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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/10321

Title: Constructing Fair Trade from the Bottom-Up: An examination of Notions of Fairness in the Convetional Cotton Trade in Burkina Faso
Authors: Lapierre-Fortin, Émanuèle
Keywords: fair trade
community economic development
Issue Date: 21-Apr-2008
Abstract: When a farmer delivers his cotton to the Société des Fibres Textiles (SOFITEX), a quasi-monopsony in Burkina Faso, a cut of two kilograms, is taken off of the final buying price, accounting for “transportation losses”. Often the farmers spend the night filling the containers of the SOFITEX vehicles, at their own cost, and “…if the truck is in an accident, they are responsible for all the damages”. This is why one cannot help but shiver at the sight of an over-charged orange SOFITEX vehicle sprinkling Burkinabè roads with white gold. It makes one wonder if nothing could be done for the producers. The Fair Trade movement (FT) thought it had the solution by setting up a parallel, certified and guaranteed supply chain that would involve fewer intermediaries between the cotton farmer and the fashion shopper, thus allowing those at the bottom of the pyramid to benefit from a higher income. While it sounds good in theory, it remains that the movement is informed by an ideology that is strikingly different from that of its intended beneficiaries, resulting in a set of certification criteria that may not be adapted to the local culture. It seems like justice in a socio-economic relation differs from one culture to another (Conner, 2003). It is primordial for FT stakeholders to position scholarly critiques of FT and views of producers on trade justice in the conventional networks into a theoretical framework about fairness in economics. Drawing from a case study of non-certified cotton producers in Burkina Faso, this thesis aims at comparing and analyzing how trade justice is understood and experienced by a) non-certified cotton producers in Burkina Faso, b) FT cotton workers and c) FT scholars, in order to discover how the current FT cotton policy could be better adapted to the priorities, values and realities of Burkinabè producers. This entails the following set of objectives: a) Explore the visions of trade fairness by FT cotton workers and academia b) Jointly make a context situation analysis with the cotton growers to understand their account of justice in current trading relations and how these could be made “fairer”; & c) Assess which views of trade fairness correspond best to the producers’. This research found that the most salient points of unfairness in the conventional cotton trade are the breaches of social contracts between the producers, their Union and SOFITEX and a lack of participation in decision-making. This oppression of producers by more powerful actors is seen as the cause of the precarious and worsening terms of trade for cotton, and the poor labour conditions in the fields. This unfair situation has the potential to be replicated in the FT cotton industry in Burkina Faso because the FT model is not adequately adapted to local context. Indeed, in order to conform with the producers’ vision of trade fairness as presented in this case study, FT cotton actors should adopt a CED framework instead of a more liberal approach to development and trade fairness, as produced by perfect markets. This research serves the double purpose of augmenting the knowledge pool on FT and attaining such practical deliverables as triggering discussion around more locally adapted FT cotton policy for Burkina Faso through wider intercultural understanding of trade fairness ideologies. It should also facilitate more informed and effective business relationships between FT workers and producers, while also serving as an example for FT NGOs interested in undertaking similar work with their partners in the South. More emphasis should be put on ensuring FT cotton does not replicate the mistakes of FT coffee in terms of price indexation and participation; this would include refocusing FT programs towards capacity building with producers, and towards consumers education in the North. This would help bridge divisions between the FT networks and movement.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/10321
Appears in Collections:Senior Students Theses

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