
(b) to make current collection practices more sustainable in exchange for better prices (both conservation and poverty alleviation), and (c) to help the most vulnerable collectors with better prices (poverty alleviation). A review of my past study (Makita, 2018) suggests that when there is a single primary objective, such as (a) or (c), certification can more obviously contribute to the achievement of this objective. Given the uniqueness of wild plants as an income source, it is important to clarify which one of the two contradictory objectives will be prioritised, rather than pursuing both.

Keywords: certification; income source; natural resource conservation; non-timber forest products; wild plant collectors

The Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative: a 20th-century model for turning assets into income

Meg Brindle and Natalia Florman

Meg Brindle, PhD has taught entrepreneurship and management at the graduate level for 25 years. Meg co-founded the African IP Trust (; authored five books, including Social entrepreneurship for development: A business model, and holds a PhD, post-doc and MS from Carnegie Mellon University.

Natalia Florman is a consultant who has been interested in the Maasai since meeting Chief Isaac ole Tialolo at a London event. She led operations at a climate change data firm after gaining a Master of International Development degree from King’s College London and a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Bristol.


The names and images of indigenous people such as the Maasai, Cherokee and Navajo are used to advance the intangible value of thousands of products from cars to shoes and luxury brand clothing across the globe. The Maasai name or image are used on over 1,000 products. This article highlights a decade of work to enable the Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania, of over 2 million tribal people, to receive sustainable income from the use of their name and image by creating a win-win situation. We describe how the Maasai have been organised into a legal entity called the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative Trust (MIPI), to own and receive income from their Intellectual Property. Secondly, we describe a definitive strategy to enable the Maasai to grant certification to companies and to license approved users. This atypical model of Fair Trade would enable a sustainable source of revenue to the Maasai who live largely in deep poverty. The strategy is not dissimilar, albeit atypical, to what a well-known individual such as Charlie Chaplin or a product such as Coca Cola would do – own, protect and benefit from their iconic brand that adds value. The initiative has implications for other indigenous people who comprise about 6 per cent of the global population.

Keywords: intellectual property; Maasai; indigenous peoples; certification; Fair Trade; license; exploitation; branding; brand value; social responsibility

The Fair Rubber Association: where fairly traded rubber hits the road

Martin Kunz

Dr Martin Kunz has been involved with Fair Trade for over 45 years. As a university student, he co-founded a World Shop in his home town of Ludwigsburg, Germany. He was the first chairman of the board of the Fair Trade wholesaler GEPA and co-founder and first executive secretary of the international Fair Trade umbrella associations Transfair International as well as its successor Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International. Martin also set up the FLO tea-producer register, including the concept of so-called ‘joint bodies’ on plantations. He is currently the Executive Secretary of the Fair Rubber Association (Fair Rubber e.V.), established in Germany in 2012 to help improve the working and living conditions of the primary producers of natural rubber and provide a platform for cooperation between the diverse companies trading and making products with Fairly Traded natural rubber.


This article reflects on the evolution of rubber (natural latex) production and aspects of its bloody, colonial history, noting the varied applications of rubber in objects around us. The author shows why rubber is a product in need of a Fair Trade label to promote good conditions for rubber tappers, farmers and workers, despite being rejected as a product candidate by FLO international. Lessons are drawn from the evolution of Fairtrade certification criteria and design flaws and the barriers this represents for other major commodities like rubber to be added. Building on the innovations in criteria, representation and premium system developed for Fair Trade Tea plantations, the Fair Rubber Association’s approach is described, including the dynamics of the market for workers and small-scale producers. This essay explores issues of measuring labour costs, determining fair prices for workers and farmers. The article shows how this was resolved for Fair Trade rubber and the challenges to be overcome of extreme price sensitivity of major users (like the car industry) and rise of synthetic rubber.

