This event was Chaired by Dr Lorena Lombardozzi, Lecturer in Economics at The Open University.
For December's seminar in our International Development and Innovation series, Helena Pérez Niño, a Lecturer in Political Economy of Development presented 'Migrant workers into contract farmers: processes of labour mobilization in colonial and contemporary Mozambique'.
Before joining the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, Helena was a lecturer at SOAS University of London. She received her PhD in 2015 with a dissertation on the social relations of production in export agriculture in the Mozambique-Malawi borderland. Helena was an ESRC postdoctoral fellow at SOAS; a research fellow at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) in the University of Western Cape in South Africa as well as a visiting researcher at the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (IESE) in Mozambique. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Southern African Studies. Before her doctoral studies, Helena worked for UNICEF, UNHCR and different NGOs in Colombia and Angola.
As contract farming gains ground as a form of agricultural production in Southern Africa, there is growing interest in its effects on patterns of investment and production as well as in its potential to provide small farmers with access to export markets. However, the relation between contract farming and the region's long history of labour migration has largely escaped analysts and scholars working on Southern Africa. This article traces the changing livelihoods of those who experienced the demise of the migrant labour system and displacement during the civil war, and who now engage in contract farming in Angónia, a densely populated district in Tete Province, central Mozambique. In the decades since the end of the war, contract farming thrived among former migrants with access to land and few alternative sources of income and employment. If historical labour migration from Angónia involved attempts by employers to externalize the responsibility for social reproduction onto households, contract farming amounts to the internalization by households of the opportunities, risks and tensions involved in the production of high-value export commodities. By analysing farmers’ accounts of producing under contract and linking this to their households’ longer histories of labour mobilization, this article sheds light on people's experiences of working for wages, working on their own account and hiring workers, as households became the new sites of commodity production.