Citation
The promise of a country

Material Information

Title:
The promise of a country the impact of seasonal U.S. migration on the Jamaican peasantry
Creator:
Griffith, David Craig, 1951-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 242 leaves : ; 28 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural land ( jstor )
Agriculture ( jstor )
Capital accumulation ( jstor )
Economics ( jstor )
Farm workers ( jstor )
Farms ( jstor )
Labor ( jstor )
Net income ( jstor )
Peasant class ( jstor )
Workforce ( jstor )
Jamaicans -- United States ( lcsh )
Migrant agricultural laborers -- United States ( lcsh )
Peasants -- Jamaica ( lcsh )
Miami metropolitan area ( local )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1983.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 228-241).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by David Craig Griffith.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
030349378 ( ALEPH )
ACL1878 ( NOTIS )
11437639 ( OCLC )
AA00004896_00001 ( sobekcm )
Classification:
HD5856.J2 G7 ( lcc )

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Full Text













THE PROMISE OF A COUNTRY: THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL U.S.
MIGRATION ON THE JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
















BY

DAVID CRAIG GRIFFITH


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1983




THE PROMISE OF A COUNTRY:
MIGRATION ON THE
THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL U.S.
JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
BY
DAVID CRAIG GRIFFITH
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1983


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Jamaicans have a parting phrase which goes, "Give
thanks." It means give thanks to Jah but it is also used
as a means of thanking others, as though gratitude draws
its strength of sincerity from the cosmos. Anyone
preparing for and conducting research for two years
accumulates the need to give sincere thanks many times
over. First and foremost, I thank the Jamaican and U.S.
people who provided me with the information which made this
study possible. I would like to thank each of them
individually but I think it is best to keep their names to
myself, so that their privacy is not further intruded upon.
However, there are some individuals whose aid in this
project should be recognized. I would like to thank Dr.
Carl Stone of the Department of Government of the
University of The West Indies for providing me with
institutional affiliation and taking an interest in this
research. I also thank Mr. Jerry Harrison of the
Agricultural Marketing Corporation, Mr. Leslie of the
Christiana Potato Growers' Cooperative, and the entire
staff of the Integrated Rural Development Project's Two


Meetings Office, for providing me with records and other
information. Dr. Harvey Blustain was particularly helpful,
providing me with copies of his research reports from his
two years with the IRDP. Robert Mowbray at the USAID
office in Kingston was also helpful in this regard.
In the United States, there were a number of people
who helped me during all phases of this research. I owe a
great deal to Drs. Charles Wood and Terry McCoy of the
University of Florida. They hired me as a research
assistant to help collect information on British West
Indian farm workers in South Florida. It was this research
which first stimulated my interest in the project and I
thank them not only for their aid throughout the evolution
of this research but also for giving me access to some of
their data from the South Florida study. I am thankful to
Dr. Anthony Oliver-Smith for his support not only during
this project, but throughout my stay at the University of
Florida. He gave me many generous hours of his time,
patience, and advice, and a great deal of whatever
knowledge I possess draws upon his insight, creativity, and
intelligence. Dr. Paul Doughty has likewise given me much
advice, time, and thoughtful conversation, for which I am
thankful. I thank also Dr. Paul Magnarella for providing
me with references while I was preparing for this research
and for agreeing to serve on my dissertation committee.
Dr. Russ Bernard was instrumental in the design of this
i i i


/
I
research, and without his help my research would have been
far less organized.
Others who provided me with information in the United
States include Mr. Charles Gagliardi of the Washington,
D.C., office of the Department of Labor's Employment and
Training Administration, Agricultural Certifications
Division, Mr. Marvin Peck of the New England Apple
Council, and Ms. Patricia Meier of the Belle Glade Job
Service Employment Agency. I thank all of them for sparing
their time to talk with me. While in the field, John
Pulis, an anthropologist from New York, proved to be a
constant source of discussion and inspiration.
Funding for this project was provided by the
University of Florida's Department of Anthropology, The
Inter-American Foundation, The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral
Dissertation Research Abroad Program, and the Wenner-Gren
Foundation for Anthropological Research. I am extremely
thankful for this support and in particular I thank
Elizabeth Veatch and Mel Astreken of the Inter-American
Foundation for their help in the administration of the
Inter-American Fellowship. I am also thankful to the
Inter-American Foundation review board, in particular Ben
Orlove, Lisa Peattie, Robert Maguire, David Collier, and
Tom Davis. Finally, I owe the greatest thanks to my wife,
Nancy, and my two children, Emily and Brook, for
accompanying me to the field and for giving me the support
i v


I needed to conduct this research. To all of them, give
thank s.
v


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER
I INTRODUCTION 1
Hypotheses and Research Methods 2
Implications of the Study for Peasants
as Labor Migrants 9
A Note on Organization 18
II THE BRITISH WEST INDIES TEMPORARY ALIEN LABOR
PROGRAM 20
The State and Recruitment In Jamaica 30
Recruitment and the Characteristics of the
Labor Pool 37
III AN ETHNOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF A CENTRAL JAMAICAN
PEASANTRY 47
A Portrait of A Jamaican Peasant 47
The Two Meetings Watershed 56
Houses, Yards, and People 58
General Characteristics of Peasant Agriculture
In the Watershed 65
Summary 76
IV THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL INTERNATIONAL LABOR
MIGRATION ON PEASANT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION 78
Results of the Comparisons 81
The Importance of the Growth of the Peasant
Household 96
The Life Cycle of the Farm Worker 96
Farm Worker Interaction with the U.S. Host
Communities and Consumerism Among
The Workers 99
Primary Uses of U.S. Earnings in Jamaica 107
v 1


V WOMEN, REMITTANCES, AND REPRODUCTION 119
VI DIFFERENTIATION AND CHANGE WITHIN THE
JAMAICAN PEASANTRY 147
The Shift from Reproduction to Production 153
Economic Diversification: Agricultural
And Nonagricultural .....162
Differentiation and Change in Rural Jamaica 173
Changes Within The Peasant Household 174
Changes Between Peasant Households 176
Changes Between Peasants, The State,
And Capitalists 182
VII CONCLUSION 191
Summary of Findings 191
Implications for Theory and Development 201
APPENDICES
A 1982 PRODUCTION COSTS PER CWT OF IRISH POTATO
(JAMAICAN DOLLARS) 217
B TABLES DESIGNATING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FARM
WORKERS WHICH ARE TANGENTIAL TO THE TEXT 219
C POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS 222
BIBLIOGRAPHY 228
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 242
V 1 1


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE PROMISE OF A COUNTRY: THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL U.S.
MIGRATION ON THE JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
By
David Craig Griffith
December, 1983
Chairman: Dr. Anthony Oliver-Smith
Major Department: Anthropology
Since 1943, Jamaican peasants have been legally
migrating to the United States seasonally and annually to
harvest agricultural products, picking apples in the
Northeast and cutting sugar cane in South Florida. This
study assesses the impact of these migrants on their home
communities, paying particular attention to their
utilization of U.S. earnings. Comparing a sample
population of migrants' households to a sample population
of peasants who have not had equivalent migration
experiences, the study tests hypotheses which predict that
returning migrants will invest in their primary economic
activities, in this case their peasant farms. These
comparisons reveal that few differences exist between the
v 111


two populations in terms of demographic, agricultural
production, and socioeconomic variables. The findings lead
to the rejection of hypotheses which predict that labor
migrants returning from developed countries to
underdeveloped ones will substantially contribute to the
development of their home countries. Instead, this study
shows that Jamaican peasant social structure, and peasant
production which is oriented toward household maintenance,
social security, and reproduction, function to spread the
migrants' foreign earnings throughout their social
networks, undermine their ability to accumulate capital,
and, ultimately, aid in the reproduction of the peasantry.
However, in cases of prolonged participation in seasonal,
international labor migration, .ojl peasant households have
been able to shift from spending their earnings in ways
which reproduce the peasantry to the acquisition and
accumulation of capital. This process tends to result in
changes within and between peasant households, and usually
involves peasant households diversifying their economic
activities into agricultural and nonagriculrual sectors of
the Jamaican economy.
i x


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
This study investigates the consequences of
international labor migration on the social relations and
economic activities of a peasantry. Its central concerns
are the return of international labor migrants to their
home communities and the ways in which the migrants utilize
the money, goods, information, and experiences they acquire
through migrating to another country to work.
Specifically, the study focusses on the impact of the
British West Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program on the
Jamaican peasantry. This program is a legal labor
migration program in which workers from the five Caribbean
countries of Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and
St. Vincent travel to the United States seasonally and
annually to cut sugar cane in South Florida for around five
to seven months (late October to March or April). The
program also allows Jamaicans to travel to the U.S.
Northeast to pick apples during September and October. A
small percentage of those who pick apples also harvest
sugar cane. The decision to focus specifically on the
1


2
program's impact on the Jamaican peasantry was based on
preliminary analysis which discovered that 80% of the work
force comes from Jamaica and 91% of the Jamaicans are
peasant farmers while at home (McCoy and Wood, 1982).
Hypotheses and Research Methods
In March of 1981, a research team headed by Terry
McCoy and Charles Wood of the University of Florida
interviewed 302 British West Indian cane cutters at the
South Florida labor camps during the last few days of the
harvest. The purpose of the project was to identify the
sociodemographic characteristics of the labor force, and to
investigate the ways in which the workers were utilizing
their U.S. earnings, both in the U.S. and in their home
countries.
It is commonly assumed that migrants' earnings in
developed countries, carried home or remitted, as well as
the skills and experiences they acquire abroad, contribute
to the economic development of the sending countries
(Spengler and Myers, 1977; OEDC, 1978, 1977). Indeed, the
presumed beneficial impact of international labor migration
has been used to justify and legitimate the British West
Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program in both government and
industry circles. For example, a 1978 U.S. Senate/
Congressional report, citing previous testimony in court


3
cases concerning the program, asserts that the program
" . .has the additional merit of being beneficial to the
economy of the British West Indies" and that ". . mi
gration, both temporary and permanent, has contributed and
will in the future contribute to the realization of the
goals of development programs" (U.S. Senate/Cong ress 1978 :
17, 29). Despite the fact that the program continues to be
justified both here and in the Caribbean by reference to
this presumed beneficial outcome (The Miami Herald, 1982;
The Daily Gleaner, 1982), little empirical evidence has
been brought to bear on the issue. It was therefore
important to discover whether or not these U.S. earnings
were being transmitted to the sending Caribbean economies
in the ways predicted by apologists of the program. A
central aspect of the survey conducted by McCoy and Wood
was whether these cane-cutters were accumulating capital at
home and laying the basis for income-generating activities,
or were simply consuming their earnings, reproducing
themselves and their households, without significantly
contributing to their home countries' economic development.
Survey results indicated that, with the exception of
Barbados, the cane cutters were predominantly recruited
from the small farm or peasant sectors of their home
economies. Around 68% of the West Indian population were
peasants while at home. Analysis of the Jamaican
sub-sample revealed that 91% of these men farmed some land


4
in 1980, with the average amount farmed being around 3
acres (McCoy and Wood, 1982).
With most of the men coming from small farms sectors
of the Caribbean, one way to determine the program's impact
is to ask whether these cane cutters use their U.S.
earnings for capital formation and accumulation resulting
in increased agricultural production and improved
productivity. The presumed positive impact of U.S.
employment implies that the return migrants would be buying
land, farm equipment and livestock, hiring workers,
bringing more land under cultivation, planting more cash
crops and adopting more of the characteristics of
capitalist economic activity because of their employment in
the U.S. and the skills, knowledge, information, and money
they gain the re.
McCoy and Wood tested this hypothesis by comparing farm
workers who had worked for fewer than four seasons with
farm workers who had worked for four or more seasons. As a
result of their longer participation in the program,
workers with four or more years of employment in the U.S.
presumably had more of the information, skills and earnings
than did farm workers with only one to three years of
experience. A multiple classification analysis
demonstrated that the "old timers'" earnings were higher
than the "newcomers'," a result of the sugar companies'
annually screening out the less productive farm workers


5
(Wood and McCoy, 1982). However, the comparisons revealed
that there were no significant differences between old
timers and newcomers in terras of selected agricultural
variables (amount of land farmed and numbers of heads of
livestock). These findings provide little support for the
contention that seasonal employment in the United States
leads to the formation and accumulation of capital among
small farmers in the Caribbean.
These findings, however, are inconclusive due to the
limitations of the method used by McCoy and Wood. The
approach compares migrants with other migrants rather than
migrants with other Caribbean peasants who have never
worked in this program or have not had an equivalent
employment experience. These tests also fail to take into
account the possibility of nonagricultural investments on
the part of the farm workers who migrate to the U.S.
Empirical evidence from numerous cases of Southern European
and Mexican return migration demonstrate that returning
international labor migrants often invest overseas earnings
in nonagricultural economic activities (cf. Abadan-Nervat,
1976; Brandes, 1975; Reichert, 1981; Dinerman, 1978, 1981).
These findings are supported further by research focussing
on the allocation of extra funds and extra family labor by
peasant households which show that peasant use these extra
resources to finance nonagricultural investments and
economic activities (Cook, 1983; Chayanov, 1966).


