The topic of this article is not whether applying the value chain approach leads to pro-poor developments or not, but whether value chain development creates rural employment and reduces poverty. This article introduces the changing agricultural context and factors influencing rural employment. It discusses the increasing casualization and feminization of labour, as well as increasing inequalities within chains. It concludes that value chain development does not automatically lead to employment creation; instead there are opportunities for employment creation but only if employment creation is made an explicit objective in the selection of subsectors and value chain development interventions. Donors and NGOs need to let go of the ‘smallholders-only approach’ and look for innovative changes that improve the performance of the entire chain. Promoting the development of value chains for local markets appears more promising than for export markets.