Investing in women to revolutionise farming: Fair Trade Enterprises bridging gender gaps for a sustainable food future

As our global community, supporters, policy-makers and activists continue to embrace the #BusinessRevolution. We at WFTO remain committed to shedding light and challenging the profit-centric models that often have negative impact on people and the planet. Today, we explore the pressing issue of gender biases in agriculture – guided by the question: Can sustainable food production truly thrive without ensuring gender justice?

Photo credits: Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Center

The profit-centric business model, while prioritising short-term gain, systematically overlooks the broader social and environmental repercussions of its practices. One critical consequence of these practices, is the exclusion of women, both in terms of recognition and compensation, in the majority of sectors. 

By sidelining this significant portion of the workforce, these businesses contribute to the creation of a model that may ultimately fail to sustain itself: while businesses limit the potential for innovation, diversity and inclusivity within their workforce, they are exposed to risks such as a diminished productive workforce, increased community instability and posing a direct threat to their supply chain resilience. Over time, this can lead to a less adaptable, hard-to-sustain business model.

While women make up 43% of the global agricultural labour force, (FAO) (source: they – more often than not – lack access to land ownership, markets and financial aid, as well as innovative farming practices and tools. Those barriers can diminish agricultural productivity, leading to lower yields which make businesses unable to thrive in the long run. 

Moreover, the exclusion from decision-making processes on land ownership and resource allocation contributes to limited crop diversity, making the system more vulnerable to pests and environmental changes. Denied access to markets and financial aid, women struggle to ensure food security for their families, undermining the stability of local communities, and increasing the vulnerability of global hunger. As the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reports, if women farmers had the same access to resources as male farmers, they could bring 100-150 million people out of hunger. (

In this context, advocating for women’s rights in farming and land ownership emerges as a strategic move toward sustainable development. Initiatives focused on addressing these gender disparities lay the groundwork for a more inclusive, resilient, and environmentally conscious global food system. 

Fair Trade Enterprises are already at the forefront of addressing this issue. In alignment with our 10 Principles of Fair Trade, these enterprises operate under alternative business models, championing transparency and Fair Trade practices. 

By recognising the vital role women play in agriculture, our community actively implements initiatives to place women at the centre of business activities. This includes collaborations with local women and women’s groups, encouraging them to organise into associations and participate in local trade. Through these endeavours, economic opportunities are created, fostering not only gender equality but also economic independence among women in the community.


Photo credits: Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Center

The Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Center (RSTC)  is a WFTO-Guaranteed Fair Trade Enterprise, based in the Rwenzori Region in Africa. Their key mission focuses on establishing markets that bring value to three sets of stakeholders: 

  • Cooperative members and women’s groups, 
  • Trading partners, 
  • Consumers who care about where their products come from.  

For over a decade, RSTC has cultivated a relationship based on trust and fair work, creating tools for the communities of the Rwenzori Mountains to organise and thrive. Recognising the pivotal role women play in agriculture, RSTC has implemented transformative initiatives to put women at the forefront of their businesses. 

Their way to achieve this is by collaborating with local women and women’s groups in organising into associations and participating in the local trade of surplus vegetables and staples, an activity that creates economic opportunities for them. Rwenzori works with 4,628 farmers organized in 6 cooperatives. Of these, 1862 are women. Additionally, by establishing markets that specifically benefit cooperative members, including women’s groups, RSTC ensures that these stakeholders are integral to the entire value chain. This approach not only addresses gender disparities but also fosters economic independence among women in the community.

Through the formation and capacity building of cooperatives, RSTC has facilitated the export of organic coffee, cocoa, and cotton, enabling women farmers to actively contribute to international trade. Moreover, the global sales of high-quality baskets and crafts produced by women’s organisations showcase the economic impact of Fair Trade practices on female artisans.

RSTC’s commitment extends beyond economic empowerment. The centre invests significantly in education, starting with primary schools in local communities. By working directly with head teachers to monitor food scarcity, hunger, and the needs of schools, RSTC ensures that women, particularly mothers, are involved in decision-making processes that impact the education and well-being of their children. In addition to its focus on education, RSTC pioneers initiatives in climate and conservation, marking it as the first Fair Trade enterprise in Uganda to achieve UN status Carbon Neutral Operations. 

Through its holistic approach, the Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Center exemplifies how Fair Trade Enterprises can strategically and effectively address gender disparities in agriculture,  laying the groundwork for a more inclusive, resilient, and environmentally conscious global food system.


Photo credits: Malongo

Another Fair Trade Enterprise that places small farmers in the center of it operations is Malongo. Malongo is a family-run Fair Trade Enterprise located near Nice in the French Riviera region. They produce over 8,000 tons of coffee each year through partnerships with small producers in Central America, Asia and Africa.  

Behind MALONGO’s name are the men and women who work as part of a team driven by our 10 Principles of Fair Trade and a true philosophy. Enthusiastic, competent and committed to the task at hand, these people all share the same passion for good coffee. 

Malongo works side by side with small growers, cultivating relationships based on trust and solid partnerships. The company commits to the long-term development of cooperatives by providing support to obtain various certifications. This commitment extends beyond ensuring a fair purchasing price; Malongo actively helps growers optimise their coffee output.

