The CGIAR Value Chains Community of Practice 2019 workshop: Methods for Diagnosing and Evaluating Agricultural Value Chains


by Kathryn Pace, Alan de Brauw, Nick Minot, and Evgeniya Anisimova | December 18, 2019

PIM’s Flagship 3 on Inclusive and Efficient Value Chains, jointly with Wageningen University and Research (WUR), organized a workshop on “Methods for Diagnosing and Evaluating Agricultural Value Chains” in Wageningen, The Netherlands, on October 15-16, 2019. The workshop was the second annual meeting of the CGIAR Community of Practice (CoP) in value chains research, first convened in 2018.

Participants from 10 CGIAR centers - Bioversity International, CIAT, CIMMYT, ICRAF, ICRISAT, IFPRI, IITA, ILRI, IRRI, and WorldFish - as well as collaborators from IFAD, SNV, KIT, WUR, and MSU attended the event.

Discussion and presentations at the workshop highlighted several value chain methods currently being tested and used within CGIAR. Some of the methods focus on assessment of basic information about value chains, such as Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index  for value chains and 5Capitals. Others help to better understand and evaluate interventions to improve value chains, including research focusing on market competitiveness and information, food loss and waste, and overall system dynamics. During the workshop, a broad range of commodity chains were discussed, including rice, beans, dairy, vegetables, and seafood. Participants identified focus areas and methods that can further link value chain work to research areas of priority for CGIAR including nutrition, food security, gender, youth employment, climate change, and sustainability.

One particularly interesting structured discussion that took place during the meeting compared market systems approaches and value chain approaches. This discussion revealed that market systems might be a useful way to compare and prioritize commodity value chains by examining effects across a broader range of actors and parts of the chain that could potentially require interventions. Considering value chains as part of a market system has a potential to allow for more comprehensive approaches to make policy recommendations beyond single chain analyses. However, conducting impact evaluations within market systems interventions can be challenging.

By highlighting some of the innovative methods by which PIM-affiliated researchers are conducting impact evaluations of value chains projects, a goal of the workshop was to help illustrate some of the rigorous work being undertaken by scientists. A presentation on dairy markets in Indonesia found that market power allowed processors to “capture” the gains from training farmers. Another presentation illustrated research on contractual forms emphasizing quality, to attempt to reduce food loss and waste in the beans value chains in Guatemala and Honduras, finding reduced insect damage in Guatemala and fewer impurities in Honduras. And a third presentation on an intervention found that farmers in Ghana and Uganda were willing to pay for price information delivered via cell phone, suggesting that market information systems can play a role in reducing transaction costs along the value chain.

Participants agreed that there is further room for developing rigorous analysis in more value chains interventions, particularly as the flagship attempts to increase focus on key cross-cutting areas such as nutrition and food security, youth employment, competition, and gender. The updated Tools4ValueChains website, managed by the PIM’s Flagship 3 team, will be used by the Community of Practice to stimulate information sharing, disseminate new research findings and best practices, as well as foster cross-CGIAR knowledge exchange, capacity building, and collaboration on value chains. The site will also be used as a “face” for the CoP moving forward.

“It is really exciting to see the development of the CGIAR Value Chains Community of Practice at this important time when lessons from value chain research are going to be critical in identifying future priorities in One CGIAR,” said PIM’s Director Frank Place.

The next meeting of the CoP, tentatively scheduled for Fall 2020, will focus on how recent work on value chain interventions can be synthesized into lessons to be disseminated to development partners. Researchers will be encouraged to help develop a cohesive narrative about what appears to work among value chain interventions to improve efficiency without losing inclusivity. That meeting and information sharing preceding the meeting will strive to help guide CGIAR value chain research toward 2030.

Photo credit: Zerihun Sewunet/ILRI


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