Opinion: Can value chains and innovation platforms boost African agriculture?

Future Agricultures. 11 reasons to be sceptical

Toni Darbas (CSIRO, Australia) and Jim Sumberg (IDS, UK) express their scepticism about the recent ‘value chains’ narrative in agricultural development discourse that sees agriculture as a ‘business’ that must be ‘professionalised’. The authors believe that there are good reasons to be sceptical about their ability to deliver on the high expectations that are being laid at their door.

Some of the reasons for scepticism they list are: 
  • unknown feedback across administrative scales; 
  • unknown evolution of transaction costs; 
  • private sector interests vs. public ones; inclusion issues; 
  • innovation blueprints insensitive to context; 
  • little direct evidence of positive impact of innovation platforms and value chains to poor farmers. 
They believe there is the constant danger of slipping into uncritical, formulaic and context insensitive responses. A much more critical and realistic approach to the potential contribution and applicability of both value chain approaches and innovation platforms would likely pay large dividends, they conclude.

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