In Malongo’s vision of Fair Trade, small growers are not viewed as protegees but as equal trading partners. This approach involves defining the terms of partnership jointly, with both parties committing to certain standards. This ensures that Malongo receives top-quality products while small growers, benefit from a high purchasing price reflecting the quality provided.

In summary, Malongo is a key player in the Fair Trade landscape, actively engaging with growers, promoting equal trading partnerships, and diversifying economic activities for sustainable development. The company’s initiatives extend far beyond traditional business practices, aligning seamlessly with the broader cause of collaborating fairly with women in agriculture and contributing to gender justice in this crucial sector.

As we reflect on the dynamics of the modern agricultural industry, it is more than clear that the profit-centric model, with its short-sighted pursuit of gains, jeopardises its sustainability by excluding and undermining women’s labour. Yet, our community remains committed to advocating for change. Rwenzori, Malongo and the rest of our Fair Trade Enterprises operate under an alternative business model that is inclusive by design, demonstrating how Fair Trade Practices do make a great deal of difference in creating lasting value for their communities.

Join us in the #BusinessRevolution campaign, where we advocate for a new economic system: one that prioritises the people and our planet over profits and creates businesses that thrive while acting as a force for good! Learn more and access our campaign assets at

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17th international


17-20 SEPT 2024 – CAPE TOWN 

We are thrilled to invite you to our upcoming International Fair Trade Summit, set to take place in the vibrant city of Cape Town, from the 17th to the 20th of September 2024.

The International Fair Trade Summit aims to bring together leaders, practitioners, and advocates from all corners of the globe to collaborate and promote Fair Trade practices. This edition promises to be a unique opportunity for participants to engage in enlightening discussions, exchange ideas, and forge partnerships that will shape the future of Fair Trade.

WFTO Membership & Associate Types

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All trading members of WFTO. This includes all organisations that have more than half of their income and/or more than €100,000 in income from trade.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    An organisation whose primary mission is to support Fair Trade and/or provide services to organisations that are or want to become Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    An organisation which is an association of organisations committed to Fair Trade.

  • Individual Associates (IA)

    Individual Associates are supporters of the Fair Trade movement with limited rights. The WFTO Guarantee System does not apply to them.

  • Associate Organisations (AO)

    Associate Organisations align with WFTO’s values but after their application. They do not undergo monitoring and also have limited rights.

WFTO Guarantee System Monitoring Statuses

  • Candidates

    Candidates have been conditionally approved for membership but have not completed their first monitoring cycle under the WFTO Guarantee System. They have limited rights within WFTO. They may not use the WFTO Member Mark and Product Label or claim that they are monitored by WFTO.

  • Guaranteed Members

    Guaranteed members have met the WFTO Membership requirements and are monitored under the WFTO Guarantee System.

  • Member

    Organisations that have no or little income from trade go through a reduced version of the WFTO Guarantee System that does not include criteria related to trade. These organisations may use the WFTO Member Mark but cannot use the Product Label for any products they may be trading to support their mission. This status only applies to Fair Trade Networks (FTN) and Support Organisations (FTSO).

  • Renewal in Progress

    Members who are in the process of renewing their guaranteed status and are overdue on some requirements retain full rights while they work to meet the demands of the Guarantee System on an administrative or compliance level.

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WFTO welcomes applications from established Fair Trade Organisations as well as organisations that support Fair Trade. Individuals in their capacity as researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field who can contribute solid skills, knowledge and expertise to WFTO and members are also welcome.

Add Your Heading Text Initial requirements for organisations:

  • Compliance with the WFTO 10 Principles of Fair Trade. Please have a look at the WFTO Fair Trade Standard for more specific information on compliance with these principles.

  • All applicant organisations must already be duly registered (as a legal entity) and active for at least one year.

Who can apply?

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All companies, partnerships, co-partnerships and other legal bodies – as determined by the legal provisions of the country of the member concerned – that are directly engaged in Fair Trade. They may be producers or northern or southern based trading FTOs for whom Fair Trade is the main activity. To qualify for FTO membership, income from sales (turnover) must account for 50% or more of the total income. Applications for FTO membership cannot be accepted from organisations with no prior sales history.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    Legal entities whose primary function is to serve as national or international associations of Fair Trade producers and/or Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    Fair Trade Organisations where trading is not the main activity (proportion of trade is less than 50% of total income). These organisations are engaged in Fair Trade indirectly, through activities that promote and support Fair Trade. These activities can include business counselling, finance, advocacy or networking.

  • Associate Organisations

    This is a special category for national or international organisations that are interested in supporting and promoting Fair Trade, including donor organisations. Organisations that do not meet the one-year legal existence requirement also fit in this group.

  • Individual Associates

    Individual researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field that can support WFTO. WFTO expects its individual associates to be active Fair Trade supporters whose experience and expertise in their own particular field can be of practical benefit to WFTO's members. To apply, please submit a curriculum vitae.

    While FTO, FTN and FTSO are entitled to full WFTO membership, organizational and individual associates have only limited rights.

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The WFTO Product Label is more than just a Fair Trade symbol. It signifies not only that the practices across the supply chain are checked against the WFTO Fair Trade Standard, but it also represents support to the battle against poverty and inequality. Products carrying the WFTO Label are made and traded by Guaranteed Fair Trade Organisations dedicated to the sustainable Fair Trade economy. Every purchase of products with the WFTO Label supports small producers and their communities.

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