How contracts affect the agency of rural producers
In commercial agriculture, contracts coordinate production and trade, linking input suppliers to producers, all the way to end buyers. A better understanding of these chains of contracts can enable development practitioners and policymakers to increase the scope for rural producer agency. This requires examining how contracts are made and how their terms affect producers’ ability to advance their own vision and priorities. It also requires exploring how contextual factors — from the value chain’s structure to differentiation within families and communities — shape both contractual practices and agency.
By taking an agency perspective, this research analyses a pool of 40 contracts to examine the extent to which producers have a voice in contracting. It also examines how contracts affect options for rural producers; whether buyers’ obligations (and the means for producers to enforce them) create opportunities for farmers to exert agency; and how arrangements affect producers’ ability to respond to risk. The findings provide insights for enhancing rural producer agency at local to global levels.