lisa monaghan

House (1991). The Nature and Determinants of Socioeconomic Inequality Among Peasant Households in Southern Sudan

Real income inequality among rural households in tropical Africa sometimes may be imperceptible to the casual observer. Nevertheless, the detailed information painstakingly collected from a small sample of peasant households in an area of Southern Sudan reported here shows that such income inequality is quite significant. The great majority of the population are, no doubt, absolutely poor in the sense that many basic needs goods and services are scarce and income and food security are precarious. Yet, in a situation where arable land is relatively abundant, some households are much better off than others. Indeed, our data suggest that inequality is extreme between rural households in terms of a wide variety of welfare indicators, including the level of current household income. Set in the context of the Chayanov model of peasant household decision making, the paper explores the nature, extent and principal determinants of income inequality in the sampled area. This study establishes that those households which are able to relax the family labor constraint on the size of agricultural harvests
and to diversify their principal sources of income away from purely subsistence levels of crop output into production of a marketable surplus, into off-farm income-generating activities and into formal sector wage employment, are able to attain a relatively higher standard of living, according to a range of locally based welfare indicators.

Category: Anthropology and History, Economics and Livelihoods

Sub-category: Community, International Assistance and Interventions, Land, Socio-Cultural Groups and Practices