Food sovereignty, food security and fair trade: the case of an influential Nicaraguan smallholder cooperative

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Taylor & Francis


The relationships among trade, food sovereignty and food security are underexplored. I conducted qualitative research with an influential cooperative to identify lessons that food sovereignty (FS) scholars could learn from fair trade and food security, and explore linkages among these projects. First, most co-op leaders and farmers view these projects as complementary, not contradictory. Second, state-led agrarian reforms and co-ops increase access to land, markets, water, forests and pasture, which have reduced – but not eliminated – seasonal hunger. Third, these diversified fair trade coffee-exporting smallholders could be part of a FS agenda. However, the split in fair trade suggests that only specific versions of fair trade are compatible with FS. Fourth, capable cooperatives can enhance fair trade and FS goals, and food security outcomes. Fifth, organised smallholders resisting the fair trade split could learn from the FS social movement’s strategies. Food insecurity remains a persistent challenge to both approaches.