Over the past decade, research and development communities have begun using the value chain as a useful concept to frame and organize their efforts to enhance the role of agricultural products, including those from livestock, in economic growth and poverty reduction.
The value chain concept was quickly taken up by ILRI and further endorsed by an External Review of our work on Sustainable Intensification – it was felt to capture the types of research ILRI had been doing to combine increased productivity on farm with market participation using an impact pathway logic. It also complements well the way ILRI views the world as dynamic systems. Importantly, it has also provided a common language to engage with development partners and other stakeholders when exploring how research might more directly support development efforts, as in the case of the East Africa Dairy Development Project (EADD) and the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project (IPMS).
Perhaps more subtle, the value chain concept has signaled a shift in emphasis from livestock systems to livestock commodities. When ILRI together with CGIAR partners and stakeholders developed the idea for the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, the value chain approach was adopted as a central feature, together with an impact-minded commitment to focus the program’s activities on improving only selected value chains.
In terms of an ILRI strategy for the next ten years, the value chain approach seems to offer a logical extension of the livestock pathways out of poverty; value chain development typically incorporates a combination of the three pathways, especially with respect to improving productivity and access to markets. But the value chain perspective also helps to recognize that these challenges are not limited to on farm, but also concern the range of services and inputs needed to support livestock keepers and the post-farm activities associated with livestock products, including the poor who earn their livelihoods from providing these services. It thus provides a powerful framework to understand how ILRI’s research might translate to broad-based economic growth, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. It also connects us more clearly to consumers and the opportunities to enhance benefits they derive from access to affordable animal-source foods.
This all makes a compelling argument for us to embrace the value chain concept as a fundamental impact pathway for ILRI research. Concerns have been raised, however, that it may be too limiting. It may, for example, shift focus too much towards finding quick solutions for today’s constraints, at the expense of longer-term research to address the more difficult challenges such as developing a vaccine for a key livestock disease.
This leads to two main questions:
- Do you agree that the value chain concept is appropriate for helping to define ILRI’s role in research to promote market-oriented livestock production in our ‘inclusive growth’ scenario?
- If yes, are there any reasons not mentioned above that you think should be highlighted for why it is useful?
- If no, why do you think it is inappropriate?
- If ILRI adopts the value chain concept and approach at the heart of its strategy, what risks might be created?