Coping with COVID-19: Certification supports farmer resilience

How are smallholder farmers coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? Can voluntary sustainability standards help them to be more resilient when crises hit? We interviewed supply chain actors from six commodity sectors in six countries to find out.

By Sara Elder on April 19, 2021

This policy brief presents findings from primary research investigating how voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) can help smallholder farmers be more resilient during crises. We surveyed 57 supply chain actors to discover how farmers are coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and whether certification can help them adapt.

The results suggest that VSS-compliant markets can indeed help smallholder producers be more resilient. They can offer higher prices and premiums than conventional markets and provide stronger supply chain relationships that facilitate market access, market diversification, and training for producers.

However, we also found that VSSs alone do not protect farmers entirely from international price volatility or asymmetric power relations in supply chains. In addition, the success of VSSs depends on sufficient consumer demand for sustainable products.

The brief concludes by suggesting key actions that governments can take to help producers be more resilient. Recommendations include providing regular training to support sustainable agricultural practices, establishing relationships between producer organizations and other supply chain actors, extending social protection programs, ensuring a living income for producers, and building demand for sustainable products. VSSs—if well designed—can act as a tool that governments can use to help achieve these goals.

Brief details