Can Specialty Coffee Deliver Sustainable Livelihoods for Haitian Coffee Farmers? Assessing the Viability of Smallholder Production in the Global Coffee Commodity Chain

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Demitry, Nicole, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Bair, Jennifer, AS-Sociology, University of Virginia

This paper assesses the viability and sustainability of specialty coffee production in rural Haiti, examining how the current neoliberal era has forced coffee producers – particularly smallholders – into increasingly vulnerable and unsustainable livelihoods. Coffee production is frequently analyzed in a larger institutional and structural framework, and while these analyses provide valuable insights into the global production patterns of the world’s most popular beverage, the “on-the-ground” perspectives and experiences of coffee farmers themselves tend to be left out. This thesis works to fill the gap between the macro-micro links of the coffee commodity chain by utilizing the global commodity chain (GCC) framework as well as ethnographic "Worldbuilding" and participant observation. By using these two frameworks, this paper seeks to develop and apply these seemingly disparate analytical approaches to better understand the roots of the current “coffee crisis,” and more importantly, how the most vulnerable in the chain are affected. I conclude that coffee commodity chains can indeed produce worlds that offer insulation from structural violence and unfettered inequality, but not without significant reregulation or restructuring of power.

MA (Master of Arts)
Haiti, Political economy , Coffee, Commodity chains, Agriculture, Fair trade, Direct trade, Ethnography
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