Rural producer agency and agricultural value chains: What role for socio-legal empowerment?

Research report
, 52 pages
PDF (498.71 KB)
Published: January 2019
Land, investment and rights
ISBN: 9781784316495
Product code:12607IIED

New public policies and changing economic fundamentals have spurred private-sector investment in commercial agriculture in low- and middle-income countries – from production to aggregation, processing and distribution. Growing numbers of policies and programmes aim to integrate small-scale rural producers into agricultural value chains, based on concepts such as ‘inclusive business’ and ‘shared value’.

But significant questions remain over how best to: recognise the possibly divergent visions, interests and constraints of various actors, and the risks and trade-offs that can arise; address often substantial power imbalances that affect value chain relations; and ultimately support genuine agency among rural producers and their communities – that is, their ability to make choices, take action and influence realities around them.

This report explores whether socio-legal empowerment – the combination of recourse to law with related change strategies such as collective action and gaining greater business savvy – might help address these issues. The report develops a conceptual framework to further understand, test and strengthen the contribution of socio-legal empowerment to enhancing the agency of rural actors as they engage with, or are affected by, commercial agriculture.

This project has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

Cite this publication

Cotula, L., Polack, E., Berger, T. and Schwartz, B. (2019). Rural producer agency and agricultural value chains: What role for socio-legal empowerment?. .
Available at