The Organic Certification Process: Is it Sustainable for Small Producers in Developing Countries? A Case Study of ForesTrade Inc.

Mary L. Porter, School for International Training


Development workers and organizations have always struggled with whether their efforts empower their targeted populations or actually increase their dependency on outside help.

This research is a case study of ForesTrade Inc., a for-profit organization (FPO) that buys and sells organically certified and fair trade coffee and spices from Indonesia and Guatemala. As an organization that identifies itself as buyer and seller of organically certified products, it requires that its producers and suppliers be organically certified. ForesTrade Inc. finances and monitors the organic certification process for its producers.

Interviews were conducted with the management of ForesTrade Inc., farmers who grow products for ForesTrade Inc., and experts who work in organic farming in Indonesia. A review was also made of ForesTrade internal documents and of relevant literature on the organic certification process and sustainable development.

The research showed that the OCP is a complicated and consumer-driven process that does not help the producers in their efforts to gain access to international markets for their products. In its role, ForesTrade does not help to empower their producers because it oversees the OCP for them. ForesTrade needs to find ways to help the producers of its organically certified goods manage the OCP process themselves. Only in this way will they become sustainable participants in the international buying and selling of organic products.