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Unsustainable development: Alternative food networks and the Ecuadorian Federation of Cocoa Producers, 1995–2010

Melo, Cristian J., Hollander, Gail M.
Journal of rural studies 2013 v.32 pp. 251-263
capital, case studies, development projects, farmers, markets, profitability, sustainable development, trade
Although alternative trade have become a de facto prescription for any location where there is a need to conciliate economic interest with conservation imperatives, the discursive concept of equalitarian partnerships hides the fact that what for consumers is a matter of choice, for producers is a matter of survival. Producers must meet the demands of their partners to gain access to capital and markets. We explore the results of these unequal alliances with a case study centered on the experiences of the Ecuadorian Federation of Cocoa Producers (FEDECADE) and its 15 years long experience with alternative trade/sustainable development projects focused on the shade-grown fine cocoa variety known as “Nacional.” We found that the external agencies that implemented alternative trade in FEDECADE made assumptions, none of which were fully meet at the end of the projects. Our findings point out to the paradoxical nature of alternative trade schemes, because the success of a scheme ultimately leads to loss of profitability from a farmer's perspective.