Beekeepers in the Global 'Fair Trade' Market: A Case from Tabora Region, Tanzania



Published Jan 15, 2021
Eleanor Fisher


This paper presents a case study that examines the importance of the international 'fair trade' market in honey and beeswax from western Tanzania. Ethnographic research was carried out with producer members of an association known as the 'Tabora Beekeepers Cooperative Society Ltd'. Based on this data, the author examines producer decision-making in relation to market options for produce - local, regional and international. One of the fundamental concepts underlying the notion of 'fair trade' is that producers can gain a high price for goods that they have produced on terms favourable to themselves. It is argued that fair or alternative trade retail outlets in Europe enable consumers to buy goods believing that the goods have been produced and sold in ways that are in keeping with their desire to promote global relations of justice, equity and development; by buying goods in this way consumption is embued with new meanings. However, based on the example of the Tanzanian beekeeper's cooperative, it is argued that the concept of 'fair' may be meaningless for producers, having been taken out of context; what is most important is that beekeepers have an international market for their produce, enabling them to achieve various ends in life, potentially fair trading may assist them to do this in ways more favourable than provided by other international markets. The case study demonstrates that a commodity like honey can be a vehicle around which development can be constructed in new ways. Honey and wax embody a multiplicity of values and become mediums that allow diverse individual actors to perform different roles in the fair trade network. But fair trade does not provide an alternative to the globalising tendencies of development and to modernisation per se.

How to Cite

Fisher, E. . (2021) “Beekeepers in the Global ’Fair Trade’ Market: A Case from Tabora Region, Tanzania ”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 6, pp. 109–159. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v6i.367.
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