News in Value Chain Development: The Guardian covers VC issues and IIED launches provacative webinar series
“We just can’t be sure.” This five word excuse has been used by consumers and industry leaders alike to distance them from the production practices that so many of their products and parts embody. This week, a great article in the Guardian highlighted the need for greater research into value chains in order to really understand the impacts on the the individuals in developing countries who are involved in global value chains:
This is globalization in which supply chains crisscross continents, passing from company to company, and at every stage every player has an interest in obfuscation: either blatantly on the ground in Congo, where huge quantities of this million dollar trade are illegal; or closer to home with the polite refusal to engage, the citing of commercial confidentiality.
The obfuscation is hugely convenient…too many links in the chain have hidden behind the convenience of ignorance: “We just don’t know; we can’t be sure.”
The passion behind CIAT’s Linking Farmers’ to Markets program is understanding how we can better unravel global value chains to not just incorporate the global poor, but actually benefit them. Our English cohorts over at IIED are in the midst of a great webinar series on this very topic. Consideing the following questions in a series of “provocative seminars” and inviting global experts and stakeholders to share in the discussion. Key questions included:
- Why should we focus on fair trade if conventional markets can assure better prices?
- Why should we focus on commodities and export markets when rapid urbanization means that domestic ones are growing?
- How can we address market failures? Are fair trade standards still the ‘good’ standards?
- Aren’t we overlooking the role of the state with the new ‘trendy’ markets and value chains approach?
- How can we integrate individual expectations in collective actions?
- What about the non-organized small-scale producers which form the majority?
- Are we concentrating too much on the ‘external agenda’ and not enough on how small-scale producers are shaping this agenda and what mechanisms they are using?
- Are we seeing how real ‘agency’ works — for example, what makes small-scale producers sell their votes?
- Is removing people from farming the best way to development?
- Have we had to shift from markets for the poor to markets with the poor?
- How can we deal with farmers’ demands for opportunities, not charity, in national policies dealing with subsidies in other countries?
- Is the value chain approach and practice synonymous with small-scale producers’ emancipation? We need evidence.
Certainly there’s room for debate and improvement on how exactly to do this and any successes will certainly have a unique and regional focus. Hundreds of people and organizations around the world are fast at work trying to understand the current social and environmental impacts in various regions, and are attempting to imagine something different. Value chain development and small-holder integration is still in its infancy, and collaboration between the social and the natural science, in addition to businesses, NGOs and governments, is critical.