Keywords: Fair Trade labelling; natural rubber; smallholders; tappers; synthetic rubber; Fair Rubber Association (FRA); FLO criteria; certification; social standards; FSC; Fair Trade premium

Gaps in expectations of a cotton producer: the case of Rwenzori cotton farmers in Uganda

Yorokamu K. Abainenamar

The author, Yorokamu K. Abainenamar, sadly passed away during the editing of this article. A full tribute is available on the Journal of Fair Trade website at He was an economist, formerly a management trainer/lecturer and coffee and cotton exporter for co-operatives for over 25 years. He represented Africa on the Board of Fairtrade/FLO, Bonn, and was founder chairman of Fairtrade Africa. He worked with the TJX Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Strategy/Project as Strategic and Commercial Advisor/Consultant (2012–2019). He supported the formation and value chain development of over 30 producer co-operative organisations in Eastern Africa. Abainenamar achieved a Master of Economics degree from the University of Birmingham, UK, and a Bachelor of Statistics and Applied Economics degree from Makerere University, Kampala. He held certificates in international coffee trade and cotton trade from Coffee Federation, London and Liverpool Cotton Association, UK. He gained several other certificates in international trade and export promotion from ITC/UNCTAD/GATT. He will be dearly missed.


The plight of the smallholder cotton farmer in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda starts with the unfair terms of hiring land for cultivation. The next hurdle is the loss of ownership of the cotton at the earliest stage of the value chain after delivering the produce to the ginner. Even the Fairtrade standards base the minimum price for the farmer on delivery of seed cotton at the ginnery, implying that the farmer is not expected to participate in the value chain and share the accruing value additions further up the chain. However, members of the Rwenzori Farmers’ marketing Co-operative Society decided to move a step up the value chain by hiring the ginning services and, hence, retained the ownership of both the lint and cotton seed, which improved their income by at least 30 per cent. The strategy is to find investors to enable them to spin the cotton and manufacture the final products.

Keywords: migrant farmer; RWEFAMACOS; value chain; ownership rights; lint; traceability; strategy; integration; gaps; co-operative; Fairtrade

Developing a Fairtrade rice supply chain from Myanmar: achievements, challenges, lessons

George Williams

George Williams worked at Traidcraft Exchange from 2010 until 2021. From 2018 he was the organisation’s Impact and Learning Manager. In this role he worked closely with Traidcraft Exchange’s programme teams in South Asia and Africa, documenting achievements, approaches and lessons learnt from their work with small-scale producers and workers.


Traidcraft Exchange and its sister business Traidcraft plc have been developing Fair Trade supply chains for over three decades. As core certified ‘Fairtrade’ products have become mainstream in UK markets since the late 1990s, Traidcraft Exchange has focused energies on bringing innovative supply chains and small-producer organisations into the wider Fair Trade system. The case study presented here is of rice sourced from smallholder farmers in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region: the world’s first Fairtrade product from Myanmar. The case study illustrates how Traidcraft Exchange’s explicit focus on small producers and innovating new supply chains from ‘left behind’ communities can work in practice. It explains challenges faced at both the supplier and market end. It seeks to show how broader programmatic aims to strengthen small producer skills and organisational capacity to engage with trade on fairer terms can mitigate risks associated with export trade to the challenging UK market.

Keywords: rice; paddy; Myanmar; Burma; farmers; small producers; smallholders; Fairtrade; Fair Trade

Atypicality: foundational principles making trade fairer

Pauline Tiffen, George Williams and Patrick Van Zwanenberg

Fair Trade Software: empowering people, enabling economies

Peres Were, Julie Madeley and Mädchen Munsell

Fair Trade Software (FTS) builds on the principles of conventional Fair Trade and applies them to software services in developing countries. Using a model of Shared Value Creation, FTS leverages reputation enhancement opportunities for companies in OECD countries to encourage them to share knowledge with partners in developing countries. Working in this way has been demonstrated to improve the quality and capacity of software companies in developing countries and generate digital employment for urban youth. The improvement gains can lead to significant improvements in other sectors that rely on digital services, e.g. healthcare and education.

Keywords: ICT4D, digital training in developing countries, Fair Trade innovation, Fair Trade Software

Fair Trade and distant production: the normalisation of the North in book publishing

Audrey Small

This article seeks to articulate some of the major theoretical difficulties raised by associating book publishing with Fair Trade, building on the concept of the ‘distant producer’ as critiqued by both Frank Trentmann and Matthias Zick Varul. Where these scholars examine the framing of the Fair Trade producer as always being based in the global South, this article explores an instance of a ‘distant Northern producer’ of sorts, with particular reference to the publishing of ‘francophone African literature’. The dominance of Northern publishers in this field creates a complex series of ‘normalisations of the North’, in which Paris is normalised as the centre of cultural production; the French language is normalised as the dominant language of culture; and non-print literatures are marginalised in global cultural production. Specific issues concerning intellectual production and property then may be seen as sitting uneasily alongside traditional models and perceptions of Fair Trade.

