At the same time as fair trade certified products are capturing an increasing market share, a growing number of scholars and practitioners are raising serious questions about who benefits from certification. Through a critique of north–south narratives, this paper draws on contemporary themes in fair trade scholarship to draw out different ways of thinking about fair trade outside of the dichotomous north–south framing.
Fair trade certification is a mechanism used by coffee cooperatives to assist farmers with accessing cash income and securing a better price for their product. Third-party certifiers regulate the fair trade label, which is tied not only to price, but also to standards for production and development. In this paper I examine these standards as they are deployed in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
Despite the shortened commodity chain created for coffee through fair trade, there still exist a number of actors within certified commodity exchange. This chain is populated by disproportionately engaged actors, from a consumer looking for the certification seal, to coffee roasters working directly with coffee producing cooperatives, to producers striving to keep up with the standards for certification.
Is fair trade really fair? Who is it for, and who gets to decide? Fair Trade Rebels addresses such questions by shifting the focus from the abstract concept of fair trade--and whether it is "working"--to the perspectives of small farmers. It examines the everyday experiences of resistance and agricultural practice among the campesinos/as of Chiapas, Mexico, who struggle for dignified livelihoods in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands, confronting inequalities locally while participating in a global corporate agricultural chain.