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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: HD9000.9
This thesis discusses whether participation in two voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) has improved the capacity of coffee producers to upgrade, and the extent to which it has brought economic benefits and reduced their exposure to risk and vulnerability. These debates are addressed using the Global Value Chain (GVC) perspective, including recent contributions that integrate poverty considerations, to assess the implications for coffee growers of participating in the specialty coffee value chain. In this analysis, particular emphasis is given to differences according to farm size.\ud \ud The study focuses on the Nespresso AAA Sustainable QualityTM programme and Fairtrade certification in Colombia, comparing the two treatment groups with a control sample of similar conventional producers. In addition to this, a comparison between two groups of AAA producers was carried out. The data comes from three rounds of surveys and two periods of field work. To assess differences over time and construct a robust counterfactual this thesis combines Propensity Score Matching (PSM) with the difference-in-difference (DID) analytic approach.\ud \ud VSS initiatives have been promoted as a way of improving the livelihoods of small producers, with extensive implementation in coffee production. The analysis shows that interventions to facilitate upgrading and support the involvement of producers in VSS do not produce consistent improvements over time for most of the indicators analysed. Therefore, the potential of VSS to generate significant improvements in livelihoods for certified producers, could take both a longer time and require greater institutional efforts to build capacities. This finding needs to be considered in light of strong institutional support for all coffee producers in Colombia, which could offset the impact of VSS support.\ud \ud In terms of livelihood-related variables, the analysis shows that participating producers became more dependent on coffee revenues (as there was no significant expansion of cash production), reduced their share of haired labour during the period of study and paid these workers less than the minimum wage. These trends are similar to those of the conventional producers, since the analysis did not find significant differences over time.\ud \ud The outcomes of the analysis by farm size draws a bleak picture for smallholders below one hectare. The main conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence is that the farm size constrained both the potential upgrading opportunities from VSS and their chances of gaining sustainable incomes. The political economy effects of these disappointing results, both for certified producers and producers thinking about certification, must be analysed carefully, as growers’ expectations of improving their economic and social viability through the adoption VSS are lower than expected. As such, VSS initiatives cannot be the only strategy for helping very small coffee producers to overcome the structural restrictions and limitations they have faced for decades.
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