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New book: Value Chain Development and the Poor

A quick entry here as I want to point people in the direction of new collection of studies on value chains. Value Chains – Value Chain Development and the Poor: Promise, Delivery, and Opportunities for Impact at Scale, edited by Jason Donovan (CIMMYT), Dietmar Stoian (World Agroforestry), and Jon Hellin (IRRI) is published by Practical Action Publishing. Its available as a free download, or you can order a physical copy.

The collection of 16 papers/chapters from practitioners and researchers is broken down in three sections:

Part I: Context for Value Chain Development

Part II: Design and Implementation of VCD

Part III: Assessment and Outcomes of VCD

The first entry, Chapter 1, “Putting value chain development into perspective: Evolution, blind spots, and promising avenues”, I found particularly interesting as it provided a nice snapshot of the development of thinking in the value chain sector. The progression of ideas in the VC field is less than straight forward, with a slew of terminology with ambiguous and overlapping meanings. As a practitioner, I am frequently asked to explain the difference between ‘Value Chains’, ‘Market Systems’, ‘Markets for the Poor (M4P)’, ‘Market-Based’, and a whole host of other terms. What represents a new approach or new methodology and what is simply a rebranding?

It’s not surprising at all when even the experts can debate over where the lines are drawn: At the start of conferences and meetings in the sector, it is not uncommon to have to those leading the meeting define the terms to be used. 

The author’s take on this is to frame the development of concepts and focuses since the early days of the field (1980s) as driven by ‘Issues-Attention Cycles’. As ever, we are eager to move on the next ‘big thing’ or silver bullet. Whatever the driver, the authors snapshot is helpful for putting our work in perspective:

Another point of interest for me was that while the authors highlight the successes of the approach, they acknowledge the need to blend in non-market-based approaches to ensure that the most vulnerable can be reached and made market-ready. In chapter 12, “Value chain development for rural poverty reduction: A reality check and a warning” the authors highlight the need to take an asset-based approach, encouraging practitioners to assist households to meet a minimum asset threshold before being enabled to engage in value chain programming.

 The authors are interviewed by CGIAR, assessing their own book.

And yes, I did provide an official endorsement for this book (in the ‘Praise for this book’ page). I am firmly of the view that promotion of a book in which you provide a promotion is not self-promotion.

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