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SP17 - Climate change and the restructuring of agricultural value chains in the Global South

Convened by Janina Grabs (ESADE Business School, Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain), Christine Noe (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) and Gezahegn Berecha (Jimma University, Ethiopia)

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Global environmental change threatens smallholder livelihoods across the Global South, especially for crops that are sensitive to temperature and precipitation change. Global warming may reduce yields, shrink optimal growing areas, and foment more frequent and widespread pest and disease outbreaks. Impoverished farmers have limited capacity to adapt to climate-related challenges, so these impacts are likely to further entrench them in poverty cycles. Downstream, global buyers for agricultural commodities worry that declining production volumes may threaten their present investments. Anticipating these risks, various actors along agricultural value chains, such as farmers, government agencies, processors, traders, and development-focused NGOs, are experimenting with adaptation and mitigation innovations. These include new cultivars, climate-smart farming techniques and new land-use strategies. These experiments’ success, side effects, and benefits, however, will depend on how the entire value chain responds. Historically, agricultural value chains in the global South have featured substantial power asymmetries, which facilitated extractivist business practices, with the lion’s share of economic benefits accruing in the Global North. These power asymmetries could cause climate adaptation and mitigation innovations to produce paradoxical results. On the one hand, climate-smart agriculture could facilitate upgrading - helping some farmers differentiate themselves and more added value or better market access. On the other, adaptation and mitigation programs could make smallholders even more dependent on lead firms for inputs, expertise and market connections. To date, little empirical work has been done that would help stakeholders anticipate and address such paradoxical outcomes. For this seed panel, we seek contributions that illustrate recent research and/or set future research agendas linking climate change to transformations in farming practices, business strategies, and stakeholder relationships along agricultural value chains.