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IIED/Hivos Provocation Insights 2: Rights-based versus marketbased development: a false dichotomy for small-scale farmers?

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This report summarises the discussion held in the first of a series of ‘provocations’ designed to stimulate critically constructive debate around the agenda of ‘making markets work’ for small-scale farmers.

Over the past decade, development policy and discourse have become steeped in the language of human rights. Indeed, a rights-based approach is the starting point for most development cooperation efforts to reduce poverty.

But development cooperation is also embracing business as a tool for alleviating rural poverty. Sweden’s new Business for Development (B4D) programme is just one example. These ‘market-based’ approaches recognise that most small-scale farmers are
themselves entrepreneurs and see the market as central to their development.

For development agencies working with smallholders, it is rarely a simple matter of choosing one approach over the other. Many find themselves operating from a rights based approach at the policy level, while adopting a market-based approach in practice.

Do they risk introducing major contradictions and stresses into their institutions? Or is the distinction between rights-based and market-based development a false dichotomy? This was the topic of the second in a series of ‘provocations’ designed to stimulate critically constructive debate on ‘making markets work’ for small-scale farmers.

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