Impact & Research

The Fairtrade Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Programme

Fairtrade is investing in its Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Programme. Details of the Fairtrade MEL approach are outlined in the following report:

Fairtrade International: Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Programme System Report (PDF 0.4MB)

The Fairtrade MEL programme was approved by the Fairtrade International Board in November 2013, following a Fairtrade-wide consultation in 2012-13 on ways to improve the programme.
Read a summary of the consultation results (PDF)

In 2014, Fairtrade International’s MEL system was assessed by an independent evaluator as being in compliance with the ISEAL Impacts Code.

Read more about the ISEAL Impacts Code compliance process.

The programme is guided by the Fairtrade MEL Working Group. This is a group of expert stakeholders drawn from across Fairtrade’s member organizations, which has been meeting regularly since 2005.

Read more about the work of the MEL Working Group (PDF)

As part of our commitment to transparency and learning, we publish the results of our annual monitoring and evaluation data, commissioned evaluation research, and commodity briefings.

For more information about our MEL Programme, please contact

The Fairtrade Theory of Change

Fairtrade International has developed a Theory of Change as part of our work to improve the program of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL). A theory of change describes the change that an organization wants to see in the world and how the organization contributes to that change. This document provides a framework for identifying appropriate indicators to measure the results of our work and progress towards the goals of Fairtrade.

Fairtrade Theory of Change, January 2014 (PDF 1.9 MB)

During the development of the Fairtrade Theory of Change workshops were conducted with producer organizations around the world to understand the changes they experience and find out what is most important to them. The results of this process were presented at the ISEAL Conference in June 2013 and can be seen here:

Creating Value for Producers through Bottom-Up MEL Systems (PDF 1MB)

Fairtrade Monitoring and Evaluation Reports

Fairtrade collects monitoring information from all participating producer organizations through audit and producer support processes. The data from these monitoring activities are analyzed and published, alongside key findings from evaluation work, on an annual basis.

The data give insights into the scope and scale of Fairtrade, and the extent, nature, and distribution of the benefits generated by the Fairtrade system for participating producers. The reports also highlights challenge areas where we seek to improve.

Evaluations and Research Commissioned by Fairtrade

Fairtrade commissions 2-3 outcome and impact evaluations each year. Evaluations are typically conducted for each major product every three years. These are led by independent research institutions with expertise in researching the effects of certification.

Evaluations give us in-depth insight into how and to what extent individual farmers and workers benefit by being part of Fairtrade. They also enable us to identify and understand areas of challenge where we can take action to improve our effectiveness.

Wherever possible, we publish the full results of evaluation research to support wider knowledge and understanding of the Fairtrade impacts and to hold ourselves accountable to where we need to improve. We welcome feedback on these reports to

For more information about the programme of forthcoming Fairtrade evaluations and other commissioned research please click here.

Baseline study: Fairtrade certification in the banana hired labour sector (PDF)

Full report in Spanish - Certificación Fairtrade para trabajo contratado en el sector bananero (PDF)

Fairtrade commissioned independent consultants LEI Wageningen UR to conduct this study to provide baseline data for future impact assessments. The study gathered data on a range of socio-economic indicators to assess the impact of Fairtrade certification on workers in the banana hired labour sector in the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Ghana. Initial findings show that Fairtrade certification has a direct, positive impact on workers' income, empowerment, collective bargaining and living standards. The study also highlights key areas for future focus.

Study Results at a Glance (PDF)

Response from Fairtrade (PDF)

Baseline Study of Fairtrade Cotton in West Africa 2015 (PDF)

Etude de référence du Coton de Fairtrade en Afrique de l’ouest 2015 (PDF)

Fairtrade International commissioned Aidenvironment to collect data from farmers and producer organizations in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal to measure the impact of Fairtrade on the cotton industry in West Africa.  Fairtrade intends to follow this baseline study with an impact evaluation within the next years to measure the progress made by the introduction of the Fairtrade Cotton Program.

Study Results at a Glance (PDF)

Response from Fairtrade International (PDF)

Assessing Producer Satisfaction with Producer Support Staff 2015 (PDF)

Asesorando la satisfacción de productores Fairtrade con los Servicios de los Oficiales de Enlace Fairtrade 2015 (PDF)

Fairtrade International regularly surveys Fairtrade certified producers to determine their satisfaction with the services provided by producer support staff.

