Capturing the economic potential of food systems for the poor
This report (PDF) by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) provides an overview of the evidence of the economic potential of food systems for the poor for the next ten years. Evidence shows that only the upper tier of small-scale farmers can access the more modern and commercialised food channels. Extreme poor groups will not automatically benefit from modernisation and commercialisation, but may benefit from the unrealised viable market potential within changing food system. Most of the jobs in developing countries in the food system are in rural areas, either directly in production links, or indirectly through the consumption demands for locally produced goods and services by farmers with incomes to spend. Most of the rural non-farm jobs are made up of services, rather than manufacturing. When women enter into agricultural value chains, the new structures of constraint include how those markets work to limit their bargaining power, exploit their effort, and ignore their responsibilities for the unpaid care sector. Commercialisation pathways within food systems could create mainly new (low-paid) non-farm jobs for women, while they are likely to be pushed aside on ownership of commercial farming activities. For policy it is of importance to get the mix right in relation to the ability of smallholder farmers in the food system to “stepping up” or “hanging in” (farmers not able to scale up and commercialise) farming activities. Further, to improve the low-wage structures and sometimes precarious working conditions in the food economy, governments should look at their labour policies. To increase better absorption in non-farm employment in the food system, continued investment is needed in productivity growth, infrastructure, access to finance, and higher education. Policies and investments that tackle gender-specific constraints and promote non-farm employment in food systems could have a particularly large impact on women’s economic activities and food economy development.