Rethinking Food Markets and Value Chains for Inclusion and Sustainability


The food sector constitutes about one fifth of the global economy and is the world’s largest source of income and employment. Yet hundreds of millions of people do not have food security. Poverty disproportionately affects rural populations, whose livelihoods depend largely on agrifood-related economic activity. Women comprise almost half of the agricultural workforce and many run small-scale farm and non-farm businesses. More than half of developing-country working youth are employed in the agrifood sector.

Hundreds of millions of small-scale producers are unable to participate in the markets due to market concentration, urbanization, and requirements to meet production, sanitary, dietary, and environmental standards of modern food value chains. Their livelihoods are constrained by poor access to market information, finance, insurance, roads, storage, logistics, and digital services. On the demand side, policy and market failures limit the access of the rural and urban poor to affordable, nutritious foods.


This Initiative aims to influence decision-making for the creation of inclusive value chains and contribute to lifting at least 10 million people out of poverty and creating 15 million remunerative employment opportunities for women and youth while reducing ecological footprints of supported food value chains by 25%.

This will be accomplished by:

  • Providing the knowledge base to influence policy and market behavior to foster innovations for efficient value-chain integration for fairer income sharing, greater job creation, and adoption of sustainable practices.
  • Influencing policies and behaviors of national governments and international organizations, as well as key players including producer and trader organizations, private businesses, and financial institutions.
  • Providing evidence on the effectiveness and scalability of interventions in at least six value chain contexts to show how they can help build better integrated and more inclusive agrifood systems.
  • Providing food system actors with evidence and insights on the potential for scaling and long-term sustainability of interventions.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. National policymakers, international organizations, and market actors make active use of the Initiative’s tools for food market diagnostics and policy analysis, driving policy and investment decisions that improve the performance of food markets in terms of value-added sharing, employment creation, affordability and diversity of available foods, and environmental outcomes.
  2. In at least two developing countries, the effectiveness and scalability of pilot interventions and investments improve the efficiency and sustainability of food value chains connected to international markets and the incomes of smallholders and small- and medium-sized enterprises participating in those value chains.
  3. In at least two developing countries, domestic market actors improve economic opportunities for women and youth and reduce food loss and waste by addressing key value-chain gaps in domestic markets for fresh, packaged, and processed nutrient-rich foods.
  4. In at least two developing countries, the research influences decisions that leverage digital technologies in critical food-market services in logistics, wholesaling, finance, and e-commerce to improve market access, employment, and income generation, especially for women and youth working in small-scale farms and agrifood businesses.



Better value chains contribute to making nutrition-rich foods more affordable and accessible for poor and food-insecure households. Promotion of product innovation, standard setting for food quality and safety, and reducing food loss and waste also create better nutritional outcomes.


Influencing policy and market behavior change to promote efficient value-chain integration, improved market access for smallholders and small- and medium-sized enterprises and adoption of inclusive agribusiness models contribute to poverty reduction, improved livelihoods, and the generation of millions of remunerative jobs.


Inclusive value-chain integration provides millions of women and youth the prospect of making a decent living by creating many new job and income opportunities. Promoting skills development, entrepreneurship, and adoption of sustainable and digital technologies helps close existing gaps, generate equal opportunities and empower women and youth.


Investments and innovations that contribute to climate adaptation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are tested for scaling up. Evidence is provided on how food market incentives can be reset to promote the diffusion of such investments and innovations along value chains.


A deeper understanding of the trade-offs between market efficiencies, income generation, and environmental outcomes for use of environmentally sustainable and food-loss preventing production and delivery processes informs agents on how to redirect policies and investments in support of conservation of biodiversity and environmental health.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: Traders displaying bunches of banana for sale in a market. Photo by IITA.