Resources – Other publications by the research team

Choosing to be HIV positive? Economics, Epidemiology and HIV Prevalence

Deborah Johnston

This paper investigates the currently fashionable extension of microeconomic methodology to the issue of HIV transmission. The context in which the popularity of such approaches has fluctuated is set out, as are some examples of the models themselves. While the availability of new data sets has been one of the drivers of the increased profile of microeconomic approaches, it is also clear that the microeconomic focus on individual behaviour has strong resonance with the dominant public health approach to HIV/AIDS. However, these microeconomic models are not always good predictors of the empirical record, and more than that, the way that individual choice is approached in such models is highly problematic. „Choice‟ as understood by mainstream economists is likely to bear little reality to the sexual decision-making of many adults in areas affected by HIV/AIDS.    Instead, this paper argues that individual coerced behaviour as well as their "options" over sexual behaviour should be understood in terms of their structural context. By abandoning the narrow focus and flawed methodology of microeconomic models, a wider and more helpful consideration of the factors that determine HIV risk in any one place can be developed.

Download PDF: HIV Prevalence and Models of Behaviour – Johnston mimeo

The agrarian question in Tanzania: using new evidence to reconcile an old debate

Bernd E.T. Mueller

Review of African Political Economy Vol. 38, No. 127, March 2011, 23–42

Rural poverty continues to be one of the most trenchant development problems in Tanzania, and yet no comprehensive solution has been found. In this paper it is argued that without a fundamental understanding of the agrarian question, any attempt to derive meaningful conclusions on rural development is doomed to be incomprehensive and incomplete. The paper traces back the roots of this important scholarly exchange of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as summarising the resulting debate mainly between the neo-populist school and Marxian political economy. It then goes on to outline how this original understanding of the agrarian question extended to and influenced the contemporary rural development discourse, which however widely misrepresented the original contributions and created an illustrious array of antagonistic and inconclusive approaches that culminated in the recent World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for development. This theoretical discussion is framed and exemplified by the case of rural development, labour market participation and poverty in the West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Primary survey data collected by the author in 2008 is employed to analyse the current state of the farmers, their engagement in labour markets as well as ongoing processes of class differentiation. Returning to the initial debate, an attempt to link these current realities with the overall outlook for Tanzanian development is provided.

Download PDF: mueller (2011) the agrarian question in Tanzania

Shooting for the Wrong Target?: A Reassessment of the International Education Goals for Sub-Saharan Africa

Deborah Johnston

Revista de Economía Mundial 27, 2011, 95-116

The international education goals enshrined in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have had a significant impact in sub-Saharan African countries. Are they likely to achieve the varied developmental roles ascribed to education, such as poverty reduction, improvements in child mortality, fertility decrease, increases in tax collection and rising economic growth? While several authors have questioned whether education generally can fulfil its ‘magic bullet’ role, this article will focus on some specific myths underlying the education MDGs. Two myths are of particular concern. First, these MDGs focus on universal primary education (UPE), ignoring what is known about the benefits of education in sub-Saharan African countries. Second, the MDG education goals are predicated on the concept of ‘human capital’, which assumes that investment in education can be treated like investment in physical capital and that it will lead to rising worker productivity and economic growth. However, the human capital approach is subject to fundamental weaknesses and is not a useful guide for the way that educational improvements are likely to impact on economic growth in African economies

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Rural Labour Markets in Africa: The Unreported Source of Inequality and Poverty

Carlos Oya

Development Viewpoint, Number 57, November 2010

Download PDF: DV Oya RLM SSA n57 2010

Agro-Pessimism, Capitalism and Agrarian Change: Trajectories and Contradictions in sub-Saharan Africa

Carlos Oya

Chapter 10 in the Political Economy of Africa, edited by V. Padayachee, London: Routledge, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-415-48039-0

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Divorced, Separated, and Widowed Women Workers in Rural Mozambique

Carlos Oya and John Sender

Feminist Economics 15(2), April 2009, 1–31

A remarkably high proportion of women wage workers in rural Mozambique are divorced, separated, or widowed. This paper explores the factors underlying the difference between the marital status of these wage workers and other rural women in Mozambique and establishes a strong relationship between labor- market participation and female divorce or widowhood. The association is likely to work in both directions. Moreover, contrastive exploration suggests that divorced and separated women differ from partnered women in many other important respects: they tend to have access to better jobs, and divorced and separated mothers are also remarkably good at investing in their daughters’ education compared with other mothers and male respondents. This paper concludes by stressing the limits of regression techniques in teasing out causation and interactions between variables, and by suggesting that policies to increase women’s access to decently paid wage employment could make a substantial difference to the welfare of very poor rural sub-Saharan African women and their children.

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Confusing counts, correlates and causes of poverty: A study of the PRSP in Lesotho

Deborah Johnston and John Sender

This chapter analyses the new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) of Lesotho and considers whether it can be successful in terms of poverty alleviation. The answer to this question

is likely to be negative, the main reason being that the PRSP approach precludes a focus on the heterogeneous nature of poverty and its determinants. To illustrate this, the characteristics of some of the very poorest households in Lesotho are discussed and the extent to which the PSRP is likely to assist them.

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Rural Labour Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New View of Poverty, Power and Policy

Christopher Cramer, Carlos Oya and John Sender

Centre for Development Policy and Research Policy Brief, No.1, November 2008

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Lifting the blinkers : a new view of power, diversity and poverty in Mozambican rural labour markets

Chistopher Cramer, Carlos Oya and John Sender

Journal of Modern African Studies, 46, 3 (2008), pp. 361–392.

