Accepted Paper:

'There are no alternatives here, and they know it': work in the cashew-processing factories in Mozambique  


Sara Stevano (University of the West of England)
Rosimina Ali (Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IESE))

Paper Short Abstract:

This study explores work in the cashew processing factories in Mozambique. Using a social reproduction framework and drawing on qualitative interviews, it sheds light on who the factory workers are and how the organisation and timing of work shapes their working lives.

Paper long abstract:

In many African countries, economic growth driven by investments in natural resources and export-oriented agriculture failed to generate quality employment. While Mozambique is a prime example of these growth patterns, pockets of employment creation appear with scattered sectoral growth. The cashew-nut processing industry is on a revival path driven by the concerted action of government, donors and private investors. It provides a case study to explore labour at the intersection of commodity chains, public-private partnerships and gender relations, with 65 per cent of the workforce being female. While the literature on global production networks provides the necessary background, this study seeks to bring an additional angle to the debate: who are the labourers and how does the organisation and timing of work, inside and outside of the factory, shape their working lives? This paper presents preliminary findings on these questions from a qualitative study informed by a social reproduction theoretical framework. Drawing on interviews with workers, managers and key stakeholders in the sector, we look at organisation of work, recruitment and payment systems, workers' motivation for staying in the job or leaving, and tensions on labour demands posed by the necessity to combine factory work with other types of productive and reproductive work, for different groups of workers. Furthermore, we highlight some methodological considerations on how to investigate the working lives of factory workers. We conclude that understanding the organisation of workers' lives is essential to investigate the quality of work in the factories and its implications for socioeconomic transformation.

Panel N1
New hopes and new conflicts: working lives in Africa's new manufacturing sectors