Previous Reports

Assessing Producer Satisfaction with Producer Support Staff Full Report, 2012 (PDF)

2012 Report Summary English / Español / Français / Português

Assessing the Benefits of Fairtrade Orange Juice for Brazilian Small Farmers 2014 (PDF)

Summary and Response from Max Havelaar Netherlands and Max Havelaar Switzerland (PDF)

Fairtrade orange juice has been on the Fairtrade market for almost 15 years with the majority coming from Fairtrade farmers in Brazil. This study by BSD Consulting of Brazil assesses the impact of Fairtrade for growers' cooperatives in Brazil. Three groups were selected in the major orange producing regions of Brazil. The study assessed social, economic and environmental benefits for the farmers and their workers.

An Evaluation of Fairtrade Impact on Smallholders and Workers in the Banana Sector in Northern Colombia 2014 (2.39MB PDF)

Summary and Response from Max Havelaar Netherlands and Fairtrade International (PDF)

Fairtrade bananas have been on the market for nearly 19 years and are one of the most successful Fairtrade products in many markets – up to 50 percent market share in some countries. The study by CODER assesses the impact of Fairtrade for banana farmers in small producer organizations and workers on plantations in Colombia. The study concludes that Fairtrade, along with the support of other organizations, and the introduction of labour unions have contributed to a revival of the banana sector in Colombia, and greater respect for human and labour rights. The study also highlights key challenges and makes useful recommendations on how to address them.

Assessing the Impacts of Fairtrade on Worker-Defined Forms of Empowerment 2014 on Ecuadorian Flower Plantations (2.4MB PDF)

Summary and Response from Fairtrade International and Max Havelaar Foundation (PDF)

Over the past ten years, flowers have become a major product category for Fairtrade. In 2012, 536 million Fairtrade flower stems were sold. This report by independent researcher Angus Lyall summarizes the results of a series of workshops held with workers on three Fairtrade-certified flower farms in Ecuador. It confirms that Fairtrade’s approach can yield important benefits for workers. However, the study also highlights challenges and makes useful recommendations on how to address them.

Branching Out: Fairtrade in Malawi - 2013 (5MB PDF)

Taking Root: Fairtrade in Malawi - 2011 (3MB PDF)

The international Fairtrade system has commissioned a long-term study on the effects of Fairtrade on five organizations in Malawi, a Least Developed Country. These research papers highlight the social and economic effects of Fairtrade while recognising the challenges ahead if it is to deepen its impact. The third part of this study will be released in 2015. The assessment was carried out by the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich in collaboration with the Malawi Fairtrade Network, Fairtrade Africa and the Fairtrade Foundation, UK.

What can we learn from the banana experience in Colombia? Study on industrial relations on Fairtrade certified farms in the Urabá region - 2013 (PDF)

Full report in Spanish - ¿Qué podemos aprender de la experiencia bananera en Colombia?

This study was commissioned by Fairtrade International in order to learn from the progress made on workers’ rights on banana farms in the Urabá region of Colombia.

Assessing the Impact of Fairtrade on Poverty Reduction through Rural development - full report - 2012 (PDF 1MB)

Full report in Spanish - Informe Final Estudio del Impacto del Comercio Justo (1MB)

Summary of results

Summary in Spanish - Resumen de los resultados del estudio

Response from TransFair Germany and Max Havelaar Foundation Switzerland

On occasion of the 20th anniversary of both TransFair Germany and the Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland), the two organizations jointly commissioned a study that provides insight to the question if and how Fairtrade impacts on poverty reduction through rural development. The study employs an ambitious design with target and control groups and presents findings from an extensive qualitative and quantitative data analysis based on six case studies of six different producer organizations in South America, Africa and Asia. With its specific focus on rural development, the study provides useful insights onto the impact of Fairtrade beyond the level of producer organizations.

Assessing the Impact of Fairtrade for Peruvian Cocoa Farmers (PDF)

Summary of report

The aim of this study by the Institute of Natural Resources is evaluating the impact of Fairtrade cocoa in Peru. As Fairtrade is currently evolving very quickly, Fairtrade International is trying to understand whether Fairtrade tools have had a (positive or negative, expected or unexpected) impact on small cocoa farmers in Peru.

Fairtrade Cotton: Assessing Impact in Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and India - 2011 (PDF 3MB)

Summary of report

Fairtrade Foundation response (3MB)

Since 2004 Fairtrade has been tackling the inequality of the global cotton trade. This report presents the challenges faced by Fairtrade in targeting the small farmers at the very end of a long and complex supply chain. However it also highlights the difference that Fairtrade has made to small farming communities so far and provides recommendations on how Fairtrade cotton can fulfil its potential in the future.