6
A more valid analysis of the impact of The BWI
Temporary Alien Labor Program involves comparing a
population of farm workers who migrate to the U.S. to a
population of Caribbean peasants who have not had the
opportunity to work in this program nor have had an
equivalent employment experience. The present study began
with the intention of making such comparisons.
Specifically, the focus of this analysis was to compare two
such sample populations in terms of a number of
agricultural and socieconomic variables. These variables
were derived from ethnographic field research conducted
during the first eight months of 1982. This research was
designed to determine the nature of Jamaican peasant
farming and to identify the opportunities open to Jamaican
peasants for investment, farm expansion and growth, as well
as the means by which Jamaican peasants become socially and
economically differentiated from one another.
This phase of field research was conducted in the
9861-acre Two Meetings Watershed in Jamaica's mountainous
interior. From 1977 to 1983, this area was the site of the
Ministry of Agriculture/ USAID Second Integrated Rural
Development Project (IRDP). The total population of the
watershed was around 2000 peasant farm families. In the
absence of a complete list of the families, cluster
sampling was used. The first step entailed mapping the
area and becoming familiar with patterns of settlement and


7
land use. Subsequently, the watershed was divided into 80
research areas of around 125 acres each. Forty of these
research areas were randomly selected, with the intention
of collecting information on 5 peasant households per area
or a 10% sample of 200. Inclement weather, transporation
problems and other difficulties prevented me from reaching
this goal. As a result, I finished the initial round of
interviewing and observations with a 6.7 % sample of 134
peasant households.
Of the households selected, forty-five of these had
one member, usually the male household head, who had
participated or was currently participating in the BWI
Temporary Alien Labor Program. The remaining 89, the
control population, had no such individual, although seven
of these households contained one member who had had
similar or more extensive migration experiences: six
participated in a Canadian Farm Workers Programme (nearly
identical to the U.S. apple harvest migration) and one had
been a long term migrant to England where he was a machine
operator for 15 years. In the final comparisons between
the two populations, I excluded the seasonal Canadian
migrants, yielding a control population of 83.
From all 134 households I collected information on the
aspects of Jamaican peasant farming discussed above as well
as sociodemographic data. This information was
cross-checked by direct observation, through the use of key


8
informants, with AMC, Potato Cooperative and IRDP records
and by repeated visits to the households and their fields.
Subsequently, I randomly selected a sub-sample of 11 farm
workers' households and 11 control households, from whom I
collected more detailed and more reliable data on
investment strategies, household histories, social
relations with other houses and changes in the farming
system over time, as well as supplementing previously
obtained information. This sub-sample was also used as a
gauge by which I could judge the reliability of the
findings from the larger sample of 134 respondents. From
the farm workers I also obtained additional information
specific to their experience of working in the United
States (e.g., number of seasons, whether they worked in
apples or cane or both, years of travel, expenditures in
the U.S., uses of overseas money, etc.).
After completing the survey research in Jamaica, I
traveled to the United States between September and
December of 1982 to conduct research in the appple growing
region of the U.S. Northeast and the sugar cane growing
region of South Florida. In the U.S. Northeast I visited
three apple labor camps, in Martinsburg, West Virginia,
Winchester, Virginia and Londonberry, New Hampshire. In
addition to observing and interviewing Jamaican farm
workers, I interviewed residents of the U.S. host
communities and U.S. Department of Labor personnel and


9
consulted local newspapers. Both in South Florida and in
the U.S. Northeast I paid specific attention to the
consumer behavior of the Jamaicans, to the wage figures
shown on their paychecks, to their remittance behavior, and
to their interactions with the native U.S. populations.
Because of difficulties associated with the geographic
distance between labor camps, random sampling was
impossible. Instead, I utilized my relationships with
Jamaicans I had met in Jamaica during the summer of 1982
for the selection of respondents. The information gathered
in this context provides useful data on migrant workers in
the U.S., although the nature of the sample precludes
generalizing to the labor force as a whole.
In 1983, I returned to Jamaica for four months to
observe the behavior of women in the Two Meetings Watershed
and their use of remittances received from the migrants. I
also interviewed and observed migrants' households from
parishes outside the Two Meetings Watershed (primarily St.
Elizabeth and Westmoreland) for comparative purposes.
Implications of the Study for Peasants as Labor Migrants
The findings of this study contain implications for
the study of peasants, especially those analyses which
focus on peasants as migrant laborers. Although peasants
have been the subject of scholary attention for decades,


10
controversy remains over the precise definition of this
term. While this work will not resolve this debate, it is
necessary to review the characteristics that enter into the
definition used here. Generally, peasant production is
organized on the basis of social relations within and
between rural peasant households. Unpaid or underpaid
family labor, cooperative labor arrangements, and hired
labor are combined within the peasant production process to
provide rural households with agricultural and petty goods
and services. The household is the principal unit within
which decisions are made and in which labor is allocated
for production. The relations within and between
households are dynamically related to the natural or
biological growth of the peasant household and its
relationship to the growth of other households. The
primary object of peasant production is to provide for the
subsistence and the eventual reproduction of the household
(Meillassoux, 1972). Subsistence involves the material
provisioning of the peasant household and draws peasant
households into relationships with one another, within and
between generations, which provide social security for
direct producers and for those too old and too young to
work. Reproduction involves the physiological reproduction
of the human energy necessary to engage in labor-intensive
production, as well as the reproduction of the social
relations within and between peasant households which


provide for social security and provisioning. Peasant
agriculture tends to be characterized by small and usually
marginal landholdings, labor intensive production
techniques, and diverse crop and livestock varieties which
assure household nuturitional needs. In addition to
meeting household nutritional needs, peasant farms provide,
or attempt to provide, rural households with cash through
the sale of produce to local, regional, national and
sometimes world marketing systems.
Peasants are not everywhere uniform in the strategies
they employ to survive and reproduce. Some peasantries, as
in the case of Jamaica, include segments who attempt to
acquire and accumulate capital for investment and expansion
purposes. Historically, peasantries such as the Jamaican
peasantry have been defined as living in open peasant
communities as opposed to closed corporate communities
(Wolf, 1957). Although peasants the world over live in
communities that are politically and economically parts of
nation-states, these communities differ with regard to the
degree of their interaction with the nation, and the effect
of outside contact on the social relations within the
peasant community. Jamaican peasant communities have
historically been open to outside influences. Typically,
peasantries such as the Jamaican peasantry include peasants
who, by responding to market and investment opportunities,
have become transformed from peasants into rural producers


who own and control small scale capital. The intrusion of
the world market demand for bananas into Jamaica, for
*
example, resulted in many peasants becoming small
capitalist farmers (Robotham, 1977: 53; Griffith, 1979),
many of whom retained links to the peasantry. In the case
of those who produced bananas, a substantial portion of
these capitalist farmers returned to a reliance on peasant
social relations following a plague of diseases which
crippled the banana trade in Jamaica (Griffith, 1979).
Although Jamaican peasants are similar to other
peasants in open communities, Migdal (1974) has argued
that communal control and resistance to outside contact in
closed peasant communities has begun to erode. Migration
has contributed greatly to this process (Migdal, 1974:
112-125; cf. Magnarella, 1974: 179-183, 1979:119-123;
Brandes, 1975: 13-17). The findings presented here on the
impact of labor migration on a peasantry may therefore be
applicable to both closed and open peasant communities.
Labor migration is common among peasants for a variety
of reasons. Because they often produce at levels below the
minimum needed for household maintenance and reproduction,
or because their household consumption demands expand as
they are exposed to wider varieties of goods and services,
peasants must often supplement income generated by
household production by seeking wage labor. The necessity
of supplementing household income with wage labor often


results in internal labor migration (migration within the
peasant's home country) or international labor migration.
Both internal and international labor migration among
peasants have received a great deal of scholarly attention
in recent years. These studies have resulted in the
development of theories which seek to understand, explain,
and predict the causes and consequences of labor migration
for both sending and receiving societies.
In the context of these broader issues, this study
presents an analysis of data on Jamaican peasants who
return to their home countries after participating in a
seasonal, international legal labor migration program. A
principal objective is to test the hypothesis that these
migrants contribute to the development of their home
countries by investing overseas earnings in primary
economic activites, in this case their peasant farms. The
findings also have some limited implications for theories
of labor migration among peasants, in particular theories
which address the issue of whether or not return migration
results in the economic development of countries which
routinely supply labor to other, more developed countries.
As noted previously, a central issue in the literature
addressing the relationships between return migration and
economic development is whether or not migrants returning
from developed to underdeveloped countries use their
earnings to acquire and accumulate capital. Capital


14
formation and accumulation among returning migrants have
received attention because these factors are assumed to be
economically beneficial for underdeveloped countries.
Positive macrostrue tura 1 effects, in turn, are assumed to
follow from the improvement of the individual migrant's
standard of living, the generation of employment, an
increase in the production of goods and services, and a
decrease in the migrant's reliance on state welfare
systems. On the other hand, if return migrants fail to
accumulate capital with their earnings, using them instead
to meet household expenses, the benefits of international
labor migration accrue primarily to the industries in which
the migrants work. The benefits to the migrants' home
countries and communities are vastly reduced or may, in
some instances, be negative. The latter is presumed to
follow from the fact that sending countries contribute to
the maintenance of migrant laborers during their
unproductive years (youth and old age), while the
industries and countries in which they work receive the
benefits of their labor power during the peak productive
period. Unless the migrants acquire and accumulate
capital, they continue to tax the support systems of their
home countries and communities while contributing little to
the development of productive enterprises which could, in
turn, reduce reliance on these support systems. Without
capital accumulation, the migrant returning home must


15
continue to rely on wage labor, compete with others for
jobs in countries usually characterized by high rates of
unemployment, as well as compete for such things as credit,
agricultural extension services, development monies, and
health and education services. Finally, without capital
accumulation, the migrant's children also continue to rely
on and need the systems of support provided by the state
and informal social security networks, and must continue to
rely on wage labor.
The impacts of internation labor migration on the
sending countries, however, should not be regarded as
entirely negative. The remittances migrants send to
underdeveloped countries provide foreign exchange for the
underdeveloped country, the migrants' households benefit
during the migrants' years of travel by acquiring goods and
income, and the absence of the migrants reduces pressure on
support systems and labor markets while they are away.
Nevertheless these positive effects must be placed in the
context of the negative factors noted above.
Three dimensions of The BWI Temporary Alien Labor
Program make it particularly suitable to the study of the
impact of return international labor migration on a
peasantry. First, it is seasonal labor migration,
providing Jamaican peasants with the opportunity to
annually move between their home communities and a setting
in which they are wage laborers, spending around half of


16
the year in each setting. The participation of Jamaican
peasants in this program thus differs from most incidences
of legal international labor migration among peasants,
which usually involve peasants residing in countries
foreign to them for long time periods, such as those who
participate in the European guestworker programs (e.g.,
Magnarella, 1979 ; Abadan-Unat, ed. 1976 ; Rhoades, 1978 ;
Brandes, 1975). Seasonal migration among peasants is
usually confined to labor migration within their home
countries (e.g., Kemper, 1977). Second, the program is
international, with migrants moving between underdeveloped
countries in the Caribbean to a developed country and then
returning to the underdeveloped country. This provides
Jamaican peasants with an opportunity to receive wages
which are high by the standards of their home countries, as
well as to acquire the goods, information, and experiences
of an economically developed setting. Third, the Jamaican
peasants who participate in this program vary with regard
to the number of years they travel to the U.S., some
participating in the program only a single year and others
participting as many as twenty to thirty years. This
allows us to introduce a temporal dimension into the
analysis, focussing specifically on how differential
participation in the program, and hence different degrees
of frequency of movement between the peasantry and the wage


17
labor setting, leads to differential social relational and
economic impacts within the peasantry.
The analysis of this program's impact on the Jamaican
peasantry proceeds along two comparative lines. First,
comparisons are made between Jamaican peasants who have
participated in the program and Jamaican peasants who have
not had equivalent migration experiences. These
comparisons seek to determine the extent and nature of the
socioeconomic differentiation which occurs within the
Jamaican peasantry as a direct result of seasonal
international labor migration. That is, these comparisons
address the question of whether the single variable of
seasonal international labor migration functions to
differentiate peasant producers from one another.
Second, the aspect of differential participation in
the program allows us to compare the participants in the
program with one another, focussing on the results of
differing degrees of access to the wages, goods,
information, and experiences of the developed world. These
comparisons are designed to investigate the importance of
the number of years of participation. The information
gained through these comparisons contributes to a better
understanding of the role of international labor migration
in the process of socioeconomic differentiation and social
change within the peasantry. This portion of the study
provides insights into the changes which peasants undergo


18
as a result of differential participation in capitalist
wage labor settings.
A Note on Organization
The following chapter discusses the general aspects of
the BWI Temporary Alien Labor Program and the relationships
that exist between government, industry, and labor in the
U.S. and Jamaica in the context of the program. It argues
that U.S. agribusinesses desire access to this labor force
because they are "captive" laborers, and that the
continuation of the program rests on a particular intimacy
between industry and government which has widespread
political support. It then discusses the recruitment
process in Jamaica, pointing out that national level
intentions are subject to reinterpretation at the local
level, and arguing that the workers recruited for the
program have direct and indirect social connections with
representatives of the Jamaican power structure. Chapter
three, shifting to the microlevel affected by these broader
processes, describes the social environment from which
Jamaican peasants are recruited into the program, paying
particular attention to Jamaican peasant social structure
and the economics of peasant agriculture. Chapter four
presents the comparisons between the farm workers'
households and the control peasants' households, and


19
explains the results of these comparisons by examining
peasant social structure, the life cycle stage of the farm
workers, and the unreliability of peasant agriculture, in
terms of how they channel peasant economic behavior and
affect the ultimate destinations of U.S. earnings. Chapter
five focusses specifically on the role of women as
recipients of remittances from the program and argues that
their concern for social security functions to reproduce
the labor force and the conditions of life facing the
peasantry. Chapter six then shifts the analysis toward the
differences in expenditure patterns between long-term and
short-term participants in the program. It argues that
long-term participants are sometimes able to satisfy
household consumption, social security, and maintenance
expenditures, and subsequently shift from reproductive
expenditures to the formation and accumulation of capital.
Chapter seven then considers the case of Jamaican peasant
migration to the U.S. in terms of its implications for
theory and development.


