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Fairtrade Movement Co-Founder Frans van der Hoff Dead at 84

Francisco venderhoff

Frans “Francisco” van der Hoff (left) being honored by Victor Suarez Carrera and other leaders of the Oaxacan state in Mexico for his contributions to organic agriculture. 2023 press photo by the state of Oaxaca.

Frans van der Hoff, one of the founding figures of the Fairtrade movement, died on Tuesday at the age of 84. The cause of death is not publicly known.

A Dutch missionary who spent much of his adult life in the coffee lands of Mexico, van der Hoff (known as Francisco Vanderhoff in Latin America), co-founded the Fairtrade movement in 1988 along with Dutch economist Nico Roozen and the international development agency Solidaridad.

With contracts for Mexican coffees that far exceeded market price in order to recognize environmentally and socially sustainable production practices, the pair launched Max Havelaar, which would later become Fairtrade Nederland as the Fairtrade movement expanded globally under the Fairtrade International banner.

A statement from Fairtrade International staff remembered van der Hoff as a pioneer in efforts towards social justice, fair trade and equity, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable small-scale and Indigenous farmers.

“He envisioned Fairtrade as a social laboratory of sorts, one that tried radical new ideas, experimented with innovative ways of regulating trade, and found success because people and justice were always first,” the group wrote. “We will continue to lead by his example and build upon his legacy to create a fairer future for all. His words live on in our mission: ‘Don’t forget how Fairtrade started — because no matter how the world evolves, we still need producers to lead in transparency, on matters that affect their livelihood and sustainability.'”

Frans van der hoff 2

2023 press photo by the state of Oaxaca.

The seventh of 17 siblings in a Dutch farming family, van der Hoff would eventually earn France’s highest civilian honor (the National Order of the Legion of Honour) in 2005, as well as the prestigious North-South Prize of the Council of Europe in 2016.

Vanderhoff was the founder of Mexico’s Union of Indigenous Coffee Growers of the Isthmus Region (la Unión de Cafeticultores Indígenas de la Región del Istmo, UCIRI).

In a published statement, Solidaridad wrote, “Frans embodied the concept of solidarity living and working alongside farmers as they built an alternative economic model rooted in justice. He reminded us all to stop and listen, to truly understand the priorities and perspectives of smallholder farmers, and the critical insight that solutions should originate with farmers themselves.”

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