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FairTrade's theory of change: an evaluation based on the cooperative life cycle framework and mixed methods


  • Gian Nicola Francesconi
  • Ruerd Ruben


This study presents a quasi-experimental analysis of the impact of FairTrade certification on the commercial performance of coffee farmers in Tanzania. In doing so the study emphasises the importance of a well-contextualised theory of change as a basis for evaluation design. It also stresses the value of qualitative methods to control for selection bias. Based on a longitudinal (pseudo-panel) dataset comprising both certified and conventional farmers, it shows that FairTrade certification introduced a disincentive to farmers' commercialisation. We explain this counterintuitive conclusion on the basis of the 'cooperative life cycle' theory developed by US agribusiness scholars.

Suggested Citation

  • Gian Nicola Francesconi & Ruerd Ruben, 2014. "FairTrade's theory of change: an evaluation based on the cooperative life cycle framework and mixed methods," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(3), pages 268-283, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevef:v:6:y:2014:i:3:p:268-283
    DOI: 10.1080/19439342.2014.918164

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Loraine Ronchi, 2002. "The Impact of Fair Trade on Producers and Their Organisations: A Case Study with Coocafé in Costa Rica," PRUS Working Papers 11, Poverty Research Unit at Sussex, University of Sussex.
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    1. Victor Stolzenburg & Daria Taglioni & Deborah Winkler, 2019. "Economic upgrading through global value chain participation: which policies increase the value-added gains?," Chapters, in: Stefano Ponte & Gary Gereffi & Gale Raj-Reichert (ed.), Handbook on Global Value Chains, chapter 30, pages 483-505, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Gian Nicola FRANCESCONI & Fleur WOUTERSE, 2019. "Building The Managerial Capital Of Agricultural Cooperatives In Africa," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 90(1), pages 141-159, March.
    3. Oya, Carlos & Schaefer, Florian & Skalidou, Dafni, 2018. "The effectiveness of agricultural certification in developing countries: A systematic review," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 282-312.
    4. Nicola Francesconi & Fleur Wouterse & Dorothy Birungi Namuyiga, 2021. "Agricultural Cooperatives and COVID-19 in Southeast Africa. The Role of Managerial Capital for Rural Resilience," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(3), pages 1-13, January.

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