CHAPTER II
THE BRITISH WEST INDIES TEMPORARY ALIEN LABOR PROGRAM
In a study prepared by the U.S. House/Senate
subcommittee on immigration, the program which underlies
this study is called The British West Indies Temporary
Alien Labor Program. In the Ministry of Labour and
Employment of the country which provides 80% of the
workers, they call it The Farm Workers Programme. These
names emphasize different aspects of the same program: the
former to its characteristic of admitting non-U.S. citizens
into the United States on a temporary basis, the latter to
its characteristic of admitting these men for agricultural
as opposed to industrial employment. The name Farm
Workers' Programme also conveys the accurate meaning that
the men who participate in the program work on farms not
only in the U.S. but in Jamaica as well. But in Jamaica
they are farm workers of a highly different character: they
work on farms not as wage laborers but as the owners or
principal managers of those farms. They are peasants at
home, rural proletariat abroad. They participate in two
qualitatively different sets of social relations of
production. The products they produce in the two contexts
20


21
are only superficially similar: they are agricultural
products in both contexts, but in the U.S. these
agricultural products, apples and sugar, are commodities,
grown strictly for sale. In Jamaica the agricultural
products the farm workers produce are grown for both home
use and for sale. That is, they are foods for the
household which, given a good yield and good market,
sometimes double as commodities, or commodities which,
given a poor yield and poor market, sometimes double as
foods for the household. In the United States they work to
help create profits for others; in Jamaica they sometimes
have to eat the goods which could possibly create profits
for themselves.
Begun during WWII, in 1943, legally sanctioned on
April 29th of that year under Public Law 43, the Farm
Workers' Programme in its first year of operation admitted
13,526 men from the Bahamas and the English-speaking
Caribbean to work as agricultural laborers throughout the
U.S. east of the Mississippi River. World War II was in
full swing and the industrial centers of Detroit, Chicago,
Gary, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and other
cities throughout the Eastern United States were drawing
U.S. citizens out of agricultural occupations and into the
armed forces and the defense industry. These population
movements within the United States stimulated simultaneous
populations movements from the countries of Latin America


22
and the Caribbean in the U.S. to fill the agricultural jobs
that the U.S. citizens left behind in their rush to help
the war effort. These job opportunities, formerly
restricted to people born and raised in the U.S., were
suddenly offered, on a temporary basis, to people born,
raised, fed, clothed, educated, enculturated, and
unemployed or underemployed outside of the United States.
Responding to cries of labor shortages among the nation's
producers of food and fiber, various agencies and
decision-making bodies within the U.S. government
organized, legalized, and administered the Mexican Bracero
Program, which ran from 1943 to 1964, and the BWI Temporary
Alien Labor Program, which continues today, forty years
later.
During the war years these programs stimulated little
controversy. Few people in either private or public
sectors of U.S. society and economy, including spokesman
for organized labor, accused these few thousand foreign
workers of displacing U.S. workers from jobs or depressing
wages and working conditions. Besides, two years after the
war's end, in 1947, the number of agricultural laborers
admitted from the British West Indies fell by around
10,000, to 3,722. In 1949, the number fell even further,
to 2,763. This absolute decline of BWI workers, however,
did not mean that U.S. citizens were returning to work in
the fields. Instead, in the post-war years, it was largely


23
mechanization of agriculture that was responsible for the
destruction of these jobs.
Nevertheless not all agricultural harvests have been
mechanized with the same speed and labor saving efficiency.
South Florida's sugar cane fields, for example, are soft
and mucky, formerly vast swamps, today disappearing due to
oxidation at a rate of around an inch per year. These
soils prohibit the use of machine harvesters used by
Louisiana sugar producers (these huge machines squash young
ratoons which grow into the following year's crop).
Regarding the apple harvests, no machine has yet been
successfully tested which can climb trees and gently pick
easily bruised fruit with the delicacy of the human hand.
In addition to the lack of fully mechanized harvest in
these agribusinesses, other developments affecting U.S.
agricultural production during the post-war years also
served to slow the extent to which mechanization undermined
the availability and number of jobs for agricultural
laborers. The sophistication of drainage and irrigation
technology, fertilizers, hybridization breakthroughs,
improved refining, storage and packaging techniques, more
rapid and complex systems of transport, the development of
new products, expanding domestic and overseas markets
during the rising post-war prosperity in the developed
world all contributed to an expansion of acreage planted in
food and fiber crops. Consequently, more agricultural


24
labor was needed for the production of those agricultural
products that were harvested primarily by human energy.
South Florida sugar producers and U.S. Northeast apple
producers, the principal agricultural producers in the U.S.
utilizing BWI laborers today, taking part in this more
general period of progress, thus needed more and more
workers for their harvests, workers which purportedly could
not be found or relied upon in the domestic labor market.
In 1950 the number of workers imported from the islands
began to rise.
Table 2-1
Numbers of H-2 Visa BWI Workers Admitted Into The United
States: 1950 1975
Year
Number of Workers
1950
6,255
1955
6,616
1960
9,820
1965
10,917
1970
11,887
1975
12,813
Source: U.S.
Congress/Senate 1978 :
In 1981, the U.S. Department of Labor certified 14,735
British West Indians for work in South Florida (U.S.
Employment service, 1982).
How, in the face of rising domestic unemployment, can
these U.S. government agencies justify the continued
admittance of British West Indians for employment in the
United States? The most apparent reason for this is
offered by the Employment and Training Administration of


25
the United States Department of Labor, the government
agency which administers the BWI program. According to the
ETA, growers desiring access to this BWI labor force have
to satisfy two criteria: first, they must demonstrate that
the admission of BWI workers will not adversely affect
domestic farm laborers' wages or working conditions and,
second, they must, through active recruitment campaigns,
demonstrate that there exists no sufficient domestic labor
force to harvest their crops (U.S. Department of Labor,
1978). Satisfying both these criteria requires the active
involvment of local, state, regional, and the national
offices of the U.S. Department of Labor. Personnel from
the branch offices inspect housing conditions in the labor
camps, aid in the recruitment campaign for domestic workers
by advertising these farm labor jobs in their files, and
act as liaison people between the national DOL office and
the growers in the certification process. The national
office determines the wages and piece rates which are to be
paid to both domestic and foreign workers. Until 1981,
according to the ETA, the national office determined the
so-called "adverse effect wage rates," or the actual wage
and piece rates paid the workers, on the basis of a
Department of Agriculture publication entitled Farm Labor.
Farm Labor published survey materials that gave a state by
state average annual wage rate paid to field and livestock
workers. Taking, for example, Farm Labor's rate for the


26
State of New Hampshire during 1979 and 1980 and calculating
the percentage increase in the average annual wage rate
from one year to the next, the national office then added
the percentage increase onto the 1980 wage rate to
determine the rate for 1981 for New Hampshire. This rate
was then paid to the Jamaicans who picked apples in 1981.
It was also paid to Jamaicans who picked apples in New
Hampshire in 1982. In 1982, however, the same rate was
paid to Jamaican apple and sugar workers, not because there
had been no percentage increase in average annual wage
rates from 1980 to 1981, but because the Department of
Agriculture publication, Farm Labor, and its information
about wage rates, no longer existed due to U.S. Government
budget cuts.
These are the principal components of the U.S.
government bureaucracy annually involved in the BWI
program. Since 1943, U.S. agribusinesses have been able to
satisfy the criteria of no adverse effects and have been
unsuccessful in their efforts to recruit domestic farm
labor. According to the Florida Fruit and Vegetable
Association, Florida sugar producers annually spend around
$15,000 on recruitment campaigns directed toward domestic
farm labor (McCoy and Wood, 1982). Year after year these
campaigns have failed to produce an adequate, reliable, or
willing domestic labor force for sugar cane harvests. The
New England Apple Council annually publishes statistics


showing that between the beginning and end of the apple
harvest in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusettes, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, only around 20% of the
originally hired domestic labor force worked the entire
season. Most of the domestic laborers who quit do so
before the harvest is six days old (New England Apple
Council, 1980, 1981, 1892). Apple industry representatives
for growers in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New
York publish similar findings (Reubens, 1979).
But the question of whether or not a domestic labor
force exists to cut sugar cane and pick apples has not been
answered to everyone's satisfaction. The sugar and apple
growers maintain that no reliable domestic labor force
exists and appeal to statistics compiled and published by
growers and their representatives to support their
purported need for British West Indian labor. Yet many
organizations and agencies in the U.S., particularly since
the beginning of the 1970s, have legally questioned the
implications contained in these statistics. In 1973, the
United Farm Workers attempted to obtain an injunction
against the importation of foreign workers for the Florida
sugar cane harvest, claiming the sugar corporations were
lax in their efforts to recruit domestic cane cutters. The
UFW was defeated in court, primarily because of testimony
stating U.S. citizens simply could not do the work because
of a "social taboo" (Shabecoff, 1973: 24). In a series of


28
court cases brought against the growers since 1977, the
U.S. Department of Labor has attempted to provide a
domestic labor force for the sugar and apple harvests by
bringing in workers from various parts of the United
States, including Puerto Rico, but has usually failed to
have these actions legally upheld by court decisions.
In these cases, sugar and apple growers base their
denial of relying on a domestic labor force on past
experience. Grower-funded publications tell us that year
after year, although a full contingent of domestic workers
may begin the apple harvest, at least 70% of this domestic
labor force quits in the first five days of the harvest.
With Jamaican labor, however, the situation is quite
different. The Jamaicans are, in the terminology used by
the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S.
Department of Labor, a "captive labor force." They cannot
choose to move on to new and subjectively better jobs.
They are certified to work for a single emplyoyer, and they
cannot legally work anywhere else in the United States.
They can go back home if they so desire, or "run away,"
becoming illegal aliens. But if they wish to work legally
in the U.S., they must work for the single employer with
whom they have signed a contract. Domestic workers, on the
other hand, have the freedom of movement to move on to
better jobs and, according to grower publications, usually
do move on to better jobs. The captive nature of the


29
Jamaican work force thus assures the apple and sugar
growers that their crops will be harvested and it is this
aspect of the Jamaicans which primarily underlies the
growers' preferences for Jamaicans over domestic labor.
But this is not the only reason. The Jamaicans also
constitute a much more docile and accommodating work force
than domestic laborers, because if they act up at all,
attempt to unionize or strike, for example, the growers
will not call them back the following year. And, even
though the apple and sugar harvest may be undesirable
occupations among U.S. citizens, among the Jamaicans,
products of a poor country without employment opportunities
as relatively high-paying as these U.S. agricultural jobs,
these occupations are highly desirable.
The final and perhaps most convincing argument used by
the growers to gain access to this labor force concerns the
specific characteristics of the labor force and the
structure of the work setting. In Florida especially, the
work setting requires the mobilization and transfer of
eight to nine thousand men who are willing to work without
their families for five months out of the year, and who can
conveniently disappear at the end of the harvest. This
kind and scale of labor mobilization and transfer would be
difficult or impossible to achieve by relying on the U.S.
domestic labor market. Because the BWI workers come
predominantly from Caribbean peasantries, their own farms


30
and households can support them between sugar and apple
harvests, and while they are gone the other members of
their households can care for their farms. Thus, while the
U.S. domestic labor market may be unable to accomodate the
needs of growers, the Jamaican peasantry, as a labor
market, satisfies growers' needs.
The State and Recruitment in Jamaica
In Jamaica, the state is no less instrumental than the
DOL in the annual process of reproducing the program. U.S.
apple growers can request 100% of thier workers to return
annually. However, U.S. sugar growers can only request 60%
of their foreign workers to return each year. McCoy and
Wood describe the relationships that exist between the
sending governments and the sugar industry as follows:
For its part, the sugar industry seeks to restrict
participation to those workers who have demonstrated their
reliability and productivity during previous seasons. The
island governments, on the other hand, feel the need to
keep the opportunity open to as many of their citizens as
possible. The existence of these competing interests has
led to the institutionalization of a compromise recruiting
procedure. The arrangement balances the growers'
preference for a stable, experienced worker force with the
desires of the BWI governments to spread participation in
the migratory stream around among their populations. (1982:
8)
In Jamaica, in the spring of every year, job cards are
sent out from the Ministry of Labour in Kingston to


