Alice Karuri

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What made you want to join the Trade Hub programme as an AFOx Biodiversity fellow?

The interdisciplinary approach of the Trade Hub programme creates a space where I can seek answers to the diverse questions that arise in the study of commodity chains. I was excited to find a fellowship where all the research areas I am passionate about fit in! Sustainable agriculture and trade recognizes that the economic, social and environmental aspect of production and consumption are inextricably linked.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with us?

Sustainability in global commodity chains: an institutional analysis of farmer organizations.


Can you tell us a little about it?

During my fellowship, I will be working on a project on the coffee chain. I will be analysing three aspects of coffee production and trade: institutions, chain actors and climate change action. The institutional analysis will focus on farmer organizations, particularly in terms of the differential economic benefits that accrue to farmers. A chain analysis will examine the interaction between farmers and other chain actors, including the power relations and the value addition and profit distribution along the chain. The focus on climate change action will be to identify the incentives for implementation or continuation of adaptation and mitigation measures by small-scale farmers. This will include an estimate of the cost to farmers in adopting these measures.


Which of the three themes does your research fall under?

My research falls under ICCS' Theme One, ‘Understanding Resource User Incentives.’ The theme addresses the factors that motivate humans’ behaviour towards the environment. In the coffee sector, 90% of global production is in developing countries, majorly by farmers with less than 5 acres.  It is estimated that 40% live below the poverty line. Farming practices have a significant impact on the environment and are dependent on multiple factors. Resource use in the coffee sector is determined by the social, economic and political context within which production and trade take place. Part of my research will be identifying the incentives and disincentives to sustainable agricultural practices including climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.



In 2000 while in my second year of undergraduate studies, I undertook an independent study on multinational corporations in developing countries. In the course of conversations with the lecturer and after watching a documentary on agri-business corporations and small-scale farmers, I became profoundly aware of the issue of trade justice. This influenced my decision to change my major from journalism to economics.

While researching on the effect of climate change on small-scale tea and coffee farmers, I realized the importance of sustainable trade as an integral part of trade justice. Sustainable trade requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that goes beyond farmer incomes, to address social and environmental challenges. Social justice remains at the heart of all I do, and I believe that sustainable development is at its core an issue of social justice. All research in one way or another, is an effort towards a just world.


Research interests include global commodity chains, sustainable agriculture and trade, social justice. My research interest in commodity chains was sparked by the numerous media reports on the challenges facing coffee farmers. It was ironic that Kenya produced some of the best coffee in the world and yet the farmers were faced with innumerable challenges.

My current research is on sustainability in global commodity chains. I am particularly interested in indicators that go beyond sustainable production and capture the aspect of sustainable trade for small producers.



Strathmore University                                                                                             November 2019 – Present

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Lecturer, Development Studies


Ph.D. Development Studies                                                                                     2019

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Juja, Kenya

Thesis title: Producer Institutional Arrangements in Kenya’s Coffee Sector

and their Effect on Economic Benefits to Farmers

M.A. International Affairs.                                                                                      2009

George Washington University, Washington D.C., USA

B.A. Economics                                                                                                             2003

Morgan State University, Baltimore Maryland, USA


Karuri, A. (2020). Adaptation of Small-Scale Tea and Coffee Farmers in Kenya to Climate Change. In W.L. Filho (Ed). African Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation.     Springer        Publishing.

Karuri, A.N., Ondieki-Mwaura, F. and Omondi, H. Ability of Farmers to Negotiate with

Chain Actors in the Coffee Sector in Kenya.  Journal of Economics and Development Studies. 6(2): 45-48. 2018.

Karuri, A. N., Ondieki-Mwaura, F. and Omondi, H. Characterization of

Producer Institutional Arrangements in the Coffee Sector in Kenya and Policy Implications for Farmer Empowerment. Journal of Social Science for Policy Implications. 6(1): 18-25. 2018


Alice Karuri