Keywords: livre équitable, International Alliance of Independent Publishers, francophone African literature

The ‘burden’ of traceability in gold supply chains

David Finlay

Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) constitutes 15% (600 tonnes) of global gold production but, as a sector, remains largely veiled to both businesses and consumers in developed Western markets. The movement towards the ‘responsible sourcing’ of such gold is beginning to gain traction, especially in the jewellery sector, but has started some two decades after equivalent movements for responsible coffee, cocoa and tea, and is accompanied by its own – often surprising – challenges. This article provides an overview of both the ASM landscape and the challenges facing miners and supply chain actors in delivering responsibly mined gold to the point of end-consumer products. It concludes with two examples of mass-balance models that Fairtrade is introducing to drive increases in the volumes of responsibly mined gold sold from mine sites, which accounts for and responds to the ‘burden’ of full traceability for both large- and small-scale supply chain actors.

Keywords: gold, mining, responsible sourcing, ASM, business, extractives, supply chain, traceability, Fairtrade gold

Changing the optics on palm oil: Fair Trade smallholder supply chains from the palm’s ancestral home in West Africa (pp. 35-38)

George Williams

Fair Trade cannabis: a road map for meeting the socio-economic needs and interests of small and traditional growers

Sylvia Kay, Martin Jelsma and David Bewley-Taylor

Policy changes over the past five years have dramatically reshaped the global cannabis market, opening up legal markets for medical cannabis and, increasingly, also for adult, non-medical use. Despite the fact that these shifts look set to bring a clear range of benefits in terms of health and human rights, there is concern over the many for-profit cannabis companies from the Global North that are aggressively competing to capture the licit spaces, squeezing out small and traditional cannabis farmers from the Global South. If the construction of the global cannabis prohibition regime was an historic mistake, then a transition towards a legally regulated market that concentrates profits in a handful of Big Pharma, Ag, Tobacco and Cannabis companies, while locking out small-scale farmers in the Global South, only serves to further this damaging legacy. The focus of Fair Trade cannabis must be to empower small and traditional producers in the cannabis trade, based on a number of first order principles, market strategies and public policies. Crucially, growers must be enabled to organise amongst themselves and forge coalitions with other actors in order to advocate for appropriate frameworks and interventions.

Keywords: cannabis, sustainable development, human rights, market strategy, cooperatives, war on drugs, drug policy, Fair Trade

Changing the optics on palm oil: Fair Trade smallholder supply chains from the palm’s ancestral home in West Africa

George Williams

Traidcraft Exchange and its sister business Traidcraft Plc have been developing Fair Trade supply chains for over three decades. As core ‘Fairtrade’-certified commodities such as coffee, cocoa, tea and bananas have become mainstream in the UK market since the late 1990s, Traidcraft has focused energies on bringing new innovative supply chains and new small-producer organisations into the wider Fair Trade system. The case study presented here is of palm oil sourced from smallholder farmers in Ghana’s Eastern region: a commodity normally synonymous with environmental degradation and an area left behind by the economic development of Greater Accra. The case study seeks to demonstrate how Traidcraft’s explicit focus on working with small producers and new innovative product ranges provides a counter-balance to consolidation of certified ‘Fairtrade’ around core commodities. At the same time, the case study highlights some of the challenges of bringing new products to market in the UK’s current retail environment.

Keywords: palm oil, Ghana, smallholders, Fairtrade, Fair Trade, SME

Bioleft: open-source seeds for low-input farming systems

Almendra Cremaschi and Patrick van Zwanenberg

This article describes Bioleft, an ‘open source’, highly collaborative seed breeding initiative, in order to encourage reflection on potential synergies with fair trade ideas and practices. Bioleft aims to develop and redistribute collective agency over seed breeding, as a response to the emergence of an oligopolistic seed industry. It is experimenting with novel approaches to seed innovation that increase the diversity of crop varieties, in order to support agricultural practices that are ignored by mainstream seed firms, particularly small-scale family farming and more ecologically and socially sustainable agricultural practices. More generally it is experimenting with new forms of social and productive organization based on norms of sharing and solidarity.

Keywords: Bioleft, Open-source seeds, Collaborative innovation