Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Rachel May, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Angela Stuesse, Ph.D.


certification, development, ecuador, fair trade, sugar cane


The literature on the changing nature of fair trade suggests it is indeed evolving and changed from the grassroots movement it once was. One of the strongest arguments that comes out in this body of literature is that the message, values, and way fair trade can encourage positive socio-economic and community development is changing. What the scholarship does not address, though, is how this evolution is changing the way that fair trade is perceived? The answer to this question about the changing perceptions of fair trade can be extended to those who produce fair trade products, those who consume them, those market them, those who manage them, and those institutionally organize the movement and certification criteria. My study attempts to gain insight on how fair trade is perceived among the producers (farmers) of fair trade. Although there are many studies about the impact of fair trade on cooperatives of producers/farmers, there is one voice that seems to be missing: the voice of the producers themselves. My work with the CADO Sugar Cane Cooperative in the state of Cotopaxi, Ecuador attempts to fill this gap.

I executed a three-week research project in which I interviewed administration of the cooperative as well as the sugar cane farmers themselves about their perceptions and understanding of fair trade. Broadly, I was able to conclude that majority of producers in this community were involved with fair trade because of the steady income, and the cooperative became fair trade certified with the incentive of a large contract with a buyer-a buyer that required a fair trade certified product. These two points bring up a very important question: where is the concern for the human development aspects that fair trade champions (education, economic development, health, etc.)? In this project I will address the implications that my findings have on how we understand the fair trade model in terms of social movement theory and the concept of fair trade as free trade.