31
Ministers of Parliament throughout the island. These job
cards are passes into a three to four hour session in the
parish capitals where U.S. agribusiness representatives
meet with job card recipients and select from these
gatherings their labor pool. The job cards are chances at
employment in the U.S., not guarantees. They are scarce,
highly desired slips of paper representing not only the
possible chance to work in the U.S. but to acquire access
to the goods the U.S. has to offer and to have, for perhaps
the first time in their lives, steady incomes with which to
purchase those goods. The men who receive them protect
them with brown paper or plastic wrappings and handle them
as delicately as a single surviving photograph of a dead
mother.
Overtly, the system of job card distribution follows
lines of political patronage throughout the island.
Ministers of Parliament receive their quotas of cards from
the Ministry of Labour and Employment and pass them to
their appointed liaison officers and councillors within
their constituencies. Minister's quotas change annually
but the rural MPs receive more cards than urban ones, given
the agricultural bias of the program. The MP for Northeast
Manchester, for example, received 276 job cards in 1982.
On the local or district level in the countryside, the
political party action groups are called committees and
each district has both Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and


32
People's National Party (PNP) committees. If the MP is a
JLP member, it will be local JLP committees who receive the
cards from the MP's liaison officers and councillors.
These committee members are the men and women who actualy
hand the cards out to the Jamaican men who meet with the
U.S. agribusiness representatives. Along with the job
cards the committee members receive a sheet of paper
describing characteristics which they are to use to select
workers. Workers are supposed to be between the ages of 21
and 45, for example, have muscular builds, be reliable
workers, and so on.
But when dealing with a social resource as highly
desired as job cards, these selection criteria and the neat
structuring of the system of job card distribution yield
ground the to nepotism, favoritism, promises, achievement,
sympathy, kindness, bribery. As the following table
Indicates, although the primary sources of job cards are
committees, nearly 40% come from other sources:
Table 2-2
Sources of Job Cards (n=45)
Source Percent
of population
Commit tee
61.3
Minister of Parliament
12.9
From another person
who first received card
12.9
Justice of Peace
6.5
Ministry of Labour
6.5


33
There are indications that on the local level the
strongest determinants of the handing out of job cards are
largely familial or fami1i a1 1ike in nature. The incidence
of committee members giving job cards to their sons,
step-sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, and other male
friends and relatives is high. Around 70% of the workers
in my sample have had brothers, cousins, fathers and sons
who have also received job cards. Another 20% received
their cards because of friendship ties, either directly or
indirectly through fathers or uncles who received the cards
because they were friends with some politician or other
involved in the job card network.
Table 2-3
Connections for Job Cards
Conne c tion
Percent of population
Kinship
68.5
Friendship
20.3
None
11.1
Other strategies of gaining access to these cards include
working for political party elections, giving labor free to
committee members, outright cash expenditures (tips) to
committee members, or committee members keeping the cards
for themselves. Moreover, the system of job card
distribution does not always end with the politicians (see
table 2-2, row 3). Once the committee members and other


34
politicians have parted with their cards, around a month
before meeting with U.S. agribusiness representatives, the
favors, debts, rights, obligations, and so on which come
into play are demonstrative of the desperation and
ingenuity which the rural poor so often draw upon to gain
access to scarce social resources. As evidence of the
desperation involved, one woman told me of a case where a
son threatened to kill his own father if his father failed
to give him the card he received from the committee.
Extreme and unimaginative means such as these, however, are
reported with much less frequency than cases of men
offering free of immediate charge their labor, time,
donkeys, spray pumps and other resources at their disposal
in order to cultivate connections with individuals who have
potential access to the job cards.
The resourcefulness and ingenuity of these Jamaican
men trying to get job cards is all the more admirable, as
well as more evidently desperate, when one considers that
these cards guarantee nothing. As noted previously, all
these cards do is let the men into a session where they
meet with representatives of the Florida Fruit and
Vegetable Association, the Jamaican Ministry of Labour and
the U.S. sugar corporations that hire the workers. This
team of selectors further trims the list of men eligible
for the program. How many names they put on the list which
constitutes the labor pool depends on how many men they


happen to need in a given year. By what objective or
subjective criteria these sugar industry representatives
decide to select or reject Jamaicans only the
representatives themselves can say, but the time they spend
with each man cannot be more than a few minutes. For
thirteen days, for an average of three to four hours per
day, these selectors visit one parish capital per day and
meet with between 300 and 400 Jamaican men a day. No more
than six or seven of this team actually interview the
workers. According to the workers, these six or seven
interviewers check the hands, eyes and teeth of the
Jamaican men and ask them a few questions like, "Can you
eat rice and pork every day for five months?" or "Can you
work all day seven days a week?" or "Have you ever cut
sugar cane before?" The check of the hands is supposedly a
means to determine a background of agricultural laboring
which causes a roughness and callousness to form over the
palms and fingers. The check of the eyes and teeth
evidently is some indication of general bodily health. If
they pass this verbal and physical screening, they are
subjected to a more rigorous physical examination in
Kingston and in their parish capitals on subsequent
occasions.
To give an indication of what these screening sessions
are like, on May 14, 1982, in a small park in Mandeville,
capital of the parish of Manchester, around three hundred


36
to four hundred men gathered, beginning at 6:00 AM, to
await the arrival of these sugar industry and Jamaican
government representatives. They showed up early, standing
around in groups of four and five, taking part in the
general tension and anxiety coursing through the crowd.
Around 7:30, three identical silver Honda Accords pulled
into the park. These contained the men from the FFVA and
the U.S. sugar corporations. Twenty minutes later, a
copper colored van bearing the Ministry of Labour insignia
pulled into the park, loaded with bureaucrats toting forms
in triplicate and other cumbersome paraphernalia.
Subsequently, the men filed through for their short
sessions with the FFVA and sugar industry representatives.
Then and there they were told whether they passed or failed
this initial screening, but even those who passed were not
assured of U.S. employment. They still had to pass the
medical tests and even then their names might have been
placed on a list of replacement cane cutters and apple
pickers, called only in the event of another worker meeting
an accident overseas. So even after all their jockeying
for political favor and job cards, the chance exists still
that they will not be called for employment in the U.S.


37
Recruitment and the Characteristics of the Labor Pool
Because the nature of job card distribution determines
the character of the labor pool from which U.S.
agribusinesses draw their men, any attempt to improve upon
the program by selecting for "desirable" characteristics
among the Jamaican men must acknowledge this discrepancy
between national and local level priorities, affiliations,
goals, and loyalties. What is of primary importance in
this study, however, is not the potential of an improved
program but the empirical dynamics of the program as it
exists today. It is within such empirical analysis, and by
virtue of empirical analysis alone, that we are able to
understand and subsequently determine what improvements in
the program are possible. Consequently the question we
must ask of job card distribution is this: What does it
tell us about the current complexion of the labor pool
which fuels this program?
Recent research on the socioeconomic backgrounds of
international and internal labor migrants tells us that
they tend not to come from the poorest strata of rural
society. Because of the high costs associated with
international travel and settlement in a foreign country,
extremely poor peasant farmers simply cannot acquire enough
money to make such a move. Instead, international labor


38
migrants tend to come from somewhat richer, better
educated, and generally more experienced members of rural
life, their migration being yet another step in the
continuing attempts at improving their already relatively
higher standards of living. Kemper, studying internal
migrants from Tzintzuntzan to Mexico City, found that
migration from the country to the city was not a single,
blind, desperate move but was instead based upon a dynamic
of social and financial support from the household of
origin to households, often related, at destinations within
Mexico City (1977). Such necessary connections are usually
cultivated through long, intergenerational social
positioning which draws upon the prior resourcefulness and
existing social connections of grandparents, parents,
siblings, and direct and mutual friends in both
Tzintzuntzan and Mexico City. Portes (1979), studying
illegal Mexican migrantas in Texas, found that they were
generally better educated than the norm of Mexican rural
society. Ransford Palmer describes the long-term Caribbean
immigrants to New York and other ares of the Eastern
seaboard as containing a high percentage of people from
skilled technical and professional fields (1976).
Bonacich, Light and Wong (1977), studying Korean immigrants
to Los Angelos, and Reichert (1981) and Dinerraan (1978,
1980) in Mexico also come to similar conclusions concerning
the backgrounds of migrants.


39
The logic common to these studies is that poor
households cannot finance migration. The Jamaican men who
travel to the U.S. to work in this program, however, do not
have to spend much of their households' money to do so.
Beyond nominal transportation fares between their home
districts, parish capitals, and Kingston for the initial
selection and medical tests and finally the flight to the
U.S., the burden of the costs associated with travel and
settlement are initially borne by the Government of Jamaica
and the U.S. apple and sugar companies for whom these
Jamaican men work. Free housing is provided for the men,
board costs are deducted from their fortnightly paychecks
and their air fare is paid by their employers as long as
they work for at least one half of the contract period
(Agreement for the Employment of British West Indians In
Agricultural Work in the United States of America, Form A,
1982: Clauses 5a and 5f). Without having to bear the heavy
transportation and settlement costs associated with an
international move, it is conceivable that men from
relatively impoverished households can participate in this
program.
The Jamaican men who come to the U.S. to work in this
program, however, do not come from the poorest strata of
Jamaican society. The reasons for this are clear. First,
the poorest of the Jamaican poor tend to be women household
heads and especially urban women household heads (Chaney,


40
1982). The obvious male and rural bias to this program
precludes these members of Jamaican society from
participation in the program. Second, in order to pass the
tests of U.S. selectors, these men must maintain an
appearance of strength, adequate nutrition, and other
visible characteristics associated with physical fitness.
Subsequent medical test must uphold the largely subjective
decisions of these U.S. selectors. This, however, does
little to diminish the male population eligible for the
program: distended stomachs, brittle hair, wasting away,
skin disorders and other visible characteristics associated
with debilitating nutritional deficiencies are highly
uncommon among Jamaican men over the age of 20. While
Chaney argues that "the principal dietary problem is
insufficient proteins and calories available to the poorest
70 percent of the population," she also says, "only 0.9%
could be classified as severely malnourished" (Chaney,
1982: 2-4). Most of these are young children. Finally, to
get job cards, participants in the program must in most
cases have either direct or indirect kinship or friendship
ties with local political party committee members, or else
must be able to devote time and energy to the cultivation
of these connections. In the Jamaican countryside, the
extremely poor, often landless peasants and rural
proletariat, usually do not have these ties and cannot
devote time to their cultivation. Two findings support


41
this: 1) the Jamaicans most qualified to cut sugar cane,
those who are professional cane cutters, represent only 20%
(see table 2-4) of the U.S. cane cutting labor force, and
professional Jamaican cane cutters are among the poorest
landless rural proletariat in Jamaica; and 2) the kinds of
land tenure arrangements which tend to characterize poor
Jamaican peasants (service tenure and sharecropping) are
practiced by only 1% of the U.S. cane cutting labor force
(see table 2-5) (McCoy and Wood, 1982; Beckford, 1972;
Griffith, 1979).
Table 2-4
Experience Cutting Sugar Cane (n=206)
Expe rience
Percent of population
None
58.3
On own farm
21.1
Professional
18.1
Own farm and
professional
1 .5
Professional on
another island
.5
Home Land Tenure
Table 2-5
Among Jamaican Workers In South Florida
(n=206 )
Form of Tenure
percent of population
Own
27 .2
Lease/rent
31.6
Sharecropping
1 1
Family land
27.4
Other
6.5


While the Jamaican men who participate in the program
do not come from the poorest strata of Jamaican society,
neither do they tend to come from households capable of
financing their members' migration and settlement in a
foreign country. They must be connected to or be capable
of establishing connections with local political figures,
but most often, for politically strategic reasons, these
local political figures at the district or committee level
are not much better off than the farm workers who travel to
the U.S. in the program. Indeed, many of the committee
members either give their job cards to brothers, nephews,
sons, step-sons or other male household members or keep the
cards for themselves. Nevertheless the committee members,
and by extension the recipients of job cards, are at least
loosely or indirectly connected to the Jamaican power
structure. This connection constitutes a social resource
with the potential of yielding not only jobs in the United
States but also such things as access to credit,
agricultural extension services, development programming
(i.e., aid monies and materials from Norway, New Zealand,
England, Germany, the U.S. and other developed countries),
government job contracts and so on. Whether they get these
job cards by their own resourcefulness or by being the son
of a committee member, eventual possession of them is
evidence that these farm workers have direct and indirect


access to Jamaica's social resources. Social resources,
throughout this work, refer to the resources a society has
which provide access to social forces of production, to
investment opportunities, employment opportunities, and
markets. In addition to job cards, they include, for
example, credit institutions, agricultural extension
services, lawyers, politicians, and administrators of
marketing centers. They can also Include influential
people who can provide access to economic opportunities.
Norman Long refers to this access to social resources
as "the strategic placement" of individuals within their
broader social systems (Long, 1977: 135). Other social
scientists studying peasants in recent years have referred
to this strategically placed segment of rural peasant
society by other terms and phrases but the importance of
these designations is usually the same: it is from these
strategically placed rural households that we expect to
find, and do in fact find, the highest levels of
entrepreneurship among the peasantry (Long, 1977; Long and
Richardson, 1978; Pearse, 1975; Migdal, 1976; Cook, 1983).
These peasants with the highest degrees of access to social
resources, either because of preexisting kinship and
friendship ties or by virtue of their own cunning and
ingenuity, tend to be the same peasants who innovate,
experiment, invest their time, energy, and money, and
utilize all the social and economic resources at their


