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The market-driven agricultural transformation of the global food system requires all, directly and indirectly, participating actors to compete efficiently and to adapt to changes in consumer demand and buyer requirements. Regarding product quantity and quality, smallholders, in particular, have to increase their reliability in order to be able to compete within the agricultural markets. Thus, innovative institutions are needed that integrate and strengthen the sustainability and linkage of and between each technological, economic, social, or political component of the value chain in order to (further) include smallholder farmers within the transforming food system. By adapting their approach and service portfolio both to changing market requirements and to scientific findings from empowerment research, farmer organizations (FO) could become one of the innovative key actors, increasing the competitiveness of their members SMEs’ and reducing poverty, its impacts and its costs. The aim of this study is, on the one hand, to empirically test the previously constructed theoretical concept of empowerment and the applicability of the developed measuring scale. On the other hand, the study compares the current empowerment approaches of the surveyed FOs, in order to show by means of best practices, but also weak points, how applied empowerment approaches can be transferred and improved in the future.

Theory-wise, the term “empowerment” is placed between the discussions of “repositioning” according to Bourdieu, the question of distribution and exercising economic, social, and political power according to Sen and recent findings from behavioral science on the changeability of mental models and thus behavior. By putting the theoretical findings into relation and into the context of agricultural development, the results are integrated into the broader discourse of reducing poverty and hunger.

Published as ZEF Working Paper No. 190