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Social and Economic Effects of Value Chains of Tropical Agro-commodities and Sustainability Initiatives

Nowadays many initiatives are being taken to enhance sustainability of value chains of tropical agro-commodities. These initiatives aim to realize environmental, social and economic benefits or improvements. However, it often remains unclear whether such expected effects are indeed realised. This meta-study has looked at available evidence on social and economic effects of sustainability initiatives by private sector, civil society organizations (CSO) and governments.The study examined six supply chains: palm oil, soy, timber, coffee, cocoa and cotton. It confirms that robust impact studies are scarce and available evidence of positive social and economic effects is mixed. However, while there is weak evidence for direct economic income benefits, the study also found some evidence and plausible causality for improvements on the other four sustainability issues, especially land productivity, labor conditions, human development and market access.
For each of these dimensions there is also plausible causality of a contribution to poverty reduction and regional development in the medium- or long term. This is based on a theory of change that has gradually emerged among the organizations involved in sustainability initiatives, whereby non-material components of poverty reduction are at least as important as the monetary ones. International studies show significant relations between these effect categories and poverty reduction.
The importance of these effects varies per production system and is context dependent. Lastly, the study proposes a set of indicators for monitoring and evaluation systems by national governments and international organizations on key effect categories identified in this study.

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