Ethical Trade, Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods : Women Smallholders and Ethicality in Kenya book cover
1st Edition

Ethical Trade, Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods
Women Smallholders and Ethicality in Kenya

ISBN 9780415821544
Published May 1, 2014 by Routledge
246 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Fair and ethical trade is often criticized for being highly gendered, and for institutionalizing the ethical values of consumers, the priorities of NGOs and governments, and most of all, food retailers. But little is known about how women smallholder farmers experience diverse ethical standards, or whether and how standards reflect their values, local cultural and environmental contexts, or priorities for achieving sustainable livelihoods. 

Linking gender, smallholder livelihoods and global ethical trade regulations, this book reveals that multiple understandings of social justice, environmental sustainability and well-being – or ethicality – exist in parallel to those institutionalized in ethical trade schemes. Through an in-depth case study of smallholder subsistence and French bean farming in Kenya, the book grounds the analysis of livelihoods, gender and ethical trade in women smallholders’ perspectives, links the macro level of markets with the micro level of livelihoods, and engenders relations of power, structure and agency in food networks. 

It brings together disparate bodies of theory to illustrate the knowledge, strategies and values of women smallholder farmers that are often beyond the scope of ethical trade regulations. It also provides a challenging new vision for doing food systems research.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Problematizing Ethical Trade 

1. Ethicality in the Global Food System 

2. Global Ethics or Northern Values? 

3. Gender and Ethical Sourcing in Kenya 

4. Alternative Ways of Knowing 

Part 2: Learning from Women Smallholders 

5. Mapping Food Networks from the Ground Up 

6. Participation, Livelihoods and Empowerment 

7. Conventions of Ethicality? 

8. Lessons for Ethical Trade

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Kiah Smith is a sociologist and Research Associate in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland, Australia. She was previously a Research Analyst at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development based in Geneva, Switzerland.


"Ethical trade is premised upon fairness in the production and distribution of goods and services. But fair for whom? In this provocative and engaging account of the lives of smallholder farmers in Kenya, Kiah Smith argues that women employed within systems of ethical trade remain disadvantaged and marginalized. Countering this, their participation in women’s groups offers a space for resistance and opportunities for empowerment. The book provides a novel and innovative framework for interpreting the lives of men and women as they enter employment with nationally- and globally-based food sourcing companies. It is a ‘must read’ for academics, students and policy makers wishing to understand the ethical dimensions of gender and development."Geoffrey Lawrence, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, The University of Queensland, Australia and President, International Rural Sociology Association