Cultivating Resilient Supply Networks: Partnering With Small-Scale Farmers

Posted: Thu. Feb 01, 2018

With climate change expected to bring more severe and more frequent, extreme weather events, how can we make our supply networks more resilient? Hurricanes like Irma have washed away agricultural land in Cuba and Puerto Rico, devastating small-scale producers.

“Climate change is already affecting American companies’ overseas operations and supply chains, and as these impacts worsen it will take a toll on trade and the economy,” says a 2015 report issued by the United States Department of Defense on the security implications of climate change.

In order to cultivate supply networks that are resilient in a changing climate, we need to stand with small farmers and support the regenerative organic agriculture practices that boost climate resilience on the farm.

What are fair trade businesses doing to support growers on the frontlines of climate change? Grow Ahead and Fair Trade Federation teamed out to find out. Here’s what we discovered.

Just Haiti: Capacity Building in Coffee Growing Communities

The United States imports and consumes more coffee than any other country, accounting for one-fourth of all coffee imports. Just Haiti aims to build equitable and fair partnerships between coffee consumers in North America and coffee growers in Haiti.

Four of the seven farmer communities we work with were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew last fall, losing most of their tree cover. The coffee trees were damaged but in most cases not destroyed. It was the larger shade and fruit trees that were lost. These communities were already heavily deforested, leaving them highly vulnerable to the consequences of climate events, including flooding and soil erosion. At the request of the farmer coops, we raised funds to replant the trees and to improve and increase the number and diversity of the tree cover,” said Kim Lamberty, President of Just Haiti.

Just Haiti works with a local agronomist to train cooperatives on how to create and care for tree nurseries. They usually work with in-country talent to train their growers. They provide scholarships for cooperative members and their families for university education in agronomy. The scholarships students work with the agronomist to plant trees and use GPS tracking to monitor tree health. Students then pass on this knowledge to local farmers. “GPS mapping is a best practice in reforestation, so the knowledge they are gaining by doing this work will improve their employability once they graduate,” explains Kim.

So far, Just Haiti has supported the creation of seven tree nurseries, and new ones will be added. Their goal? Plant 100,000 trees. About half will be coffee and the rest a variety of shade and fruit trees.

Dean’s Beans: Farmer-to-Farmer Exchanges

Back in 2003, Dean’s Beans took a chance on Pangoa, a small cooperative on the Amazonian slopes of Central Peru, as their very first fair trade and direct buyer. Dean’s Beans international development model is farmer driven and farmer focused. Their main goal is securing and funding the resources needed for the farmers to educate, empower, and help their own communities.

“Pangoa and Dean’s Beans have collaborated on the creation of many meaningful and successful initiatives together over the years. The coop has used our premiums, profit shares, and development monies to create women’s loan funds, a tremendous reforestation program, a honey project for income diversification, college education funds, and more,” says Alison Wortman, Dean’s Beans Manager of International Development and Business Advocacy.

Most recently, Dean’s Beans has been working on income generation for its members. “This is a farmer-to-farmer initiative that looks to increase the promotion of fruit trees on land previously used for single agricultural crops, like coffee. This is a part of a farmer-to-farmer strategy to mitigate the environmental impacts produced in the coffee production process and help with the adaptation of climate change. Plus, it has delicious nutritional and economic benefits as well,” she says.

A new fruit tree nursery was installed by farmers at the Pangoa Cooperative to generate seedlings that are then distributed to local farmers. These seedlings are then used to grow a wide variety of local fruit. The fruit trees mitigate the negative impacts of soil erosion and deforestation as well as protect the land from hurricane winds. The fruit will then be harvested to provide both nutritional benefits for families and supplemental income in the form of jams and fruit to sell in the market throughout the year.

Dean’s Beans communities know what fruit trees to grow and how their land will flourish, and Dean’s Beans knows how “fruitful” long-term fair trade relationships can be.

Atacora Essentials: Sustainable Land Management

Atacora’s triple-bottom-line business model has trees at its root. By growing and creating international markets for forest products— including shea, oil palm, neem, moringa, and baobab—Atacora is supporting communities in the Republic of Benin in valuing these trees as sustainable resources.

So far, they have provided extensive training for nearly 1,500 organic baobab producers. Through their training program, they facilitate the sharing of resource management best practices to sustain and maximize the trees’ benefits, including agroforestry and indigenous land management. With this shared knowledge, the trees hold significant value to the producers due to their yields and the secondary benefits of maintaining soil fertility, controlling erosion, helping to regulate climate, and more.  

“[The] training events are of a participative and interactive nature, and farmer-to-farmer exchange is a big part of it,” says Atacora’s Founder and President Dave Goldman. The trainings are lead by an internal team and village representatives, many of whom are farmers themselves.

Atacora is providing both sustainable alternatives to cash cropping and slash and burn agriculture as well as supporting West African and indigenous culture with their promotion and revaluation of traditional raw materials and grains.


If your business doesn’t currently have the capacity to invest in partners within your supply chain, Grow Ahead is a great tool to have an impact:

View our webinar with Grow Ahead and Cooperative Coffees exploring more about this topic at Creating Resilient Supply Networks Webinar.

Alexandra Groome ( is Grow Ahead’s Program Coordinator. She is also a Project Coordinator at Regeneration International (RI), a nonprofit dedicated to building a global network of people who promote and practice regenerative agriculture and land use.

Rachel-L-SpenceRachel L. Spence ( is the Fair Trade Federation’s Engagement Manager, responsible for communications, public engagement, and advocacy for fair trade principles and practices.


Photos by Just Haiti, Dean’s Beans, and Atacora Essentials.

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