The Rainforest Alliance and independent researchers conduct a variety of projects, analyses, and studies to evaluate the effectiveness of our certification and landscape-level programs. These range from analysis of farm-level data to long-term projects in critically important landscapes. We also develop methodologies and thought pieces to help define best practices and improve the effectiveness of sustainability standards and similar supply chain interventions. These efforts provide critical insights into the challenges and conditions for success of our interventions, allowing us to fine-tune our strategies and provide appropriate support and resources to farmers and farming communities. Learn more about our monitoring and evaluation work.
A list of completed research studies can be found here, while profiles of our key current landscape-level projects are available here. Summaries of selected planned and in-progress research and projects are available below.
- Pesticide Use Baseline and IPM Implementation in Colombia (2021-2022): This study addresses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and pesticide use on Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, flower, avocado, and banana farms in Colombia. Recognizing the importance of improving IPM implementation and reducing pesticide use for ecosystem and human health, the criteria related to these two topics have been strengthened since the 2017 Standard. This study will assess challenges associated with implementing the new criteria in the 2020 Standard and will collect baseline data on pesticide use.
- Effective Operational Grievance Mechanisms (2021-2022): This external research analyzes the use and function of operational grievance mechanisms on certified farms and groups. Which type of mechanisms are in use in different contexts? How are they managed? How effective are they in addressing complaints and human rights risks, and in providing access to remedy?
- Mount Kenya Sustainable Landscape and Livelihoods Program (2020-2026): This project seeks to build capacity of farmers to manage Mount Kenya’s land and resources more sustainably, while improving livelihoods. Current M&E activities include assessing the impact of climate risk mapping, training, and use of technology on farmers’ adoption of key regenerative and climate-smart agricultural practices.
We publish Requests for Proposals and the full reports from commissioned research studies, in line with the ISEAL Impacts Code of Good Practice.
Third-party research on our certification program
Research institutions and universities often conduct studies to evaluate the impact of third-party sustainability standards such as the Rainforest Alliance’s 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard. These studies provide valuable independent assessments of our work. A few recent examples are highlighted below:
- Do voluntary certification standards improve yields and wellbeing? Evidence from oil palm and cocoa smallholders in Ghana (2020): In this study, researchers compared Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified cocoa farms to non-certified farms in Assin North, Ghana. They found that the certified farms had 70 percent higher yields, leading to double the household income and a 27 percent lower likelihood of living in extreme poverty. Off-farm income was also higher for certified farms, by 60 percent, although both certified and non-certified farms had low income diversification overall, mainly relying on cocoa income.
- Mainstreamed voluntary sustainability standards and their effectiveness: Evidence from the Honduran coffee sector (2019): This study compared the rate at which sustainable farming practices are implemented by Honduran coffee farmers who are certified to various voluntary sustainability standards, including the Rainforest Alliance’s certification program. The study found that Rainforest Alliance Certified farms performed better than a non-certified control group for multiple variables, including worker wages and agrochemical safety. The authors underscore the importance of farmer training and farm-gate prices on implementation success.
- Aggregate effects on ecosystem services from certification of tea farming in the Upper Tana River basin, Kenya (2019): In this study, researchers applied ecosystem service models to investigate the impact of Rainforest Alliance certification on runoff from tea farms in Kenya’s Upper Tana River watershed. The models showed that sustainable land management practices and erosion control on certified farms reduced sediment in the watershed by 185 tons per year, and higher fertilizer use on certified farms increased the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the watershed. These findings point to important landscape-level impacts of certification.