Agricultural Value Chains in Developing Countries

Course content

Sustainable development of the agricultural sector is recognized as an important factor in the economic growth of all developing countries. This recognition has led to a growing interest among governments, development agencies and large privat firms to support business development and integration of farmers in markets and value chains. As a consequence of the increasing globalization and internationalization of markets, agricultural value chains are becoming ever more global and complex. Local farmers and agribusinesses are offered new opportunities by this increasing globalization as well as urbanization and sharp increase in responsible sourcing programs of private firms. However, participating in local, national and global markets is not without challenges, as farmers are often faced with many institutional and economic barriers and lack access to inputs, information and capacity building.

Professionals working in the agricultural sector need to understand the inherent complexity of agriculture-based value chains and the dynamic interaction among different types of actors. In this course we aim to provide the participants with knowledge, skills and competences to analyse agricultural value chains in developing countries. The course will address the following main topics:

  • The role of the agricultural sector in developing economies

  • Different value chain analysis approaches for value chain development and research

  • Value chain trade-related issues such as value addition, value distribution, transaction cost, and innovation and upgrading

  • Value chain management-related issues such as chain governance, institutional setting and enabling environment, and the roles of civil society, the private sector and the State

  • Value chain interventions from different actors including NGOs, businesses, international traders, wholesalers and retailers 

  • Poverty aspects and smallholders’ access to markets, including farmer cooperatives, partnerships, and outgrower schemes

  • Sustainability in agricultural value chains: standards and certification

  • Gender equality and equity and environmental issues in agriculture and agribusiness development

  • Value-chain research methodology

By focusing on agricultural value chain analysis, the course will target students that want to obtain an understanding of the mechanisms that govern agribusiness in developing countries. The analytical steps include mapping and characterizing agricultural-based value chains, and addressing barriers to entry, value added and distribution, upgrading opportunities, chain governance, and critical factors in the enabling environment. The course will be useful for professionals working in international agricultural development organizations, agribusiness research, donor organizations, public agencies, national extension services, agribusiness development services, and private agribusiness enterprises.


MSc Programme in Agricultural Economics
MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development

Learning outcome

After completing the course the students should be able to:


  • Describe and define agricultural value chain related terminology and concepts
  • Refer to the theoretical streams of value chain literature
  • Understand the main value chain analysis approaches and their application
  • Understand the complexity of institutional and governance dynamics of the agricultural sector in developing countries
  • Describe the role of agriculture in economic development in developing countries



  • Collect and process relevant information for value chain analysis
  • Reason about the institutional and management dynamics in the agricultural and agribusiness sector
  • Discuss policy and management options for upgrading and developing agriculture and agribusiness
  • Discuss the feasibility of interventions for upgrading and developing agricultural value chains
  • Communicate ideas for agricultural value chain development in developing countries to stakeholders
  • Develop an analytical framework to guide data collection and analysis
  • Learn in an interactive and collegial learning environment



  • Apply relevant theories/concepts to analyse institutions, the enabling environment and agribusinesses in relation to agricultural value chains
  • Apply value chain analysis approaches to design value chain interventions and upgrading
  • Argue coherently and reflect critically within the parameters of a particular academic discipline, including self-assessment on learning

The course includes a combination of class lectures and discussions, guest lectures, individual and group exercises, student presentations, online teaching modules, and company visits to the extent possible. The online activities support the learning outcome from literature reading and consist of multiple-choice tests and short discussions of specific topics related to literature in each module. Throughout the course, students work in groups analyzing a value chain case of their own choice through a number of sub-assignments. Each group presents their main findings in an oral presentation and a written group report.

A synthesis of key literature, supplemented with key articles and reports as well as online videos. All available on the Absalon course page. 

No specific academic qualifications are required. The course draws on basic elements from economic theories, agriculture, trade, development studies and livelihoods; all or part of which most students will be acquainted with from earlier courses. Some experience in reading scientific journal articles is an advantage.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

The students will continuously receive feedback from the lecturers on their group work. The students will also provide written and oral peer feedback to fellow students during the group work.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, Made during the block
Oral examination, 20-25 minutes
Type of assessment details
Students will be assessed on the basis of: i) individual contributions to a group project written report and ii) an oral examination.

A written group report based on group work must be handed in before the oral exam. Contributions to the group report must be individualized and clearly indicated. In the oral exam, each student has 20-25 minutes available. Topics/questions in the oral examination are partly based on the group project report. The student will be asked to discuss one or more specific issues identified (by examiners) as critical points in the report as well as general terminology, concepts and theories related to agricultural value chains.

Weight: 40% group project report, 60% oral exam. The final grade is a weighted average. In order to pass the course, the grade for each of the project report and the oral exam must be a pass grade.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

Fullfilment of the Learning Outcome is required to obtain the grade 12


Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 44
  • Preparation
  • 66
  • Practical exercises
  • 12
  • E-Learning
  • 10
  • Excursions
  • 5
  • Project work
  • 68
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 4
Ingen begrænsninger
Der kan være færre pladser i eftertilmeldingsperioden
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Aske Skovmand Bosselmann   (2-696a48716e7a7736737d366c73)

Aske Skovmand Bosselmann
Guest lectures from IFRO researchers
Guest lecturers from international NGOs and companies

Saved on the 28-02-2023

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