Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 895–909 | Cite as

Food access and pro-poor value chains: a community case study in the central highlands of Peru

  • Daniel Tobin
  • Mark Brennan
  • Rama Radhakrishna


Pro-poor value chains intend to integrate smallholding farmers into high value markets to contribute to poverty alleviation and food security. Although income benefits of pro-poor value chains have been found, scant evidence exists regarding the potential for these markets to enhance food security. This study focuses on components of food access—dietary diversity, physical and financial access, and social acceptability—among households that participate in pro-poor value chains and non-participating households in the central highlands of Peru where development interventions have created high value market niches for the native potato varieties that smallholding farmers have conserved for thousands of years. Using a mixed methods approach, this study assessed dietary diversity among households that participate and do not participate in pro-poor value chains, as well as their perceptions of their food access. Findings indicated that households that participate in value chains have higher dietary diversity than non-participating households but that these differences are likely due to pre-existing differences in socioeconomic status rather than any causal effect provided by value chains. The study also concluded that while participation in pro-poor value chains sometimes enhance the purchasing power of participating households, they may also weaken financial access, important for both purchasing food and travel to make those purchases. Community perspectives also indicated concerns with the acceptability of diets, which cannot likely be comprehensively addressed by pro-poor value chains. Collectively, the findings from this study cast doubt on the assumption that a linear flow exists between pro-poor value chains and enhanced food access.


Pro-poor value chains Food access Dietary diversity Smallholding farmers Andean agriculture 



Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research


International Potato Center


Fomento de la vida


Household Dietary Diversity Score


Non-governmental organization



Our appreciation extends to those who provided helpful input and feedback on earlier versions of this article including Hilary Creed-Kanashiro, Linda Berlin, Andre Devaux, Dara Bloom, Kristal Jones, and four anonymous reviewers. Partial funding for the work reported here was provided by the United States Borlaug Fellowship in Global Food Security, as well as a Graduate Student Competitive Grant and a Graduate International Research Competitive Grant from The Pennsylvania State University. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of the funders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of International ProgramsThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and EducationThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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