Biological tissues must generate forces to shape organs and achieve proper development. Such forces often result from the contraction of an apical acto-myosin meshwork. Here we describe an alternative mechanism for tissue contraction, based on individual cell volume change. We show that during Drosophila dorsal closure (DC), a wound healing-related process, the contraction of the amnioserosa (AS) is associated with a major reduction of the volume of its cells, triggered by caspase activation at the onset of the apoptotic program of AS cells. Cell volume decrease results in a contractile force that promotes tissue shrinkage. Estimating mechanical tensions with laser dissection and using 3D biophysical modeling, we show that the cell volume decrease acts together with the contraction of the actin cable surrounding the tissue to govern DC kinetics. Our study identifies a mechanism by which tissues generate forces and movements by modulating individual cell volume during development.