44
disposal to better their standards of living and in some
cases create viable, growth-oriented, profit-generating
economic enterprises. In these endeavors, of course, the
social system within which they operate must cooperate to
some extent. Such socially advantageous situations,
however, are rare among the peasantry, and the social
systems in which they act more often hinder than help their
entreprenuerial activities. This is partly because of a
misunderstanding of the dynamics of peasant
entrepreneurship and partly because of the demands of a
broader social order which dictates poverty to many for the
maintenance of the wealth of a few. Nor does development
programming as it exists today and has existed for the past
thirty years tap this peasant resourcefulness, given the
documented failures of development programs throughout the
Third World under the rubric of the Green Revolution during
the 1950s and 60s and aid agencies such as USAID today
(Hewitt de Alcantara, 1976; Belshaw, 1976; Spicer, 1952;
Paul, 1955). The most innovative, creative, experimental
and ingenious of peasant entrepreneurs are not necessarily
or automatically the most receptive to development
programming. Although they usually will take advantage of
some of the services a development project has to offer,
peasant entrepreneurs, numerous social scientists have
demonstrated, are often more knowledgeable about the local
social setting, economic, and ecological constraints and


potentials than the so-called "experts" (whom the late
Solon Kimball defined as "someone from out of town").
Moreover, rural development programming is usually
agricultural development programming and little or no
attention is given to the documented attempts of peasants
to search for nonagricultural investments in such areas as
crafts production (Cook, 1983), transportation, middleman
functions, and so on (Pearse, 1975; Burchard, 1974).
Just because the Jamaican men who participate in this
program have access to these job cards and other social
resources, however, does not lead automatically to an
assumption of an ingenious population of peasants coming to
the U.S. to work. Most of these men, remember, acquire job
cards by virtue of preexisting kinship and friendship
connections. That they take advantage of the particular
social resource of job cards is no indication that they
will take advantage of other social resources. Nor is it
any indication they will put the money they make in the
U.S. to uses which generate future standard of living
increases. Surely some can and some do. However,
allegiances and influences change within the Jamaican power
structure and these are felt at the district level.
Nevertheless, the element of strategic placement and the
potential for entrepreneurship characterizes these seasonal
farm workers to the U.S. With all the overseas money they
make annually, around three to four thousand U.S. dollars


46
per worker per year, it is appropriate to assume, for the
purpose of social scientific investigation, that they enjoy
higher standards of living and finance, and engineer more
productive economic enterprises than their rural peasant
brethren whom they leave behind.


CHAPTER III
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF A CENTRAL JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
A Portrait of a Jamaican Peasant
It is before dawn and although Lenworth is still in
bed he has not been asleep for hours. A fog has thickened
during the night, reaching from the valley floor to above
the ridge, making the air damp and cool. The foot-worn,
bare, shiny concrete of the floor feels smooth and cool as
he slips from the double bed where his wife and their three
youngest children still sleep. The youngest child, a girl,
is two weeks old. There is no clock in the room and
Lenworth does not have to look at his wristwatch to know
that first light is less than an hour away. Through the
blue and green length of cloth that hangs in the doorway to
the next room he can hear his three other children
breathing, sleeping on blankets on the floor. Two of the
four rooms of his rough concrete block house are suitable
for living, but the room in which he sleeps is the only one
that is completed. The next room needs a jalousie window
in the space that is now boarded over, and a bed for the
children.


48
In two hours the July sun will have burned off the fog
and Lenworth will be waiting in Christiana outside the
office of the Director. The Director has three weeks of
work which consists of clearing away the tall grass around
the young pine trees along a northeast facing slope In the
Yankee Valley, across the asphalt road from Lenworth's
home. The Director promised Lenworth the work a month ago
but now the Community Development Officer is trying to give
the contract to a friend with whom he worked in the last
election.
Although it is still dark Lenworth does not light the
kerosene lamp on the dresser at the foot of the bed. The
room is small, ten by twelve feet, and Lenworth moves to
the front door in three strides and steps outside. He
stands in the gray dust of the unfinished block veranda,
inhaling the cool air carrying odors of farm animals and
bougainvillea and wet grass. He wears only a pair of
shorts. On his chest there are patches of tight, curly
hair. Soon the houses along the road will start their
morning fires and he will smell coffee and woodsmoke and
yams roasting. Somewhere far away a cock crows and
Lenworth thinks that a mongoose in the grass wakes to note
the cock's position. He stands looking at his two young
goats tethered to a breadfruit tree and hopes he will not
have to sell them to buy rice and flour and condensed milk.


He calls them his doctor bills. It would be a crime to
have to sell them for anything less than an emergency.
Lenworth walks over to the goats and consoles them.
His eldest son, Isra, will take them down to the summer
flowers and grass by the river before he leaves for school.
The goats press against him. Lenworth's skin is deep
black, as black as a Bible's cover, and when he stands he
is five feet nine and finely muscled from work in the
fields. The toes of his feet are splayed from walking
barefoot and his hands are rough and caloused.
Lenworth leaves the goats to walk through the four
square chains of garden around his house. He and Barbara
have planned the planting and care of the garden so it will
bear some kind of food during every month of the year.
Daily they can count on small yields of casava and yam for
the household. Soon they will have jack fruit and
breadfruit, just as the fruit of the sour sap tree begins
thinning. The sorrel plants are young now. At Christmas,
Barbara will squeeze the fruits into a sweet red
traditional drink. He stoops to the youngest of the yam
vines, their new growth smooth and purple. Behind them,
further down the slope, crooked stakes support the thorny
vines of yams that are ready to eat. Between these are a
few banana and plantain trees and seven small coffee trees.
Along the side of the house are patches of sweet potato,
pok chow, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, and thyme, and in


50
front there are twelve pineapple plants in a small space
ringed with begonia. Lenworth has five young ganja plants
which he is watching to determine whether they are male or
female. The males he will pull up to increase the potency
of the female s.
Around the side of the house, below the jalousie
window of the room where Lenworth sleeps, a rusted oil drum
stands with a twelve inch wide sheet of corregated zinc
rising from the water in the drum. Lenworth rounds the
house to the drum and dips a red plastic cup into the water
and drinks. Already the eastern sky is brightening. In
the pale light, the yellowing whites of Lenworth's eyes are
the color of the grayish tan smoke from burning sugar cane.
On Lenworth's chin is a small, square beard, and the tight
curls of his hair on his head are cropped close. His skin
conforms closely to his high, protruding cheek bones.
Between these his broad nose's nostrils angle up and back.
He is missing a front tooth.
He hears, inside, his wife Barbara stirring from bed.
Through the window he watches her leave the house, carrying
a machete. She walks around the other side of the house,
crosses the stamped smooth dirt of the back yard into the
field of yams behind the house that slopes down into the
valley. She digs down under the yam vines and severs a
piece of yam from the huge root. Finishing, she joins
Lenworth at the drum and drinks from the same cup. She is


51
five inches shorter than Lenworth, lighter skinned, still
overweight in the aftermath of pregnancy. The hem of her
full-length, light blue robe is the red of the soil and
frayed from dragging along the ground.
The small, rectangular wood structure behind them, now
their kitchen, used to be attached to a seven room wooden
house that they have since dismantled for firewood. It
belonged to Lenworth's mother, whose grave is marked in the
yard with a concrete slab. She has been dead less than a
year. During the last years of her life she lived with
Lenworth and Barbara. She saw Lenworth travel to Canada
for two years to work in a cannery and saw him use his
earnings to build the four room concrete block house. He
was not called back after the second year and the
construction of the house had to stop. Just before she
died she saw him begin travelling to the United States as a
farm worker.
The bottoms of the slabs around the the kitchen are
jagged, rotting, insect-eaten, rust-colored where they
touch the ground and soak up its moisture. Barbara crosses
from the drum to the kitchen and, inside, selects wood for
the morning fire. In the rear of the kitchen, on a metal
lid from an oil drum on a shelf, she builds the fire.
Smoke fills the kitchen, seeping through the cracks in the
kitchen wall and above through the ill-fitted shingles of
the roof


5 2
Lenworth is inside now, dressing for the meeting with
the Director. His finest clothes he keeps in a suitcase on
top of the tall cardboard wardrobe that stands in the
corner beside the door. Inside this same suitcase he and
Barbara keep their most important papers and records: the
title to two pieces of land, Lenworth's now expired
driver's license, Barbara's savings account pass book
showing a balance of two dollars, the identification card
Lenworth used when he travelled to Canada and a similar
card and pay slips from his two years as a farm worker in
South Florida. His second youngest child, a boy of four
years, breathes irregularly on the bed in the same room.
He has a slight cold. Lenworth treates the cold with a
mixture of myrrh, ganja, water, and white rum. Lenworth
believes that the ganja has the same effect as penicillin.
From the suitcase he takes his only pair of slacks
which do not have holes in them and a blue knit sport
shirt. If he were going to work in the fields he would be
dressing in the black ragged slacks and t-shirt that are
draped over a small wooden bench outside the door. He
wishes this thing with the Director and the Community
Development Officer had not occurred because he needs to
plant some yam heads on the three square plot of land by
the airstrip. Barbara could do it if she were not still
recovering from childbirth. The moon is right for the
planting.


53
There is enough light in the room from the sun now
that he can see himself in the mirror above the dresser.
Taped to the mirror are yellowing snapshots. Below these,
on the dresser's top, sit jars of Vaseline and lotions and
a tin of powder for the newborn. Lenworth adjusts his
beret in the mirror, slanting it to the side, and then goes
outside to join Barbara for breakfast. She hands him a
plate of roasted yam mixed with a small portion of salt
fish and a single slice of white bread. He has coffee in a
tin cup, sweetened and clouded with canned milk. Barbara
has only coffee .
They speak of the meeting with the Director. Lenworth
tells her that he needs a letter to show the Community
Development Officer. The letter must be signed by the
Director and must say that the work was promised to
Lenworth. The Director knew Lenworth's maternal
grandfather and Lenworth hopes that this will help the
Director decide in Lenworth's favor. Barbara knows that
once Lenworth has mentioned his grandfather he will begin
on the subject of his father's side of the family, most of
whom are in England. At fifteen Lenworth's father tried to
get Lenworth to England but could not acquire the necessary
papers. Lenworth is thirty-three years old and has not
seen his father for twenty-two years. He still regrets
that bad luck with the papers. In England, now, he has two
half-sisters who are nurses and a half-brother who drives a


54
bread truck. His father works in the bakery which supplies
the truck.
The sun is full now and the heat of the day beginning
to create waves of thick vapor from the green of the
valley. Soon the first taxi heading to Christiana will
pass. The kitchens along the road, beside their houses,
are now all beginning to send up smoke through the thatch
or around the zinc of their roofs. Inside the house the
children are waking up. Isra steps from the house in his
khaki school uniform and takes the two goats down the
footpath to the river. Barbara fetches the newborn and
suckles her. Gloria, Daphne, and Narissa, the other three
girls, step outside dressed in the 1ight-co 1 ored blouses
and navy blue smocks that Barbara sewed by hand. She
purchased the cloth In Christiana from a store owned by a
Syrian family. The money came from selling three hundred
pounds of yellow yam to Gwen, the higgler who owns a rum
shop by the airstrip. The last one out of the house is
Karl, the four year old with the cold. He is bare from the
waist down and the front of his striped shirt is in rags.
He has a round chubby face and small features like his
mo the r .
Lenworth has finished his breakfast and while the
others eat he goes into the unfinished room inside the
house and takes a paint can from the corner. Inside the
silver can are ganja and a portion of a brown paper grocery


bag. He tears off a section of the paper, fills it with
around one-quarter ounce of ganja, and rolls it into a
four-inch, cone shaped cigar, twisting the large end
closed. With the unlit cigar in his mouth he puts on his
tennis shoes and moves from the house to the kitchen to
light the cigar with a stick from the fire. Isra has
returned from tethering the goats. Lenworth tells him that
he must return directly home from school and then meet him
at the yam ground by the airstrip. They have to plant yams
and cut stakes for the vines from the brush near the IRDP's
fenceline.
From the road now, a half-mile away, come the sounds
of the light blue Hillman that will carry Lenworth to
Christiana. There are two taxis that travel the road
between Christiana and Silent Hill and always Lenworth
rides in the Hillman because it is owned by a friend of
his. He climbs the path to the road, ten yards away,
reaching the road just as the Hillman rounds the bend. As
he gets into the car he feels good that he is finally going
to meet with the Director.
Lenworth and his family live in the Two Meetings
Watershed in central Jamaica. The above description was
designed to give the reader a general impression of some
aspects of Jamaican peasant life. The following discussion
presents information on the physical, social, and economic
environment in which Lenworth and his family live.


