Power Asymmetry in the Upstream of Agricultural Value Chains (2019-)

This project is designed to explore the power asymmetry in the upstream of agricultural value chains. The relations between various actors – ranging from hired farm workers to corporations who advance agro-inputs – require more nuanced documentation insofar as the power relations between the actors in the upstream have strong implications for the decent work conditions.

The project interconnects the following sub-projects:

Influence of Governance on sustainability of agronomic and post-harvest practices for improved quality of mango fruits and products in Makueni and Kwale Counties in Kenya

Main Research Question: Does the governance of the mango value chain influence the sustainability of agronomic and post-harvest handling practices for improved quality of mango fruits and products in Makueni and Kwale Counties in Kenya?

Project Coordinator: Prof. Joseph Matofari

Abstract: The adoption rate of introduced new mango varieties has not been uniform and the adopted practices have not been fully sustained. Surveys and participatory rural appraisals (PRA’s) in major mango production areas and stakeholder fora have identified the lack of knowledge on agronomic practices, disease/insect-pest and post-harvest handling as major constraints to production of good quality mangoes for further processing. A pilot study to investigate the social needs of the mango value chain operators in Kenya was carried out in order to understand how they may affect the mango industry. It was found that the social protection and rights of mango value chain operators in Kenya have received little attention up to now. This could be part of the reasons why there is a low adoption rate of high yielding varieties, as well as the agronomic and post-harvest handling practices that go with them. The major constraints currently hindering the development of the mango value chain in Kenya are categorized into four basic stages in the supply chain: the farm level, the processing stage, marketing stage and the export stage. However, very little information is available on the social capital that goes into making the mango industry a decent work place. Hence, the need to engage in systematic enquiries on the governance issues within the mango industry. A broad baseline investigation along the mango value chain will provide key information on the governance of the mango value chain and how this influences the productivity of the mango industry in Kenya. Therefore, social protection issues affecting the mango value chain in Makueni and Kwale Counties need to be investigated. Additionally, lack of value addition, notably product diversity at the small and medium processing enterprises results in poor products that cannot attract better markets for farmers. The results of such a study and the accompanying policy proposals will lead to the improvement and production of high quality mangoes and their products by the value chain operators in the two Counties.

Project's aim: The aim of this project is to analyze the governance issues affecting the mango value chain and how they influence sustainability of agronomic and post-harvest handling practices for improved quality of mango fruits and products in Makueni and Kwale Counties. The results of such a study and the accompanying policy proposals will be valuable in creating advocacy pathways for mango value chain actors. At production, farmers in Makueni County access to certified planting materials from nurseries ran by various institutions while in Kwale County farmers predominantly produce mangoes from old inherited trees. The cost of seedlings is a setback to the adoption of improved grafted varieties. The lack of fertilizer application on mango crops is a setback to agronomic practices. Farmers fall prey to exploitative cartels in the markets who default in paying the farmers, resulting in high losses. Fruit processing capacities are not fully developed within the Counties as per the pilot study. There are no value addition efforts on mangoes at individual farmer or group levels in both Counties. On socio-economic and decent work issues, farmers are disillusioned with issues on the incomes they receive vis-à-vis the efforts they put in to produce for the market. There is the need for County legislations to protect the interests of the farmers. This will avoid the feelings of exploitative tendencies that cause inefficiencies in the mango industry of the two counties. These Counties are developing strategies to make agriculture a business at County level and the mango value chain is the major enterprise of their choice. By addressing the governance issue at each node of the value chain and adopting technologies in production and product development, it will go a long way to enhance quality production of the mango fruit and value added products to improve income and livelihoods.

Living with Imbalance of Power in Supply Chains and its Impact on Decent Work: The Case of the Mango Value Chain in Pakistan

Main Research Question: How does the use of power by the stakeholders in the mango value chain affect decent work performance?

