A Spot of Coffee in Crisis: Nicaraguan Smallholder Cooperatives, Fair Trade Networks and Gendered Empowerment Processes

Document Type


Publication Date





Comparison of responses to the post-1999 coffee crisis of three smallholder cooperatives participating in Fair Trade and conventional commodity networks suggests that agrarian-reform histories, gender relations, and bottom-up organizing practices influenced members’ sense of empowerment. Although most small-scale farmers suffered a decline in their sense of empowerment, the Fair Trade cooperatives found opportunity in the midst of the crisis. In addition to documenting North-South inequalities, this research reveals the uneven gender relationships within producer cooperatives, finds the lowest empowerment levels in a cooperative connected only with conventional coffee trade networks, and chronicles the achievements of a women’s Fair Trade cooperative.