Power Asymmetry

Power Asymmetry in the Upstream of Agricultural Value Chains



Project Coordinator:
Prof. Dr. Christoph Scherrer

Research Cluster:
Decent Work along Agricultural Value Chains

Project's aims:
Exploring the power asymmetry in the upstream of agricultural value chains


This project is designed to explore the power asymmetry in the upstream of agricultural value chains. The relations between various actors – ranging from hired farmworkers 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.


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

Project's aim: The aim of this project is to analyze the governance issues affecting the mango value chain and how they influence the 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 a need for County legislation 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 the 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.

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. 

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

Abstract: 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 with 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.

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.