What is the evidence base for the impact of Fairtrade and how and why is the impact agenda evolving? We explore issues of design and the use of theories of change in mapping impact pathways as part of evaluations. We outline some of the findings on the different dimensions of impact (e.g. household income, livelihoods and quality of life, organizational, wider community and economy impacts), as well as environmental, empowerment, and gender impacts. This analysis draws upon a meta-review which analysed studies available in 2009 and also on more recently published studies. Finally, we identify the five key factors shaping the impact of Fairtrade and the implications for the impact assessment agenda.
This article explores the evolution of Fairtrade impact assessment, which reflects the wider context of international development evaluation practice and debates. Appropriate designs and methods in evaluation are hotly contested, ultimately reflecting different development philosophies and values. Earlier Fairtrade impact studies were primarily case studies involving qualitative methods. As Fairtrade has grown and scrutiny from different stakeholders has increased, there has been increased demand for more rigour and criticism of studies that do not include a ‘credible’ counterfactual. More recently, there have been increasing numbers of impact evaluation studies using mixed designs as well as mixed methods. But challenges remain as to how to balance utility and rigour in Fairtrade impact assessment, because there are trade-offs in terms of skill and resource requirements and in relation to ethical issues. Yet all sustainability standards are being asked to both demonstrate impact and to inform impact. Achieving utility not only at higher levels of organizations in Fairtrade, but also for producers at the local level is a significant challenge, when ‘credibility’ in impact assessment is judged in some quarters as being the same as using counterfactual logics. In many cases the construction of a counterfactual is very difficult if not impossible. In this paper we seek to provide some practical suggestions for improving both rigour and utility.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa there are a number of initiatives aiming to improve the effectiveness of staple crop value chains as part of a broader discourse around markets and poverty reduction. Staple crops, such as cassava, are often considered as an entry point for targeting market interventions to the rural poor, particularly women. However, initial findings from fieldwork in Nigeria and Malawi show a much more complex picture of the role of cassava and cassava markets in men and women’s livelihoods, which varies by location, ethnicity, and life-stage of individuals. The concept of women’s empowerment, as defined by access to resources, agency, and achievements, is used in this analysis to understand these dynamics. The analysis reveals gender inequalities that can limit the ability of women to benefit from growing market opportunities. Simply targeting value chains that involve the participation of women may not benefit women de facto over time. These initial findings stress the importance of questioning our assumptions in development discourse on markets, gender (in)equality, and poverty alleviation.
Practical lessons on scaling up smallholder-inclusive and sustainable cassava value chains in Africa
Developing more inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains at scale is a development priority. The ‘Cassava: Adding Value for Africa’ project has supported the development of value chains for high quality cassava flour (HQCF) in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, and Malawi to improve the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder households, including women. The project focused on three key interventions: 1) ensuring a consistent supply of raw materials; 2) developing viable intermediaries as secondary processors or bulking agents; and 3) driving market demand. Scaling-up experiences are presented, guided by an analysis of drivers (ideas/models, vision and leadership, incentives and accountability), the enabling context (institutions, infrastructure, technology, financial, policy and regulations, partnerships and leverage, social context, environment), and the monitoring, evaluation, and learning process. Lessons for scaling up of similar value chain interventions are presented. These highlight the tension between rapid development of value chains and achieving equity and sustainability goals; the need for holistic approaches to capacity strengthening of diverse value chain actors; the role of strengthening equitable business relationships and networks as a vital element of scaling processes; and how informed engagement with government policy and regulatory issues is key, but often challenging given conflicting pressures on policymakers. The scaling process should be market-led, but the level and type of public sector and civil society investment needs careful consideration by donors, governments, and others, in particular less visible investments in fostering relationships and trust. Addressing uncertainties around smallholder-inclusive value chain development requires adaptive management and facilitation of the scaling process.