Patrick Struebi

Ashoka Fellow
Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Patrick Struebi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Fairtrasa is the hybrid innovation of Patrick, a young businessman from Switzerland who is changing the face of international fair-trade. After five years of working with small producer organizations in Mexico and Argentina, he has discovered the weaknesses of the existing fair-trade system and is using his vast experience in international commerce to transform an imbalanced marketplace. Most small producers are unable to participate in competitive international markets because they cannot obtain the complicated and expensive fair-trade certification. The outcome is the continuation of subsistence level incomes and farmers forced to migrate to seek a better life. Patrick is modernizing a system which has traditionally worked well for high volume crops and well prepared farmers, but the huge growth of fair trade has also exposed weaknesses in the system. Through Fairtrasa, Patrick is creating a new more agile and more inclusive certification which is fairer, more flexible, and includes those growers who specialize in low demand fruits and vegetables.

The potential for impact spreads widely beyond local farms because the Fairtrasa program encourages community development and demands sustainable agriculture. Fertile fields and better agricultural practices generate higher income that can be reinvested into the community for social and economic progress. Patrick has introduced a unique variant to the current fair-trade pricing mechanism. The current system offers a guaranteed minimum price for their goods, as well as a predefined premium which goes directly to the farmer. Patrick offers a higher “fair price” for the goods which is based on local and export market rates plus an additional premium. The price premium goes to the farmers and the communities, to be invested as they collectively see fit, and can be used for an irrigation system, a better road to take goods to market, or a new school for the community.

As world commodity prices increase, small-scale producers are left behind because they are not certified to export. By creating a new, globally accepted certification process, excluded farmers are able to join the international marketplace. Building alliances with organizations are transforming small farmers into export-quality producers focused on sustainable agriculture and community development. Patrick is taking advantage of various different markets including fruits and vegetables in western Mexico, wine in central Argentina, and potential off-shoots in Peru, Brazil and India. Fairtrasa has been growing quickly to take advantage of this favorable opportunity to offer new commodities to the global market while providing small producers with the best prices available for their products.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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