Edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert
Chapter 18: Livelihood upgrading
This chapter applies the fundamental concept of upgrading in global value chains (GVCs) beyond the standard applications to firms (industrial upgrading) and to labour within firms (social upgrading) by examining livelihood improvements amongst otherwise independent rural smallholders who are integrated within the supply chain of a lead firm. The author reviews conceptual developments examining the specific intersection of global value chains and the sustainable livelihood approach (SLA), and then draws upon recent research findings from the Indonesian coffee sector to suggest a proposed research agenda of ‘livelihood upgrading’. On the one hand, the SLA approach offers a corrective to an uncritical application of a value chains approach to rural development in the developing world, while also curbing some of the more fatalistic assumptions about the inevitability of exploitation through value chains. Conversely, GVC analysis also offers important insights for SLA by providing analytical rigour to the conceptualization of the transforming structures and process (and political economy) that shape livelihood outcomes.
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