Liz Cooper, "The Effects of Non-Firm Actors’ Interventions in Agro-Commodity Value Chains on Chain Governance: The Case of NGOs and Development Agencies"

Reflecting a wider twenty-first century trend in international development of collaborating with the private sector to achieve poverty reduction, NGOs and development agencies have begun to get involved in agro-commodity value chain development. Yet there is a lack of academic analysis of the effects of their involvement on chain governance. This paper identifies the roles NGOs and development agencies are playing in chain development, and analyses the effects of their interventions on chain strategy, relationships between chain actors, and power relations. These research aims are met through a broad review of recent literature, covering cases from a variety of agro-commodity sectors across Africa, Asia and Latin America. This study contributes to theoretical debates by producing a number of findings. Firstly, in many cases, NGOs and development agencies have begun to take on chain governance roles, gaining power over chains. Secondly, these new governors are often using this power to influence who participates in a chain. Thirdly, they are typically attempting to change captive governance to more relational governance, in order to empower small producers and processors. Yet corporate buyers maintain high levels of power, despite, and sometimes because of, non-firm actor interventions. Rising non-firm power, alongside sustained corporate power, suggests that collaborative co-governance between these two actors may be a possible future path. Overall, this paper concludes that the effects of NGO and development agency involvement in agro-commodity chain development on chain governance are several-fold and significant, with varying consequences for vast numbers of livelihoods. Therefore, recommendations are made for practitioners to gain greater business expertise, to use more participatory chain analysis and planning techniques, and to extend their support more to processors as well as producers. Recommendations are made for further research on chain actors’ views on non-firm interventions, and for action research on co-governance of chains.

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