Playing the Market: How the Cashew "Commodityscape" Is Redefining Guinea-Bissau's Countryside


Geography and Anthropology

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Guinea-Bissau's political ecology of the 1980s led to cashews overtaking all other exports as a generator of national revenue. Through ethnographic methodology, this paper examines the cashew commodityscape illustrated through an examination of several villages in southern Guinea-Bissau. This research addresses how household livelihood strategies are fashioned as a result of necessity, opportunity, and negotiations with local, regional, and global economies. A majority of the local population in the research site was involved in cashew pomiculture in 2007 when the global demand and purchase price was low. By 2010, the price paid by Indian wholesalers rebounded with even further integration of this commodity into the natural and cultural landscape. This paper finds that cashews are playing a significant role in the environmental, economic, and cultural spheres. This local articulation of a global phenomenon demonstrates the potential pitfalls and benefits of meeting very specific global needs.