University College London Featured PhD Programmes
Birkbeck, University of London Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
Norwich Research Park Featured PhD Programmes
Life Science Zurich Graduate School Featured PhD Programmes

Enhancing Fairtrade farmers’ resilience to environmental change

Project Description

Agricultural production across the globe is being affected by multiple environmental challenges, the most important of which include climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation (Reed and Stringer, 2016). These challenges threaten the production and supply of foodstuffs (Benton and Bailey, 2019). Companies trading agricultural crops, as well as the farmers who grow them, are increasingly aware of the importance of sustaining the terrestrial ecosystem services that underpin crop production, as well as recognising the need to adapt to climate change (Haggar 2013, Leat et al 2013; Rueda et al 2017).

Working in collaboration with Fairtrade International in Bonn, Germany, this CASE Award project considers how climate change and losses of ecosystem services due to land degradation, are affecting Fairtrade farmers, across geographies and products. It will critically assess the impacts on crops in the Fairtrade system, using surveys and other tools to review how Fairtrade’s current climate change projects are working, and will make recommendations to enhance Fairtrade international’s interventions to support climate change mitigation, resilience building, and adaptation efforts for affected Fairtrade farmers.

Fairtrade International realizes that secure and sustainable livelihoods cannot be achieved without addressing environmental changes at a variety of levels from farm to landscape and along the supply chain. Crops certified in the Fairtrade system that are already affected by climate change and land degradation in some locations include rice, cocoa, coffee, bananas, and vegetables such as green beans due to increases in average temperature and changes in rainfall patterns (Nelson et al 2010). The impacts of climate change vary across crop types requiring different responses from farmers over differing time scales. For annual crops, farmers need to develop flexible strategies to deal with the impacts of climate change, perhaps selecting different seeds or reviewing pest management strategies or harvesting periods. For perennial crops such as tea, cocoa, coffee and fruit, there are much longer lead times which means that action is needed now in some locations (Laderach et al 2017). Already coffee growers face challenges of less land being suitable for coffee growing due to temperature rises (especially for Arabica where quality depends on elevation), impacts on yield, and increased pest and disease pressure.

Researchers are working to develop future climate scenarios and adaptation options for key crops (Laderach et al., 2017; Hong and Yabe 2017). As the effects of these challenges become more evident, farmers need additional technical support, to monitor and adapt to the impacts in different locations. Fairtrade International is interested in enhancing knowledge on climate change and environmental degradation to inform Fairtrade standards development (Howard et al., 2015) and enhance the resilience of farmer groups (Tyszler et al 2018) throught its climate change work. It requires more nuanced information on climate and environmental change impacts on a wide variety of crops in different locations, and adaption solutions that are appropriate for often resource-poor farmers.

According to the interests and expertise of the student, and engagement with Fairtrade International and its member producer networks, the student could combine approaches such as:
1. Mapping and quantifying climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation impacts on key crops in the Fairtrade system, drawing on data from global and regional climate and crop models.
2. Analysing understanding and experience of environmental changes and understanding of risks amongst Fairtrade farmers
3. Comparing environmental change impacts experienced in different regions producing the same crop (e.g. across a rainfall gradient)
4. Analysing trade-offs between climate change adaptation measures and other ecosystem services (e.g. impacts of new climate resilient varieties on biodiversity; impacts on water availability)
5. Analysing environmental change that affects Fairtrade farmers at multiple scales and levels, from farm to landscape to supply chain, and the feedbacks between impacts at these different levels and scales
6. Identifying, developing and testing key quantitative and qualitative indicators for monitoring and evaluation of adaptation measures
7. Identifying measures that farmers, farmer groups and companies in the supply chain can undertake to enhance resilience
8. Participatory scenario development and decision-making exercises identifying what affects the adoption and disadoption of adaptation measures that can contribute positively towards building farm resilience.

Findings will inform on-going climate change work at Fairtrade International.

Funding Notes

Unless stated otherwise, we offer fully funded 3.5 year studentships (stipend + fees) to both UK and EU applicants at the standard UKRI rate.
We are unable to offer studentships to non-EU international candidates.


Benton, T., & Bailey, R. (2019). The paradox of productivity: Agricultural productivity promotes food system inefficiency. Global Sustainability, 2, E6. doi:10.1017/sus.2019.3
Bennett, E., et al (2014). Toward a more resilient agriculture. Solutions 5(5):65-75
Borsky, Stefan; Spata, Martina (2018) The Impact of Fair Trade on Smallholders' Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change, Sustainable Development, 26(4): 379-398
Climate Institute (2016) A Brewing Storm - Report Highlights Risk of Climate Change to Coffee, report for Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.
Fairtrade International (no date) Climate Change, Fairtrade International,
Haggar, Jeremy and Kathleen Schepp (2012) Coffee and Climate Change Impacts and options for adaption in Brazil, Guatemala, Tanzania and Vietnam, NRI Working Paper Series: Climate Change, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 4. Chatham: Natural Resources Institute.
Haggar, Jeremy (2013) Supporting Ecosystem Services in Fairtrade Value Chains, NRI Working Paper Series: Climate Change, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 5. Chatham: Natural Resources Institute.
Hong, Nguyen and Yabe, Mitsuyasu (2017) Improvement in irrigation water use efficiency: a strategy, Environment, Development and Sustainability, 2017, 19(4):1247-1263
Läderach, Peter; Ramirez-villegas, Julian; Navarro-racines, Carlos; Zelaya, Carlos; Martinez-valle, Armando; et al (2017) Climate change adaptation of coffee production in space and time, .Climatic Change; 141(1): 47-62. DOI:10.1007/s10584-016-1788-9
Leat P, Revoredo-Giha C (2013) Risk and resilience in agri-food supply chains: the case of the ASDA PorkLink supply chain in Scotland. Supply Chain Management; 18(2): 219–231.
Mallet, P. et al (2016) How sustainability standards can contribute to landscape approaches and zero deforestation commitments. ISEAL Alliance.
Nelson, Valerie and Phillips, David (2018) Sector, landscape or rural transformations? Exploring the limits and potential of agricultural sustainability initiatives through a cocoa case study. Business Strategy and the Environment, 27 (2). pp. 252-262.
Nelson, V., Morton, J., Chancellor, T., Burt, P., and Pound, B (2010) Climate Change, Agricultural Adaptation and Fairtrade Identifying the Challenges and Opportunities, Natural Resources Institute University of Greenwich.
Rueda X, Garrett RD, Lambin EF (2017) Corporate investments in supply chain sustainability: selecting instruments in the agri-food industry. Journal of Cleaner Production 142: 2480–2492.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 79.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here
* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.