The agricultural value chain concept has been used since the beginning of the millennium, primarily by those working in agricultural development in developing countries.
Although there is no universally accepted definition of the term, it normally refers to the whole range of goods and services necessary for an agricultural product to move from the farm to the final customer or consumer.
Value chain representation
The term value chain was first popularized in a book published in 1985 by Michael Porter, who used it to illustrate how companies could achieve what he called “competitive advantage” by adding value within their organization. Subsequently, the term was adopted for agricultural development purposes and has now become very much in vogue among those working in this field, with an increasing number of bilateral and multilateral aid organisations using it to guide their development interventions.
At the heart of the agricultural value chain concept is the idea of actors connected along a chain producing and delivering goods to consumers through a sequence of activities. However, this “vertical” chain cannot function in isolation and an important aspect of the value chain approach is that it also considers “horizontal” impacts on the chain, such as input and finance provision, extension support and the general enabling environment. The approach has been found useful, particularly by donors, in that it has resulted in a consideration of all those factors impacting on the ability of farmers to access markets profitably, leading to a broader range of chain interventions. It is used both for upgrading existing chains and for donors to identify market opportunities for small farmers.
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