Digging into Empowerment in Ecuador
In the ten years since Fairtrade began certifying flowers, they have become one of the top selling products with more than 536 million stems sold last year. A new report investigates how workers on flower plantations measure success, how Fairtrade has contributed to their achievement, and provides guidance for how Fairtrade can improve its work in the flower sector.
The report, ‘Assessing the Impacts of Fairtrade on Worker-Defined Forms of Empowerment on Ecuadorian Flower Plantations,’ was conducted by researcher Angus Lyall and commissioned by Fairtrade International and Max Havelaar Switzerland. Information was gathered during a series of workshops conducted with a variety of workers from three Fairtrade certified plantations in Ecuador.
For many workers, choice and job security were highlighted as central to achieving their eventual goal of economic independence or self-employment, which many considered full empowerment. Most of the workers cited that improved conditions in the workplace have contributed to their ongoing development. For many, working at a Fairtrade certified plantation is seen by many as a means to an end.
The research identified a three-step process toward full empowerment, including:
- The confidence to express ideas and concerns and contribute in the workplace;
- Collective influence on decision-making and policy formation both on and off of the plantation; and
- Increased control over personal economic strategies.
Workers also cited a variety of challenges to achieving full empowerment. These included:
- Reluctance from some supervisors to hear and address workers’ concerns;
- Increased work resulting from increased productivity and wage pressures on plantations;
- The need for more exchanges with workers’ organizations on other plantations; and
- The need for more support from within the Fairtrade system.
The study highlights the situation of trade unions in the Ecuadorian flower sector. While involvement in Fairtrade has spurred worker organization through on-plantation committees, it has been less successful in facilitating trade union access in plantations.
Results from this report informed the recent revision of the Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labour Organizations (read more here), providing important feedback for concrete improvements. This study is the first part of a broader impact evaluation of Fairtrade flowers commissioned by Fairtrade International scheduled to be released by June 2014.
Read the full report here - Assessing the Impacts of Fairtrade on Worker-Defined Forms of Empowerment on Ecuadorian Flower Plantations(PDF).
Click here to read a summary and response to the study from Fairtrade International and Max Havelaar Switzerland (PDF).
For more information and other studies on the impact of Fairtrade, please see our page on impact and research.