Globalisation and particularly the food crises of 2007- 2008 and 2010-11 have renewed interest in agriculture and small-scale producers. Much of this interest has focused on connecting producers to markets. Governments, donors and the development community at large, as well as many in the private sector, have embraced the “pro-poor market” concept with the expectation that, through market inclusion, small-scale producers can survive and even prosper in the face of the major changes in agriculture and food markets that globalisation has ushered in.
In this new agenda, small-scale producers are being described as: key to reducing rural poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals; a pillar of global food security; a source of increased supply for agribusiness, and a new market for seeds and other inputs; stewards of biodiversity; part of the solution to climate change; and, beneficiaries of business, NGO and donor programmes for ‘inclusive business’ and ‘making markets work for the poor’. A Global Learning Network has been established to critically reflect on this agenda. The network provides a space that combines action research and learning on some of the critical challenges that small-scale producers are facing in globalised markets. How do small-scale producers make good choices in the face of the new opportunities and risks associated with these powerful external agendas? How can they build the capacities to act on those choices – in other words, their agency? Has producer agency been overlooked in the push to ‘link them to markets’? How are producers engaging with pro-poor market interventions and how are they trying to get better deals? The network is a central pillar of the Knowledge Programme ‘Small producer agency in the globalised market’. The Network was convened in April 2010 following regional processes during the preceding nine months. It brings together leaders and practitioners from the worlds of academia, farming and agribusiness, from Latin America, Asia and Africa, bringing added value through the sharing of insights across roles and regions. The Network has organised its work around three major themes. The intention is to bring new insights to reshape the debate by producing, integrating and disseminating knowledge on each of these three themes, through the lens ofproducers’ agency. This requires challenging our own ideas, assumptions and actions.
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