Participatory commodity networking: An integrated framework for Fairtrade research and support

Jennifer Keahey, Laura T. Raynolds, Sandra Kruger, Andries du Toit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article discusses the potential for humanizing production and trade relations by extending action research to multilateral commodity networks. Participatory action research and Fairtrade certification both promote social justice, but the first faces difficulties in terms of scalability, while the second experiences challenges in terms of producer support. As conventional research has failed to deliver methods for improving services, we worked with small-scale farmers in South Africa’s rooibos tea industry to meet this gap. Responding to producer concerns regarding market and certification access, we conducted a participatory research, training, and networking program to establish a farmer leadership network within the rooibos industry. Despite the challenges involved in advancing participation in an arena marked by complex power relations, our work helped stakeholders establish trust, improve knowledge, and begin addressing issues. By incorporating commodity network analysis into action research methodology, our model facilitates both community and organizational development, offering a multilateral framework for collaborative inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-42
Number of pages18
JournalAction Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Fair trade
  • South Africa
  • global value chains
  • participatory action research
  • rooibos
  • social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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