Partnership for Prosperity - 2011 (PDF 6MB)

A partnership between Fairtrade International and the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) is helping build local capacity. Fairtrade International liaison officers and SNV work to develop Fairtrade value chains with high market potential. As a result of the partnership, numerous farming communities in eleven African countries now benefit from expanded market access, increased production, employment and income, as well as broader social progress and greater control over their future.

Fairtrade Tea: Early Impacts in Malawi - 2010 (PDF 7MB)

This paper marks the first stage of a longer-term study to assess the impact of Fairtrade in the tea sector in Malawi.

Impact of Fairtrade in South Africa - 2010 (PDF 5MB)

This briefing paper explores the impact of Fairtrade on five Fairtrade-certified Producer Organizations in South Africa selling citrus, table grapes, wine grapes, wine, apples, pears and raisins.

Climate Change, Agricultural Adaptation and Fairtrade - 2010 (PDF 4MB)

Climate change poses significant challenges for the agricultural sector and in particular for small farmers and the Fairtrade movement. This reports presents those challenges and makes recommendations on how to support farmers in adapting to the consequences of climate change.

Fairtrade Bananas: a Global Assessment of Impact - 2010 (PDF 2MB)

Summary and Fairtrade Foundation response - Impact of Fairtrade Bananas (PDF 3MB)

Summary and response in Spanish - El impacto del banano de comercio justo

Accounting for nearly a quarter of all banana sales in the UK, Fairtrade bananas are widely acknowledged to have moved into the mainstream. As such the Fairtrade Foundation commissioned this impact study in order to better understand and enhance the effect of Fairtrade in this sector, both in small producer organizations and for plantation workers. The study is based on extensive research across the banana supply chain and provides recommendations for the future work of Fairtrade. Since publication the Fairtrade Foundation management have provided a summary and response to the recommendations.

The Last Ten Years: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature on the Impact of Fairtrade - 2009 (PDF)

Fairtrade sales have increased dramatically over the past years. In line with this growth there is increasing demand to measure and demonstrate the difference that Fairtrade has for producers, workers and their families. This paper is a review of the published literature on Fairtrade’s impact, commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation and conducted by Natural Resources Institute in 2009.

The impact of Fairtrade labelling on small-scale producers - 2009 (PDF)

This 2009 report outlines the findings of studies on Fairtrade's impact on small producer organizations. The six case studies chronicle how Fairtrade supports development. The research includes cocoa, coffee, banana and mango producers from different countries in Latin America.

Étude de l’impact du commerce équitable sur les organisations et familles paysannes et leurs territoires dans la filière café des Yungas de Bolivie - 2005 (PDF)

This study analyses the impact of Fair Trade on rural organizations and families in the Yungas region of Bolivia.

Fairtrade Bananas Impact Study - 2004 (PDF)

A study on the impact of Fairtrade bananas on the Dominican economy

Commodity briefings

Fairtrade and cocoa - 2016 (2MB, PDF)

Around 50 million people globally depend on cocoa for their livelihoods, while governments in producing countries rely on earnings from cocoa to finance economic and social development programmes. This briefing of the Fairtrade Foundation offers an overview of the cocoa industry and explains why and how Fairtrade is acting within it.

Fairtrade and cotton - 2015 (2MB, PDF)

Millions of small-scale farmers in developing countries depend on cotton for their livelihoods. This briefing of the Fairtrade Foundation provides an industry overview, and explores why Fairtrade is needed and what it can achieve.

Fairtrade Cocoa in West Africa 2014 (4MB PDF)

Fairtrade cocoa farmers in West Africa are investing in their farms, crop infrastructure and communities – but they need deeper, long-term partnerships to drive change. This concludes the report 'Fairtrade Cocoa in West Africa' released by Fairtrade International and Fairtrade Africa.

Fairtrade and sugar - 2013 (3MB)

Sugar is one of the world's most valuable commodities. In this briefing the Fairtrade Foundation has brought together many facts and figures on the history of sugar, today's market and stakeholders, and the role that Fairtrade plays in supporting sugar cane producers.

Fairtrade and coffee - 2012 (2MB)

An estimated 1.6 billion cups of coffee are drunk worldwide every day. In this briefing you can find out about how the coffee beans reach your cup, what kinds of challenges coffee farmers face and how Fairtrade can make a difference.

Fairtrade and cocoa - 2011 (2MB)

50 million people globally depend on cocoa for their livelihoods. This briefing provides a detailed overview on the growers, buyers, consumers and market complexities.

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