Limpopo meets the future: The Limpopo guide to fair trade

Development of a resource tool for producers and assistance for policy makers to promote Fair Trade in Local Economic Development strategies.




Limpopo Local Economic Development Programme in association with the Limpopo Centre for Local Economic Development (LED).

Consultancy team

Andrew Charman, Martin Schneider, Mark Priestly


In 2007 SLC was commissioned to undertake an assessment of the state of development of fair trade in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The study focused on fair trade producers of agricultural products, jewellery, crafts and tourism services. The assignment required SLC to report on the experiences of those producers who had become Fair Trade-compliant in order to provide guidance for producers wanting to engage with fair trade systems. The aims of the consultancy were to develop a resource tool for producers and to assist policy-makers in promoting fair trade in LED strategies.

SLC undertook the following actions:

  • A literature review
  • An assessment of global trends in Fair Trade markets
  • Analysis and reporting on the FLO certification process and the certification systems of other Fair Trade labels
  • Identifying and documenting fair trade producers, including producers of agricultural products, jewellery, crafts and fair trade tourism service providers
  • Supporting the client in developing and publishing a booklet detailing the outcome of the consultancy.


The main outcome of the consultancy was the publication of the booklet entitled The Limpopo Guide to Fair Trade.

While the booklet encouraged more widespread engagement with fair trade systems across a broad spectrum of small scale producers, it also cautioned that fair trade should not be seen as a panacea for development. The authors wrote:

‘While South Africa is indeed at the forefront of fair trade in Africa, small-scale farmers and crafters occupy a marginal position within this development. There are presently only three entities that have been Fair Trade accredited under conditions for small-scale farmers. Some of these entities, such as the Heiveld Co-op, have nevertheless made remarkable strides towards developing a sustainable commercial production system. But the point remains that small-scale farmers and crafters often face insurmountable obstacles in the path of engagement in fair trade. As producers, the challenges they confront are numerous. They include:

  • Low productivity due to technology, human capital and capital constraints
  • Varying product quality due to the absence of control systems
  • Fluctuating supply due to poor planning and co-ordination
  • Absence of facilities for value-adding.

‘Furthermore, small-scale farmers’ engagement with markets is constrained by the organizational weaknesses characteristic of the sector, the difficulties of securing linkages to formal sector supply chains, and the absence of capital to finance export and marketing. Small-scale producers also have to confront the deep prejudice embedded within South African agri-business and resentment towards emerging farmers as the beneficiaries of government’s land reform initiatives.

‘Despite these difficulties, small-scale producers have a highly marketable story. The value of this story, if and when tapped, offers them a distinctive comparative advantage over commercial enterprises whose engagement in fair trade needs to be carefully marketed to maintain consumer trust that they are buying into a “better deal” for the poor.’

Click to download this project in PDF.