Eco-certification of tropical crops

24th July 2013

Eco-certification of tropical crops

Eco-certification of crops such as coffee, oil palm and soybeans is changing the way these crops are grown across large parts of the tropics. Certification bodies reward farmers, co-operatives and companies for farming in an ecologically and socially responsible way, such as by avoiding deforestation, using fewer pesticides and treating workers fairly. However, the benefits of eco-certification have rarely been assessed in a systematic way.

Our project links partners in CCI with the Rainforest Alliance, one of the leading eco-certification bodies. We will work with Rainforest Alliance and other certification bodies to build a database and map of the locations of certified farms in the tropics. We will use the database to assess the distribution of certified crops in relation to areas important for biodiversity, frontiers of land clearance, and places with many smallholder farmers who might potentially benefit from certification. For example, are schemes that prohibit deforestation being taken up in places where deforestation is a problem, or mainly in areas where land clearance has already run its course? We will use our results to identify priority regions with scope for better spatial targeting of eco-certification, and explore realistic ways of making this happen. 

This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

Project Aims

This project will develop a global dataset documenting location and extent of tropical crop eco-certification, and use this to address the following questions:

A. What is the evidence for beneficial impacts of certification schemes on biodiversity, human welfare and sustainability?

B. Where are certified crops distributed in relation to: i. The overall geographic range of those crops, and active frontiers of land clearance? ii. Areas of importance for biodiversity, including key sites? iii. Areas where poverty is prevalent?

C. Informed by the patterns identified in (B), are there places where different certification schemes could focus to increase their positive impacts, including: i. Frontiers of agricultural conversion in areas important for biodiversity, where prohibitions on land clearance are critical? ii. Landscapes with few remaining natural habitats, where on-farm management or restoration could be most appropriate? iii. Places with great poverty or large numbers of poor people, where livelihood-oriented standards might have most beneficial impact?

D. What opportunities exist to promote a more strategic approach to certification, through: i. Public policy levers, such as regional procurement requirements, trade agreements and land-use planning? ii. Supply chain levers, such as retailers interested in developing collaborations with conservation organisations?

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Biodiversity and food security
Start date: July 1, 2013
Status: Complete

Project team

CCI partners Involved

Other Organisations Involved

Rainforest Alliance


Thumbnail image: USFWS/Brian Smith/American Bird Conservancy
Banner image: Ben Phalan

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