Reviewing the impacts of coffee certification programmes on smallholder livelihoods

Lead author: Joshua Bray       Year: 2017       Methodology: Literature review

Publication Abstract

Certification programmes and voluntary standards for sustainability are now a commonfeature of many agricultural landscapes worldwide. The rapid expansion of such programmes has only recently been accompanied by concerted attempts to assess the lived experience of enrolled producers. This article reviews empirical research assessing the impact of certification programmes on coffee smallholder livelihood assets, and presents an initial framework for both conceptualising and analysing change in livelihood assets resulting from certification. Several of the reviewed studies identified enhanced livelihood assets arising from certification under specific institutional and contextual settings, but causation was difficult to establish. A greater number of studies found either neutral or mixed impacts, and a smallnumber reported negative impacts. While a consensus has yet to be reached regarding alllivelihood impacts of certification programmes, we present a series of propositions thatreflect widely reported impacts. Further findings drawn from the review include: (i) stronger pre-existing institutions within the producer community are more likely to result in benefits for individual households; (ii) the value chain structures through which certification pro-grammes are implemented are highly varied and strongly influence livelihood outcomes;and (iii) methodologically, existing studies rarely present either reliable baseline data or arealistic control group for comparison, making causation difficult to establish.


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  • Publication type:

    • Journal article
  • Other authors:

    • Joshua Bray
    • Jeffrey Neilson