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Pro-poor certification: Assessing the benefits of sustainability certification for small-scale farmers in Asia

Enabling small-scale farmers to engage in global markets for their produce is a pressing issue for many countries. Sustainability certification schemes such as organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz Certified and CAFÉ Practices can help small-scale farmers access new export markets. But do certification schemes and labelling strategies for products from particular geographical areas deliver benefits to poor and marginalised farmers? Using a review of the evidence and new case studies, this report assesses the relevance of certification schemes for coffee, tea and cotton farmers in China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Certification may help some farmers reach more lucrative markets and gain greater returns for the tea, coffee or cotton they produce. It can help them improve their skills, and understand about quality, markets or learn new production techniques. But the high costs and exacting demands of certification can also exclude the poorest farmers in favour of those who are better off and already organised. Poorer farmers are more likely to lack the information, skills, capital and networks they need to improve their bargaining position. These farmers need carefully targeted support from external agencies such as governments, NGOs, the private sector or the certification bodies themselves if they are to see the benefits of certification.

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