Project Coordinators: Dr. Mubashir Mehdi
Dr. Saira Akhtar


Abstract: Transformation of the agricultural production system from traditional to modern value chains has received prior attention among the policy makers, practitioners as well as academicians/ researchers. Developing countries such as Pakistan have achieved substantial improvements in the traditional production system in some selected crops like the mango value chain. Mango producers along with other traders are earning premium prices by producing premium quality both in the international as well as local or domestic market. However, it has been observed that the value flow system from downstream to upstream of the chain does not work effectively. In other words, the value is not distributed evenly among all the chain players, including farm workers and producers. Consequently, it is inhibiting the implementation of the decent work agenda at the farm level, which cannot ensure the sustainability of a supply chain. The illegitimate use of power, particularly by the downstream players of the chain directing the value flow in their favor, is one of the critical dimensions in this regard. Power in value chains means the negotiating capability of the chain player. This power is mainly constrained at the farm workers as well as growers because of the dominant role of market players such as traders. Therefore, it is important to understand the various factors that create the imbalance of powers along the value chain and to understand how it can be managed effectively. 
Detailed interviews with selected growers and traders will be conducted, particularly with those who are adopting best practices and build a modern value chain. A self-administered survey of the farm laborers will also be organized in order to understand the collecting bargaining power of the work force. Later on, speakers from the relevant field will be invited for an international conference that will be held at UAF in June/July 2019. The speakers will share their scholarly work on the subject which will further guide us to build in-depth insights into power issues in agricultural value chains. At the end, we will be able to find out the impact of power on decent work at the farm level and how it can be managed effectively.

Keywords: Power imbalance, agricultural value chain, decent work, developing countries

Constraints and Opportunities for Upgrading in Agricultural Value Chains in Developing Countries: the Case of the Mangoes Produced in the Brazilian Northeast Region

Main Research Question: What are the results of production growth and a deeper insertion of the mangoes produced in the Brazilian Northeast in the global value chains with regard to economic and social upgrading?

Project Coordinator: Walter Belik

Abtract: The project aims at analyzing the economic and social upgrading/downgrading impacts on agents that act in the mango global value chain produced in the Northeast region of Brazil. Those agents who would be investigated are smallholders, farms/companies and workers. This investigation addresses the economic dynamic of the production, the growth in labor productivity and agricultural yield and the capture of value along the chain. In turn, the social relations specifically focus on the decent work deficit among workers and smallholders. The methodology adopted is based on a qualitative approach using the case study framework. The data collection is concerned to secondary data collected from Brazilian statistics and primary data collected through interviews with stakeholders. The research is expected to identify the decent work deficit in working conditions of rural workers and smallholders. Furthermore, it intends to analyze the pathways to social upgrading, further analyze the evolution of the productivity and the economic upgrading inside the chain as well as the relation between social upgrading and economic upgrading.

Keywords: Global value chains, Economic upgrading, Social upgrading, Decent work deficit.

Power Asymmetry in the Indian Rice Value Chains

Main Research Question: How are the Power Asymmetries in the Rice Value Chains in India Shaped by Different Actors?

Project Coordinators: Santosh Verma, Manish Kumar

Abstract: The production of paddy takes place in non-linear arrangements where various actors (farmers, peasants, agricultural labourers on the one hand and traders, millers, domestic and international companies on the other) are linked in a complex value system. This study largely focuses on the downstream of value chains, analysing how surpluses, rents and profits are generated in the value system of paddy. Farmers of different land-size groups involve in various exchanges with other actors under the conditions of backward and forward linkages. This study will be based on a primary survey to analyse power structures in the rice value chains. It will also examine the livelihood conditions (decent work) of the labourers, peasants and farmers given their position in the power structure. To explore these, it will also be pertinent to understand the role of governance (institutional framework – local, state and central) in various exchanges being made within the chain, i.e. to explore how policy directions affect the power relations in the chain. Given the different end-markets, a comparative picture of rice value chains will emerge.

Keywords: Value Network, Power Structure, Vertical Integration, Paddy