This paper presents some results from the largest rural labour market survey yet conducted in Mozambique. Evidence from three provinces shows that labour markets have a significant impact on the lives of a large number of poor people, and that employers exercise considerable discretion in setting wages and conditions of casual, seasonal and permanent wage employment. The evidence presented comes from a combination of a quantitative survey based on purposive sampling with other techniques, including interviews with large farmers. The findings contrast with ideas that rural labour markets are of limited relevance to poverty reduction policy formulation in Africa, and the paper concludes with methodological, analytical and policy recommendations.

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Stories of Rural Accumulation in Africa: Trajectories and Transitions among Rural Capitalists in Senegal

Carlos Oya

Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 7 No. 4, October 2007, pp. 453–493.

This paper analyzes primary qualitative evidence from life histories of rural capi- talists in contemporary Senegal. Various common themes in the declining literature on rural capitalism in Africa are discussed with reference to the specific individual trajectories of rural farm capitalists in Senegal. The themes include the emergence of rural capitalism in the context of protracted, uneven and gradual rural social differentiation and the various processes that have accompanied it; the condition of ‘entrepreneurship’ in such changing historical contexts; the symbiotic relation- ship between different spaces (loci) of accumulation, especially trade, transport and farming and the historical context in which they take place; the crucial but sometimes contradictory role of the state in spurring or constraining rural capitalist accumulation; and the variety of ‘idioms of accumulation’, which reflect tran- sitions and synthesis between non-capitalist and capitalist forms of labour surplus appropriation at the level of individual capitalists, despite some uniformity in the general logic of capital and the spread of capitalist relations of production and exchange. The paper also discusses the methodological power and limitations of oral narratives as a method to gather evidence on long-term processes of agrarian change and accumulation in rural Africa. Finally, the life histories shed some light on the origins of rural capitalists and show that there is a combination of instances of ‘capitalism from above’ and ‘from below’ but that no dominant pattern can be clearly discerned at least in the space of one or two generations.

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Prospects for On-Farm Self-Employment and Poverty Reduction: An Analysis of the South African Income and Expenditure Survey 2000

Kim Palmer and John Sender

Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24, 3, Sept.2006

This paper explores aspects of the relationship between rural poverty and the cash income (or consumption goods) that black rural households are able to de- rive, after almost a decade of land reform, from farming their own land.

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Women Working for Wages: Putting Flesh on the Bones of a Rural Labour Market Survey in Mozambique

John Sender, Carlos Oya and Chistopher Cramer

Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 32, Number 2, June 2006

The life stories of six women working for wages are analysed together with quantitative data from the first ever large-scale rural labour market survey undertaken in Mozambique. Quantitative data from  three provinces are used to emphasize the heterogeneity of the characteristics of women working for wages, as well as to examine hypotheses about dynamic processes suggested by the life stories. It is argued that there are important methodological advantages to be gained if researchers can cross- check their own quantitative survey data with qualitative data they have collected themselves, as well as with a wide range of historical and secondary sources. The policy implications of the findings concerning the extreme deprivation suffered by many rural wage workers, the intergenerational transmission of poverty and the relative success of some rural women are discussed.

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Unequal Prospects: Disparities in the Quantity and Quality of Labour Supply in sub-Saharan Africa

John Sender, Christopher Cramer and Carlos Oya

The World Bank Social Protection Discussion Paper Series, No. 0525, June 2005

Download PDF: WB_SenderCramerOya_2005

Searching for a Weapon of Mass Production in Rural Africa: Unconvincing Arguments for Land Reform

John Sender and Deborah Johnston

Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 4 Nos. 1 and 2, January and April 2004, pp. 142–165

Many recent arguments for land reform share a central proposition concerning the relative efficiency of small farm production. This article argues that the theoretical reasoning underlying this proposition is not coherent, and further- more the empirical support for this size–efficiency relationship in Africa is astonishingly weak. Given the evidence, the continued focus on the efficient, egalitarian family farm can only be ideologically driven. The poorest rural people are unlikely to benefit and will probably be harmed by the policies based on these arguments for land reform. To illustrate this point, the article considers data from land redistribution programmes, particularly in South Africa, that suggest not only that the poorest did not acquire land, but also that they suffered declines in rural wage earning opportunities that are crucial for their survival.

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Rural Poverty and Gender: Analytical Frameworks and Policy Proposals

John Sender

Chapter 18 in Rethinking Development Economics, edited by Ha-Joon Chang, Anthem Press, June 2003

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Women's Struggle to Escape Rural Poverty in South Africa

John Sender

Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 2 No. 1, January 2002, pp. 1-49.

Results of a purposive sample of the poorest are contrasted with the methods and conclusions of other research into 'income poverty'. The deprivation suffered by an important class of rural women in South Africa is documented. Escape routes from poverty are described that have a more realistic prospect of success than those promoted in the international and South African policy literature, including the literature on land reform. The distinguishing demographic characteristics

of women who have taken the first steps on these routes are analysed, together with the political context of their relative success. Escaping the worst forms of deprivation depends on women's wages in rural labour markets, rather than their incomes from self-employment, but conventional microeconomic theory cannot explain the distribution of wages in these markets. The South African government has been unduly influenced by such conventional theories and the rhetoric of the development aid bureaucracy. it is failing to consider policies that are relevant to the poorest people.

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Recent Publications

FTEPR final report

How to do (and how not to do) fieldwork on fair trade and rural poverty
Christopher Cramer, Deborah Johnston, Bernd Mueller, Carlos, Oya, John Sender

All publications