56
The Two Meetings Watershed
Until early in 1983, the Two Meetings Watershed had
been one of the two sites of the USAID/Ministry of
Agriculture 2nd Integrated Rural Development Project
(IRDP), a project begun in 1977 with the aid of the
Norwegian government and subsequently funded by USAID fromn
1978 to 1983. According to Peace Corps volunteers and
USAID personnel, early in 1983, some accounting
discrepancies were discovered, funds allocated for specific
works projects had mysteriously disappeared, the project
crumpled and USAID pulled out. The former project's
southern boundary begins about a half-hour's ride by
minibus north of Mandeville, the bauxite mining boom town
and the country's largest inland city, capital of the
parish of Manchester. The watershed itself extends into
small sections of four parishes: N.E. Manchester, N.W.
Clarendon, S.W. St. Ann, and S.E. Trelawney. Shown a map
of Jamaica, someone asked to point to the dead center of
the island would probably come pretty close to the Two
Meetings Watershed. This central location accounts in
large part for the wide variety of foodstuffs and other
goods sold on Fridays and Saturdays in the peasant markets
in Christiana and Spaldings, the two major marketing
centers within the watershed. In addition to these


57
commercial centers, the watershed encompasses all or
portions of the smaller towns of Dump, Alston, Lorrimers,
Wild Cane, Bohemia, Moravia and Silent Hill. Such towns
are characterized by one to four small grocery stores (rum
shops), a bakery, a postal agency, a church, a school,
perhaps a ginger merchant or a banana boxing plant. In
all, there are around nineteen districts in the watershed,
the lowest level political divisions in Jamaica. In 1978,
IRDP personnel estimated the watershed's peasant population
to be around 2000 farm families, or around 15,000 people of
all ages. The settlement pattern today follows the road
system, most of the dwellings either on a road or within a
short walking distance of one, and the roads in most cases
follow the ridges atop the valleys that criss-cross the
watershed. A half century ago there was more settlement
along the small rivers on the better farmlands of the
valley bottoms, but today Jamaican peasants face the world.
Footpaths connect roads with other roads, houses with
fields and other houses, follow the small rivers or
sometimes disappear into the underbrush. Roads, footpaths,
and rum shops physically connect peasant households with
one another and with the information, goods and services
disseminating from Spaldings and Christiana and attaching
peasant households to the outside world, usually through
patron-broker-client relationships (Blustain, 1982a). From
Thursday evenings to Saturday afternoons this


58
interdependence of world, town and countryside is
particularly evident: trucks, taxis, minibuses and buses
bring the higglers and owners of rural rum shops into the
commercial centers to sell their produce and buy stock for
their shops. Marketing women descend from these means of
transport laden with burlap and plastic bags of Jamaica's
agricultural produce and an array of domestic and imported
clothing and other petty commodities. The owners of the
rural rum shops load their wholesale wares onto buses and
taxis. Through Christiana and Spaldings, goods from all
over the country and the world filter out into the
surrounding countryside.
Houses, Yards, and People
The peasants' households in the watershed accommodate
and average of six to eight people. Quite often, male
household heads also have one or two children from previous
unions whom they still support. Intergenerationally, this
phenomenon of "outside children" increases the number of
consanguineally related households between which money,
goods, services, and information flow. This biological,
social, and economic overlapping of peasant households is a
salient characteristic of Caribbean peasantries (Gonzalez,
1970; Clarke, 1957; Beckwith, 1929; Mintz, 1974) and is
common as well among peoples living in both rural and urban


59
impoverished conditions (Stack, 1970; 0. Lewis, 1966).
These diffuse kinship networks are adaptive in an
environment where households must combine a variety of
survival strategies as well as provide social security and
other services not provided by the state. At the same
time, such diffuse ties of family within and between
generations often undermine the foundations of capital
accumulation among Jamaican peasants because, quite simply,
too many individuals have some familial claim on whatever
resources funnel into the family network.
These ties between households are not highly visible,
however. The most readily observable family unit consists
of a woman, a man, the children they have had together and
the children the woman has had by other men. Variations on
this general pattern are frequent: it is not uncommon to
find an unmarried daughter with one or two children still
living at home, or a parent of the male or female household
head, or two conjugal or quasi-conjugal unions representing
parent and offspring generations living together with some
of the elder couple's children and most of the younger
couple's children.
Whatever the specific arrangement, the general
evolution of houses and yards which accommodate these
family units, as an ideal, varies little. Establishing a
new household, a young couple will either rent a place or
build a small, single room dwelling, usually of scrap wood,


60
corregated zinc, cut and straightened sides of cans,
bamboo, thatch and whatever other construction materials
they can obtain. If enough construction materials are
available, they will also build a separate structure which
serves as a kitchen. Around these structures the yard
consists of stamped and swept dirt reaching to the edge of
the family garden. These house-and-garden plots are
generally between one-quarter and one-half acre in size.
If all goes well, the house will expand as the family
expands, more elaborate and expensive construction
materials such as cement blocks, cement, reinforcement
rods, sheets of zinc, two-by-fours, jalousie windows, doors
and locks will accumulate and gradually coalesce into a
newer, larger, stronger structure as the cash to hire
masons and carpenters becomes available. Rooms will be
added on at a variable rate depending on income. During
this progression from wood to concrete the former single
room dwelling space will become the kitchen and the former
kitchen will become firewood. As for furnishings, the bed
and cooking ware come first, then a dresser, china cabinet,
tables and chairs and, for the more affluent, light
fixtures, sinks, appliances.
This general evolution is, of course, an ideal. The
actual wealth differences as expressed by house type and
elaborateness of housing vary greatly within the peasant
population of the watershed. Few peasant households have


61
indoor plumbing. A few more, but still a minority, have
electricity. Telephones are virtualy nonexistent among the
peasantry. Refrigerators are rare and stoves rarer. Most
of the cooking is still done over open fires within the
wooden kitchens separate from the sleeping quarters. The
insides of these structures are blackened and freckled with
ash, smoke filled. Firewood and dried yams are shoved up
into one corner in a pile. Along the walls from wooden
pegs hammered into pine beams hang pots and pans, if there
are any. A machete and a mortar and pestle are standard
equipment. Alongside these huts, old rusty oil drums catch
the rain for the family's drinking water.
During the day these kitchens tend to be the centers
of activity for those staying home from the fields. Women
and children gather in and around them, soaking and
squeezing the poison from bitter casava, spreading red peas
or coffee beans on sheets of zinc or strips of cloth or
cardboard in the sun, shelling peas, scraping green
bananas, roasting yellow yam, sorting seed potatoes,
skinning ginger root and piling up the shavings which
crinkle in the dense tropical sunlight. From these
activities mild and pleasant odors of ginger and pepper and
coffee emerge and drift out into the fields where they mix
with other fires' odors and the less appealing smells of
manure and beasts.


62
If there is a single characteristic which accurately
describes the majority of the houses and yards among the
watershed's peasants, it is that they are not yet finished.
The unfulfilled ideal of a fully furnished home which can
comfortably accommodate the entire family is in evidence
everywhere: piles of construction materials with weeds
beginning to grow up around them, skeleton rooms without
windows or doors or ceilings, bare rooms, families of eight
crowded into a single wooden windowless structure with a
thatch roof. The building and furnishing of a house among
the Jamaican peasantry is a number one priority in the
dreams of independence, yet it can easily become a life
long process of sporadic construction followed by years of
such acute poverty that further construction remains
hopeless. Although the squalid, hungry and barren living
conditions described by some scholars familiar with the
Third World's poor (e.g. Heilbroner, 1963) are rarely found
among the Jamaican peasantry, Jamaica's wealthy are the
people whom they compare themselves to, as well as those
closer to their standards of living but wealthier. To tell
them there are people starving in Ethiopia does little to
diminish their relative despair.
But they are not a continually despairing people.
They long for improvement, attempt to improve their
standards of living, but they do not sit around crying
about their poverty. Throughout their four centuries


63
of hardship, they have cultivated a knack for resiliency.
They may be dissatisfied with life and accept their
poverty, fatalists to some degree, occasionally ashamed of
their positions as other peasants around them improve, but
they are not terribly unhapppy, not totally bereft of
satisfaction and feelings of pride and accomplishment. At
dusk their rum shops fill with people playing dominoes,
shooting craps, dancing, listening to music, singing,
drinking and smoking what they believe to be the highest
quality ganja in the Western Hemisphere. At the same time
they can be a dignified, proud, friendly, courteous and
deeply religious people, capable of much generosity in
spite of their poverty.
Yet all societies are fraught with contraditions,
within as well as between socioeconomic classes and groups,
and Jamaica is no exception. To say that Jamaican peasants
or peasants anywhere are essentially cooperative or
essentially autonomous, rugged individuals finds no basis
in reality. Thus, these women and men trade labor and
tools with one another, give and receive food, sex, land,
and mutual aid, and simultaneously gossip maliciously about
one another, envy and mistrust each other, occasionally
cheat and steal from one another. For both cooperation and
antagonism there are historical foundations. Sexual
antagonism runs high. Child abandonment is not uncommon.


64
Verbal agression is widespread but physical aggression
extremely rare.
Phenotypica1ly ranging from deep, deep black to the
lighter shades characterizing the island's mulatto elite,
these peasants are visually quite sensitive to this
continuum of skin color. They routinely invoke their
richness of melanin as a means to explain their relative
poverty within Jamaican society. Many believe they are
poor because racist atitudes of the white society have
functioned to keep them down. A good deal of the
literature on social stratification and pluralism in
Jamaica has served to reinforce such explanations (M.G.
Smith, 1960; Henriques, 1953; Curtin, 1955; Beckford and
Witter, 1981). Most of the peasants in the watershed do in
fact fall at the melanin-rich end of the continuum. There
is no doubt that Jamaica is a highly racist society in
which shades of skin acquire significance in social
interaction and account for some social divisions, as well
as for the attitudes of salf-hatred and mistrust which
quite often surface in conversation. In a rum shop a
Jamaican once laid his arm on the bar next to mine and,
pointing to my arm, said, "This is good." Pointing to his
own arm he said, "This is bad. You give twenty dollar to
this color and you have to fight the man to get it back .
." A little girl told my wife she wanted to go to Canada
so she could bleach out and come back and get a job in a


bank. Another black man told me that he knows when he
deals with blacks, something will go wrong, but whenever he
deals with whites he knows everything will be cool.
Nevertheless, many among the wealthiest families are
as rich in melanin as they are in capital gains. The
ethnic and racial pyramids which recent scholars continue
to draw to depict Jamaican society are no longer nearly as
fine and distinct as their diagrams would lead us to
believe (e.g. Beckford and Witter, 1981: 79). Of all the
barriers to capital accumulation or successful economic
management, skin color is not one of them.
General Characteristics of Peasant Agriculture in The
Watershed
The land which the watershed peasants farm is usually
rocky and steep. A broad deep valley, the Yankee Valley,
runs from the northwest corner of the watershed, beginning
in Trelawney, to the eastern boundary near Alston in the
parish of Clarendon. Numerous smaller valleys run
perpendicular to this and, as in so many other peasant
areas of the world, encompass a wide variety of ecozones
and soil types in a relatively short distance. People far
more knowledgeable about these ecological phenomena than I
have described the area as follows:


66
Topography: Rolling ridges with long steep or moderately
steep slopes. Soils: Halifax Donnington and Wait-A-Bit
clays, are derived from conglomerates, tuffs and shales.
These soils are extremely erodible and low in nutrients,
but they are easily cultivated. The soils are generally
very badly eroded, but the harm is reduced by the rapid
breakdown of the soil. Climate: generally cool and moist
by tropical standards. Average annual rainfall is about
70"; December to March (inclusive) is usually dry; during
the rest of the year there is normally sufficient rain for
crop growth. Winter night temperatures are quite low and
control growth. Altitude: 2000'-3000'. (Edwards, 1961: 51)
The variety of ecozones allows peasants in the watershed to
grow a wide variety of crops and affects to some extent,
along with socioeconomic factors, patterns of land use and
forms of land tenure. Root crops such as yams, coco and
dasheen are grown on virtually all of the farms. There are
a number of variety of yam and for many households they are
the most important crop. Other crops include banana,
coffee, Irish potato, red peas, plantain, bread fruit,
sorrel, sweet potato, chocolate, ginger, corn, carrot,
lettuce, cabbage, tomato, peanuts, chocho, cassava,
pumpkin, avocado pears, jack fruit, oranges, sour sop, pine
trees and marijuana (ganja). Monocropping does not fit
well with production strategies geared toward providing
subsistence for the family as well as growing crops for
sale. All fields are intercropped to some extent. Coffee
and bananas are nearly always planted together. Other
common crop combinations are Irish potato and red peas
during the late winter and spring months and red peas and


corn during the summer months, yellow yams and coco
throughout the year. It is highly typical, however, for a
single field to contain as many as a dozen different crop
varieties. From one informant's field I recorded the
following: lucea yam, yellow yam, barbados yam, negro yam,
red peas and Irish potatoes, carrots sown between the yam
hills, bananas, coffee, coco and dasheen along the drainage
ditches, sugar cane along another edge of the field,
patches here and there of sweet potato, cabbage, tomatoes
and lettuce, a few chocolate trees, a bread fruit tree,
cassava and ganja interspersed throughout the field.
Family gardens are always heavily intercropped; fields
planted primarily in cash crops usually are as well.
Among the crops grown primarily for sale are Irish
potatoes, red peas, banana, coffee, carrot, lettuce,
cabbage, tomato, chocolate and peanuts. Marijuana and yams
are produced for home use and for sale, depending on the
market, and the others listed above tend to be grown
primarily for home use. Which crops are grown for sale
primarily and which for home use varies from parish to
parish, however, and these generalizations concerning cash
crops and subsistence crops apply to the Two Meetings
Watershed. With the exception of donkeys and mules, most
livestock in the area are raised for the market, pigs, cows
and goats being the most common. These double as savings
accounts in Jamaica as elsewhere among peasants (Firth,
1963; Wolf, 1966). Donkeys and mules are valuable tools on


