Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Anthropology

First Advisor

Robbie Ethridge

Second Advisor

Kate Centellas

Third Advisor

Oliver Dinius

Relational Format



The support needed for upward social mobility within the field of agriculture, from a laborer to a self-sufficient, small farmer, requires an agricultural and market-based knowledge to which few wage laborers are privy. Small-scale farmers suffer shortcomings within regional and global markets because of their inability to respond to increased demand due to a lack of access to assets and capital. Despite such difficulties, in some agricultural sectors wage laborers have successfully made the transition to small landholders. In this thesis I seek to answer what factors led to the emergence of a smallholding cacao-producing population from a wage-laboring class within Cachoeira Alta, a small village in southeastern Bahia, Brazil. I wanted to document the transition from wage laboring to smallholding from the perspective of the participants themselves, which requires ethnographical research. Such qualitative research can give a detailed account of life as a farmer, something that policy and management issues utilizing quantitative data cannot convey. I also wanted to identify what it meant for the farmer and their family to move from working on a plantation as a wage laborer to having their independence and owning their own farms to cultivate. In addition, successfully transitioning into smallholding from the life of wage laboring is predicated on a variety factors. Some factors are internal, such as a laborer wanting to escape the restrictive labor system on the plantations in order to enhance the lives of themselves and their families, and some factors are external such as friend and family encouragement as well as support from cooperatives and state agricultural organizations. In this thesis, I attempt to identify some of the mechanisms by which a wage laborer could become a small holding farmer as well as to understand what this transition means to the community and the families involved.



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