Agricultural Development Economics


Gender and agricultural value chains: A review of current knowledge and practice and their policy implications
Christopher Coles, Jonathan Mitchell
Publication date
This paper introduces value chain analysis and development as tools for addressing gender inequities in markets. We describe how factors such as access to assets, gendered education differentials and the nature and value of economic activities affect the way in which men and women participate and gain in value chains, distinguishing among household, institutional and chain levels of analysis. Current empirical evidence for the role of upgrading in value chains in impacting gender inequities in markets is weakened by our as yet imperfect understanding of the issues. However, horizontal coordination can reduce gender-related disparities in bargaining and management power as a precursor to stronger vertical relationships. Improvements in processes, products and functional distribution in value chains can improve chain-level outcomes leading to women’s empowerment and, ultimately, to improved household poverty outcomes. However, this progression from positive impacts to desirable outcomes is not a given and depends on often complex context-specific socio-cultural norms. In particular, the benefits of women’s participation in agricultural value chains are determined by their control of productive resources and household level decisions. Where both sexes play a role in decision making generic interventions, or even those applied to men only, can benefit both sexes. Where women do not participate in spending decisions a more gender-specific approach that targets underlying gender issues in households and institutions is required. We illustrate that unsound gender analyses can miss the point, resulting in flawed understanding of the real issues and ineffective or even damaging interventions. We conclude that the universal application of packages of generic ‘default’ interventions risk doing harm and that upgrading strategies should be applied on a case by case basis and only after a thorough and robust analysis of causal factors. We outline for practitioners what a robust analysis should look like and present a menu of policy options for acting to promote gender equity and reduce poverty using the value chain analysis and development approach.
JEL Codes
J16, O13, D13, L2