68
the farm and tend to be used as such rather than bought for
resale.
In terms of the factors within the Two Meetings
socioeconomic environment which influence agricultural
production decisions and behaviors, access to land and land
tenure is not nearly so determining a factor as are
household cash flows, credit, labor, and markets. There
are a few families in the area who own a great deal of land
in the watershed but who are not among the peasantry.
These families constitute a kind of old landed gentry who
have since fallen from the grace of world economics and
politics. Much of the land which they used to work has
been taken over by the peasants. The peasants recognize
that the land is owned by others, some claim to pay rent on
the land, but no rents have been collected for a number of
years on this land and the peasants are more or less free
to work it without threat of eviction. They also tend not
to make any improvements on land gained by these means,
however (cf. Blustain, 1982b). In addition to "capturing"
land, other means of gaining access to land include
inheritance (family land), buying land, leasing government
land, renting land (primarily from other peasants),
clearing land and working it for a few years rent-free in
return for clearing it, working the land of relatives who
have moved from the watershed, and in some cases simply
being given land by another peasant. Sharecropping,


69
although used in some cases among extremely poor peasants,
is uncommon, as is service tenure. At any rate, a peasant
household in the watershed with enough family labor or
enough cash to hire labor can usually find one means or
another to gain access to land. Land quality does directly
affect, along with market fluctuations, the scheduling of
planting and the choice of crops. If a peasant can get
access to land which holds water well, for example, he or
she is more likely to plant an earlier crop of Irish
potatoes than another peasant who cannot gain access to
such land.
Farms in the watershed are highly fragmented, with
peasants producing on anywhere from one to six or seven
parcels. Total farm sizes are around three to five acres,
two to three of which are cultivated and the remainder
lying fallow. The most typical tenurial arrangement in the
watershed is to own around one-quarter acre to one-half
acre which serves as the house plot and the family garden,
and to own or rent other parcels at varying distances from
the house, sometimes as far as four miles across some
pretty rugged country. This has been the pattern among
Jamaican peasants all over the island at least since the
turn of the century (cf. Beckwith, 1929; Eisner, 1961;
Clarke, 1957; Edwards, 1961). Having fragmented
landholdings sometimes results in crop loss due to theft
and an increase in demands on the household's time, but


70
also allows peasants access to a variety of land qualities
and hence a wider variety of cropping and scheduling
decisions.
To work land productively the peasants must first have
some cash. Peasant households in the Two Meetings
Watershed are chronically short of cash. Sources of credit
include the IRDP (now defunct), the People's Loan Bank and
other area banks, relatives, friends and, very
occasionally, visiting Peace Corps volunteers and
anthropologists. The banks, as is normal practice, have
interest rates which are considered too high by the
peasantry. Loans from banks are more often sought for
capital purchases, such as buying a mule or land, than to
cover the costs of planting. Long-term credit or revolving
credit systems such as those utilized by farmers in the
U.S. (Hansen, et al., 1981), if they exist in rural
Jamaica, are not available to the peasantry. Loans from
the IRDP are (or were) used with more frequency but these
are often rejected because such loans often require
peasants to adopt production strategies with which they do
not agree. This disagreement comes less from a love of
tradition than from a detailed scrutiny and knowledge of
the ecosystem and socioeconomic environment. As a result,
most peasant households in the watershed cover their
planting expenses with cash generated by previous


harvests, as well as by using cash-saving strategies such
as cooperative labor.
Peasants in the watershed, like most peasants, use
almost no heavy machinery. The IRDP used to sometimes
terrace fields for them or clear land with tractors, and a
very few peasants have hired tractor rigs on their own (I
found only one case of this), but the use of heavy
machinery is extremely rare. Nor are draught animals used
to plow land, although mules and donkeys are used to
transport produce from the fields to the roads or into
market. This leaves human energy for the farm work, and
labor is the most costly in terms of both money and time
of all the productive resources available to the peasant
farmer. Hiring labor is the preferred labor arrangement
among the watershed's peasants, but because household cash
flows are small most peasants in the watershed combine the
use of family labor and exchange labor (day-for-day) with
hired labor. Cooperative work bees, or "morning sport,"
are not common in the watershed, although are used in other
parts of the country (Edwards, 1961). Even with these
cooperative labor arrangements, however, there is some
expense involved: the peasant who needs the workers must
provide them with food during the day and often with rum
and ganja as well, whether they are exchange labor or
hired. At noon in the fields, over open fires, green
bananas, dumplings, yams and chicken backs seasoned with


72
pepper boil in huge pots. Drinks using chocolate or ginger
root or sarsaparilla root are usually provided for the
laborers as well, sweetened with Eagle Brand sweetened
condensed milk.
The specific combination of labor arrangements varies
from farm to farm according to farm size, household size
and composition, crop types, market fluctuations, cash
generated from off-farm sources and seasonal schedules.
Some larger farms have high labor requirements throughout
the year. However, the peak seasons for labor in the
watershed tend to be from January to late April, when the
rains begin, and again in September, November and early
December, scheduling activities around the heavy October
rains. During the summer months the crop labor
requirements are somewhat reduced and it is typically
during these months that the peasants seek off-farm
employment as well as devote time to house construction,
repair and so on. The tasks which require the most labor
inputs are clearing land, terracing, planting and
harvesting, but processing food for market and marketing
also take up a good portion of the time of some peasant
households, especially when cash crops are being grown on a
wide scale. Weeding and other general crop care are done
throughout the year but can usually be handled with family
labor or exchange labor alone. Livestock and tree-crops
are low-labor enterprises. There are, of course, a wide


73
variety of other farm and non-farm tasks which draw upon
the peasant's time (hauling water and firewood, cutting yam
sticks, child care, maintenance) and, although labor
requirements are seasonal, these people are rarely idle
(cf. Brush, 1977). Although there are some flexible ideas
about division of labor on the basis of sex, in actual
behavior women and men perform many of the same tasks and
women are equally as skilled at farm management as men.
The importance of these labor arrangements and labor
requirements as they are affected by participation in the
alien labor program will be discussed in more depth later.
The principal marketing options in the area include
the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC), the
Christiana Area Potato Growers' Cooperative, a few banana
boxing plants and ginger merchants, peasants carrying their
own goods to peasant markets and, the most commonly used
option, higglers. Higglers, usually women, are
professional itinerant buyers and sellers of produce who
come from peasant backgrounds and take advantage of
regional variations in crop types, generally buying produce
from peasants whom they are familiar with and bussing this
produce to peasant markets in other parishes for sale (cf.
Mintz, 1957; Katzin, 1959, 1971). Higglering, however, is
an occupation open to nearly anyone and for many peasants
throughout Jamaica it is a valuable and time-honored means
of supplementing farm income, as well as occasionally a


means to accumulate capital for agricultural and
non-agricultural investments. It is a highly competitive
and efficient means of getting perishable produce from
producer to consumer, but it is not without its problems.
Perhaps one of the most blatant contradictions between the
rhetoric of the Seaga regime and their actual behavior is
that they have recently initiated legislation aimed at
"savaging the higgler" (Stone, 1983), or curtailing the
previous free enterprise of higglers through complex
licensing requirements and taxes (Daily Gleaner, February
7, 1983: front page). Under Manley, supposedly an engineer
of "a disastrous decade of socialism" (Hempstone, 1982),
the freedom allowed the higglers to move the country's
produce around as well as to import goods was far greater.
With the higglers in the watershed the peasants
maintain a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, the
higglers often constitute the sole marketing outlet for the
peasants' produce. Also, unlike most of the other
marketing options, the higglers are numerous enough that
competition between higglers assures the peasant the
highest possible price for the produce. When the higglers
pay for the peasants' produce outright and bear the cost of
any loss due to spoilage themselves, there are usually no
problems between peasant and higgler. However, more often
the higgler does not have the cash up front to pay for the
crop and so the peasant must give the crop to the higgler


75
and wait until after the sale to receive his or her money.
This places a peasant producer in a position dependent upon
the honesty of the higgler. These higglers are usually
personal acquaintances of the peasants, people from within
the same district or same general area. To maintain this
delayed payment relationship, the higgler must return from
the market with some remuneration for the peasant on a more
or less regular basis. Nevertheless the higgler can return
with less money than the peasant bargained for and blame
the discrepancy on spoilage. The higglers do not have to
return proof that the crop actually spoiled. The peasant
producers thus must take the word of the higgler that their
products or portions of their products did not sell.
Jamaican peasants, as envious and suspicious of their
fellow peasants as peasants elsewhere (Foster, 1969; 0.
Lewis, 1951; Migdal, 1974; Popkin, 1979), have a low
threshhold of faith in their peasant brethren. They do not
enjoy being put in a postion where their income depends on
the honesty of another. George Foster's "Image of the
Limited Good" (1969) is perhaps the best known description
of these characteristics of mistrust and envy among
peasants, although it has since been criticized as somewhat
of a misinterpretation. That is, Foster saw the envy and
mistrust among peasants as being an expression of cognitive
orientation or belief that the goods of the world are
limited. Thus one person's gain is another person's loss.


Others understand this envy and mistrust as expressions not
of some natural cognitive orientation but rather
expressions of a recognition that the goods of the world
are, in actual fact and not in "image," limited. That is,
Jamaican peasants understand that they have historically
been denied access to land and other resources which place
them in direct economic competition with one another. When
one Jamaican peasant receives a job card it is quite clear
that another Jamaican peasant loses out. In terms of their
relationships with higglers, then, Jamaican peasants often
have to place themselves in these socially uncomfortable
positions. But this is nothing new to people for whom
hardship has been, for centuries, a way of life. Richard
Barnet reminds us: "If there is one observation about the
contemporary world which unites Marxists and non-Marxists,
it is that peasants are the world's most exploited peoples"
( 1981 : 103) .
Summary
The above discussion constitutes a general description
of peasant life and peasant agriculture in the Two Meetings
Watershed. The physical, social, and economic conditions
described are common to the entire peasant population of
the watershed. They represent the environment from which
migrants to the U.S. are drawn for the BWI Temporary Alien


77
Labor Program and to which these migrants return. The
following chapter presents the results of the comparisons
between a randomly selected population of participants in
the BWI program and a randomly selected population of
peasants who have not had equivalent migration experiences.
Both populations were selected from the environment
described above.


CHAPTER IV
THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL INTERNATIONAL LABOR MIGRATION ON
PEASANT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
Of the five sending countries, Jamaica supplies around
80% of the foreign labor which fuels the South Florida
sugar cane harvest and 100% of the foreign labor utilized
in the Northeast apple harvest. According to the Jamaican
Ministry of Labour and Employment's most recent estimate,
between six and seven thousand Jamaican men annually work
in the apple and sugar harvest (Jamaican Department of
Statistics, 1982a: 25). Data from three sample populations
indicate that the mean annual net earnings per man are a
little over US$3000.
Table 4-1
Mean Annual Net Earnings From Farm Work, Three Sample
populations
Population
Mean net earnings
South Florida
sample of 206
US$3141
U.S. Northeast and
South Florida
sample of 21
US$3418
Jamaican sample
of 45
US$3149
7 8


79
By a conservative estimate of US$ 3000/seas on/man, the
total Jamaican farm worker population annually nets around
twenty million US dollars. Twenty-three percent of this
amount is sent back to the island under a compulsory
savings program, generating between four and five million
dollars in foreign exchange for the Government of Jamaica
annually. This is as much as between 11% and 14% of the
estimated US$35,000,000 generated annually by the Jamaican
tourist industry and as much as between 4% and 5% of the
estimated US$92,000,000 generated by the bauxite industry
(Jamaican Department of Statistics, 1982a: 190).
While the benefit of the program as a foreign exchange
earner on national level Jamaican society and economy is
obvious, it is not readily apparent how the program affects
the Jamaican peasantry on the individual, household, local,
regional or national levels. We do know, however, that the
combined net earnings of the farm workers who travel to the
U.S. equals nearly one quarter (24%) of the gross domestic
product earned by the entire Jamaican peasantry (Jamaican
Department of Statistics, 1982a: 188). We also know that
the incomes of the individual farm workers are
substantially higher that the incomes generated by most
Jamaican peasant farms. Exactly how much higher is
difficult to determine, however. Although the 1980 per
capita income in Jamaica was US$1040 (The World Bank,
1982), information on the Jamaican peasantry as opposed to


80
the entire Jamaican population suggests that the annual
earnings of Jamaican peasant households fall far below this
per capita income figure and much further below the net
incomes of farm workers. The most comprehensive study of
Jamaican farmers, conducted by D.H. Edwards in the late
1950s, reported an average annual net farm income of just
under US$25 (Edwards, 1961: 184). More recent studies by
USAID personnel estimate that "80 percent of farm families
earn per capita incomes of less than US$200 per year"
(Goldsmith and Blustain, 1980: 3). Although income
information, especially that relying on verbal responses,
is among the most difficult to verify, it is nevertheless
clear that the farm workers' incomes are at least three
times as much as most peasant farms. It is therefore
conceivable that their farms might well benefit by this
income and give their households a distinct agricultural
production advantage over peasants who have not had similar
employment experiences.
From the setting described in the previous chapter I
drew random samples to compare migrant farm workers'
households with other peasant households who had not had
similar migration experiences (the control population).
Throughout this work the term farm workers refers to
participants in the BWI Temporary Alien Labor Program,
which is the terra the Jamaicans use to describe these
migrants. The term control peasants refers to the


