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Rice Fields

Sustainable Agriculture

​The FAO (1990) definition of sustainable agriculture is: "The management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such development (in agriculture, forestry and fishing etc.) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable."

Latest Work


DI was honored to develop, for Fairtrade International, a policy concerning SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE UNDER FAIRTRADE TERMS under the direction of a Steering Committee comprising Matthias Kuhlmann and Juan Pablo Solís Víquez of Fairtrade International and Martin Schüller of Fairtrade Germany.

With the Brundtland Commission's definition of sustainability and the Stockholm Stockholm Resilience Centre's Planetary Boundary framework at its base, and taking into account a number of agriculture-specific sustainabilty frameworks, we identified 25 risk categories pertinent to Fairtrade-certified agriculture. From there, we developed 25 corresponding policy positions employing the following methods:

  • Key informant interviews (with 42 respondents drawn from within the Fairtrade system)

  • Materiality assessment (risk prioritisation survey)  

  • Two workshops (with participants drawn from within the Fairtrade system)  

  • Peer review by ten (10) external and independent peer reviewers


The resulting policy was reviewed by Fairtrade and published as its official position. Here the Executive Summary, and here the Baseline Report.

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Product certification has been advanced as one measure against the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL). For one, farm-level audits also check for child labor, and two, higher farmer incomes mean fewer children compelled to work. DI researchers carried out research in Côte d'Ivoire at the cooperative level, asking farmers to identify and rank factors that stabilize or destabilize their organizations. Our study -- "Analyse sociologique de l’autonomisation des producteurs de cacao dans l’ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire" -- reveals "practices" that limit cooperatives' growth and undermine their long-term interests, chiefly:

  1. sudden cancellation of contracts on the part of exporters;

  2. "revolving procurement" (an order of cocoa often exceeding the amount a cooperative can supply short term, resulting, inter alia, in non-certified cocoa entering the "certified" supply); and

  3. strong involvement/influence of exporters in the initial funding, establishment, as well as the cooperative's ongoing management.

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