Provocation 4: Making markets work for smallholders or wage labour?

Article, 07 June 2011

The fourth in a series of six seminars on markets and small-scale farmers took place in Manchester, United Kingdom on 25 May 2011.

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Watch video of the event

Part 1 - 1:26:50

Development efforts to make agricultural markets work for the poor tend to focus on supporting small-scale farmers or producers. But what about the millions of poor rural workers employed in commercial operations such as plantations and large farms? Could more attention to improving wage labour offer a faster route to reducing poverty?

The provocation brought together policymakers, academics and practitioners working at the interface between small-scale production, markets and development to contest the benefits of smallholders and commercial agriculture as targets of efforts to make markets work for the rural poor.

It aimed to address the following:

  • Why are shifts taking place from smallholder to wage labour in agricultural markets?
  • What are the gender dimensions?
  • Is agricultural wage labour a route out of poverty for rural households?


  • Sue Longley, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (International Union of Foodworkers)
  • Sally Baden, Oxfam, United Kingdom
  • Peter McAllister, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), United Kingdom
  • Miet Maertens, University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Sukhpal Singh, Indian Institute of Management, Centre for Agriculture, India
  • Wilfred Kamami, Wilmar Agro Ltd, Kenya

This provocation seminar was hosted by our partners: Institute of Development Policy and Management (IDPM), Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) and Capturing the Gains (CtG), University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

Provocations series

Initiated by the IIED/Hivos Knowledge Programme, Small Producer Agency in the Globalised Market, the ‘provocations’ series challenge conventional wisdom on how to include smallholders in markets and bring fresh perspectives to discussion on what works and why.

Provocation: join the debate

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