Knowledge for a sustainable world

Valerie Nelson

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI), in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies, has completed a four-country study assessing the impact of Fairtrade cotton. Covering Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and India, the study identifies the main areas of impact for cotton producers and their organisations, and explores the value chain issues which play a role in shaping impact. Organisational research partners for the study included ENDA Pronat (Environment and Development Action in the Third World) Senegal, and the Gujarat Institute of Development Research.

Cotton is grown in more than 100 countries on about 2.5% of the global area of arable land. The crop is of critical importance to the economies of all four case study countries, particularly in terms of rural employment, but downward pressure on prices and rising costs of production are reducing returns to producers who do not have many alternative sources of income.

The impact analysis forms the basis of a series of recommendations aimed at improving the Fairtrade system in favour of cotton producers, farm workers and their organisations and local communities.

Funded by the UK's national Fairtrade Labelling Initiative; the Fairtrade Foundation, and the equivalent in France; Max Havelaar, the study has been well received by Fairtrade organisations. A response document outlining their views and actions is also now available online.

The reports authored by Valerie Nelson, NRI and Sally Smith (previously of IDS) are all available at: and