81
population of peasants who have not participated in the
program nor have had equivalent migration experiences. The
comparisons between the two populations were designed to
address the following questions: Were the farm workers
operating more productive farms than the control peasant
population? Did the farm workers have a higher incidence
of investment for farm expansion that the control
population? Were the farm workers producing
proportionately more cash crops than the control
population? Finally, were these differences between the
two populations caused by participation in the alien labor
program? These questions attempt to get at a larger
question: Does international labor migration between lesser
developed and developed countries cause or enhance
developement in the lesser developed country?
Results of the Comparisons
To begin answering these questions it is best to focus
on specific examples of agricultural production and
investment in the Two Meetings Watershed. The area's most
lucrative legal cash crop is Irish potato, produced on 61%
of the farms. I mentioned above that most peasant
households in the watershed control between three and five
acres of land but usually cultivate only two to three of
those acres.
Also, land is available by means of a variety


82
of arrangements and in most cases only additional cash and
labor inputs are required to expand production by bringing
more land under cultivation. Since labor for hire is
plentiful in rural Jamaica, coming up with the cash is the
constraint on expanding agricultural production. The total
cost of hired labor, seed, fertilizers, pesticides and
transportation necessary to plant, care for and reap a
single acre (14 CWT) of Irish potatoes amounts to J$1560
(US$880)(n) (see appendix A). By 1982/83 wage and piece
rates, a farm worker in the U.S. can easily earn this
amount in four to six weeks. With a yield of five to one,
remaining 14 CWT of seed for the following crop and
marketing the remaining 5600 lbs. at J$35/CWT, this acre of
Irish potatoes would gross J$1960, or a net profit of
J$400. This amounts to a 25% return per acre on the
original investment over a period of three to four months.
In the watershed it is possible to plant three crops of
Irish potato per year.
On the surface this appears to be a sound investment.
In practice, some of the labor necessary to plant, care
for, and harvest the crop will be drawn from the family at
no cost and probably some of the labor will be exchanged,
thus bringing the overhead costs down substantially and
increasing the profit margin. It is therefore quite
possible that returns per acre will be higher than 25%. In
spite of the apparently sound economics of expanding Irish


83
potato production, the households of the farm workers who
work in the U.S. do not invest in Irish potato production
on a broader scale than control peasant households. Table
I shows that, in fact, the reverse is the case.
Table 4-2
Comparisons Between Farm Worker and Control Peasant
Households For Irish Potato Production
Farm Worker
Control
Percent
planting
potatoe s
69
57
CWTs planted
per household
per year
5.2
p= 0 1
10.6
Average pounds
of potatoes sold
to potato
cooperative annually
(1967 1981)
1490
p=.228
1835
Average shares
held in potato
cooperative
9.88
p= 2 5
13.48
(T-test, one tailed)
What does this
tell
us about
the impact of the alien
labor program on Irish potato production in the Two
Meetings watershed? First, in terms of this admittedly
restricted example, the prediction that return migrants
will invest in their home economies is not confirmed.
Indeed, it appears that participation in the program has


84
had a negative impact on Irish potato production in the
watershed. Nevertheless we cannot readily jump to the
conclusion that these production differences between farm
workers' peasant households and the control peasant
households are caused directly by participation in the
alien labor program. Even though the two populations were
randomly selected and are representative of the Two
Meetings peasant household population, there may be
alternate explanations as to why the farm workers'
households produce and sell fewer CWTs of Irish potato than
peasant households which do not have access to these U.S.
funds. However, as the following tables show, comparisons
between the two populations in terms of variables which
might suggest sampling biases which could account for
agricultural production differences reveal no significant
differences.
Table 4-3
Size and Composition of Households
Variables
Farm Worker
Control
Average age
of male
household head
38
4 2
p= 0 8
Average age
of female
household head
3 I
36
p=.09 5
Average size
o f household
7 3
6.8
p= 24


85
Tab le 4 -3 continued
Average number
of male s
4.3
3.4
Average number
of females
3.0
3.4
Average number
of adults
(15 + years)
2.8
3.9
Average number
of children
(0-14 years)
4.4
3.0
Average number
of people aged:
60 +
.09
.5
50-59
.2
.3
40-49
. 5
.4
30-39
1 .0
1 .2
20-29
. 5
.8
10-19
1 7
1 1
0-9
3 2
2.3
Table 4-4
Ratio of Consumers to Workers Per Household
Farm Worker Control
Consumer:
Worker
Ratio 2.1:1 1.9:1
Note: workers are all able bodied people over the age of 11
who contribute to agricultural production.


86
Table 4-5
Relationships With Other Peasant Households Through Outside
ChiId ren
Farm Workers
Con t rol
Average number
of outside
children of
male household
head
1 .2
.8
Percent of males
with outside
children who are
responsible for
outside children
93.7
94.4
Mode number
of households
related to by
outside children
1
1
Moreover, careful reconstruction of the histories of
farm workers' households demonstrate that in most cases the
initial years of participation in the program coincide with
decreases in potato production and sales. In cases where
there was a break in travel to the U.S. of a year or two,
the farm workers' households' Irish potato production
increased during the years he spent in Jamaica, only to
decrease again once he resumed travel to the United States.
Irish potato increases subsequent to travel, however, do
not ususally represent substantial increases from the years
prior to participation, but instead a resumption of
previous production levels.


87
The most obvious explanation for decreases in Irish
potato production during the years the farm workers are
abroad is that their absence from Jamaica for a substantial
portion of the year prevents them from taking advantage of
this investment opportunity. This explanation however
ignores the fact that peasant farming, in Jamaica and
elsewhere, is a household rather than an individual
economic activity. That is, women in the Jamaican
countryside are as capable and as willing as men to
engineer the land preparation, planting, weeding and so on
associated with Irish potato production. The following
tables show that women are in most cases responsible for
the farm while the farm workers are abroad and that they
tend to use remittances to hire farm labor.
Table A-6
Principal Manager of Farm During Farm Worker's absence
(n = 4 5 )
Relationship
to farm worker
Percent of population
Wife/girlfriend
74.3
Brother
8.6
Father/father-in-law
5.7
Son
2.9
Othe r relative
2.9
Friend
2.9
Hired hand
2.9


88
Table 4-7
Percent of Population who Use Remittances to Hire Farm
Labor (n=45 )
Hire 73.5
Donothire 26.5
There are constraints upon a woman's time which arise
at particular stages in her life cycle, during which hild
care demands much of her attention. In Jamaica however two
factors undermine explanation of decreased agricultural
production: first, the salient phenomenon of overlapping
households means that cost-free child care services are in
abundant supply; second, as the above table shows, there is
a tendency for the wives and girlfriends of the farm
workers to use remitted U.S. earnings to hire laborers to
work on the farm, thus boosting these women to managerial
positions in the fields and allowing them time and free
breasts to feed and arras to care for the children while
monitoring the laborers' activities. Also, male household
members or male friends and relatives of the farm workers
often help the women in these endeavors in cases where
sexual antagonism undermines the woman's control over male
farm labor. We cannot, therefore, attribute these lower
production levels to the absence of the men.
This negative impact of the program is not typical,
however. More often, comparisons between the farm workers'


89
households and the control peasants households reveal that
the impact of the program as a whole on Jamaican
agriculture is neutral. That is, as the following tables
show, few significant differences emerge from comparing the
two populations on the basis of a wide variety of
agricultural variables.
First, in terms of land utilization, land tenure and
land fragmentation, the only differences that emerge are
the the farm workers' households utilize a greater
proportion of their land than the other households, and
that the proportions of rented land and owned land are
nearly reversed between the two populations. (Probability
levels refer, again, to one tailed Student's T-tests.)
Table 4-8
Land Utilization, Land Tenure, and Land Fragmentation
Variables
Farm Workers
Control
Average amount
of land rented
and owned (acres)
3.05
3.76
p= 1 5
Average amount
of land cultivated
(acres)
2.26
2.64
p= 1 7
Percentage of
land lying
fallow
17.5
29.5
p=.0 3 4
Average number
of parcels
cultivated
2.3
2.3


90
Table 4-8 continued
Average percent
of land owned
Average percent
of land rented
Terms of tenure (%)
rent and own
own all
rent all
captured land
relative's land
relative's land
and rent and own
other
37
58
53
35
34.1
17.3
2.4
6.2
34.1
23.5
2.4
3.7
7.3
17.3
12.2
28.4
7 .3
3.7
These differences between the two populations,
however, do not result in different amounts of land
actually cultivated. Nor do they result in radically
different production strategies. That is, the following
tables show that for the production of crops for market and
livestock holdings there exist, again, few differences
between the two populations.
Table 4-9
Crops Production for Market
Variables Farm Workers Control
Average number
of hills of yam 726
p= 1 1
Average number
of square chains
ofcoffeee 8.8
p= 243
Percent planting
red peas
521
16.9
73
58


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PAGE 254

U 81,9(56,7< 2) )/25,'$


THE PROMISE OF A COUNTRY:
MIGRATION ON THE
THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL U.S.
JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
BY
DAVID CRAIG GRIFFITH
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1983

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Jamaicans have a parting phrase which goes, "Give
thanks." It means give thanks to Jah but it is also used
as a means of thanking others, as though gratitude draws
its strength of sincerity from the cosmos. Anyone
preparing for and conducting research for two years
accumulates the need to give sincere thanks many times
over. First and foremost, I thank the Jamaican and U.S.
people who provided me with the information which made this
study possible. I would like to thank each of them
individually but I think it is best to keep their names to
myself, so that their privacy is not further intruded upon.
However, there are some individuals whose aid in this
project should be recognized. I would like to thank Dr.
Carl Stone of the Department of Government of the
University of The West Indies for providing me with
institutional affiliation and taking an interest in this
research. I also thank Mr. Jerry Harrison of the
Agricultural Marketing Corporation, Mr. Leslie of the
Christiana Potato Growers' Cooperative, and the entire
staff of the Integrated Rural Development Project's Two

Meetings Office, for providing me with records and other
information. Dr. Harvey Blustain was particularly helpful,
providing me with copies of his research reports from his
two years with the IRDP. Robert Mowbray at the USAID
office in Kingston was also helpful in this regard.
In the United States, there were a number of people
who helped me during all phases of this research. I owe a
great deal to Drs. Charles Wood and Terry McCoy of the
University of Florida. They hired me as a research
assistant to help collect information on British West
Indian farm workers in South Florida. It was this research
which first stimulated my interest in the project and I
thank them not only for their aid throughout the evolution
of this research but also for giving me access to some of
their data from the South Florida study. I am thankful to
Dr. Anthony Oliver-Smith for his support not only during
this project, but throughout my stay at the University of
Florida. He gave me many generous hours of his time,
patience, and advice, and a great deal of whatever
knowledge I possess draws upon his insight, creativity, and
intelligence. Dr. Paul Doughty has likewise given me much
advice, time, and thoughtful conversation, for which I am
thankful. I thank also Dr. Paul Magnarella for providing
me with references while I was preparing for this research
and for agreeing to serve on my dissertation committee.
Dr. Russ Bernard was instrumental in the design of this
i i i

/
I
research, and without his help my research would have been
far less organized.
Others who provided me with information in the United
States include Mr. Charles Gagliardi of the Washington,
D.C., office of the Department of Labor's Employment and
Training Administration, Agricultural Certifications
Division, Mr. Marvin Peck of the New England Apple
Council, and Ms. Patricia Meier of the Belle Glade Job
Service Employment Agency. I thank all of them for sparing
their time to talk with me. While in the field, John
Pulis, an anthropologist from New York, proved to be a
constant source of discussion and inspiration.
Funding for this project was provided by the
University of Florida's Department of Anthropology, The
Inter-American Foundation, The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral
Dissertation Research Abroad Program, and the Wenner-Gren
Foundation for Anthropological Research. I am extremely
thankful for this support and in particular I thank
Elizabeth Veatch and Mel Astreken of the Inter-American
Foundation for their help in the administration of the
Inter-American Fellowship. I am also thankful to the
Inter-American Foundation review board, in particular Ben
Orlove, Lisa Peattie, Robert Maguire, David Collier, and
Tom Davis. Finally, I owe the greatest thanks to my wife,
Nancy, and my two children, Emily and Brook, for
accompanying me to the field and for giving me the support
i v

I needed to conduct this research. To all of them, give
thanks .
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER
I INTRODUCTION 1
Hypotheses and Research Methods 2
Implications of the Study for Peasants
as Labor Migrants 9
A Note on Organization 18
II THE BRITISH WEST INDIES TEMPORARY ALIEN LABOR
PROGRAM 20
The State and Recruitment In Jamaica 30
Recruitment and the Characteristics of the
Labor Pool 37
III AN ETHNOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF A CENTRAL JAMAICAN
PEASANTRY 47
A Portrait of A Jamaican Peasant 47
The Two Meetings Watershed 56
Houses, Yards, and People 58
General Characteristics of Peasant Agriculture
in the Watershed 65
Summary 76
IV THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL INTERNATIONAL LABOR
MIGRATION ON PEASANT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION 78
Results of the Comparisons 81
The Importance of the Growth of the Peasant
Household 96
The Life Cycle of the Farm Worker 96
Farm Worker Interaction with the U.S. Host
Communities and Consumerism Among
The Workers 99
Primary Uses of U.S. Earnings in Jamaica 107
v 1

V WOMEN, REMITTANCES, AND REPRODUCTION 119
VI DIFFERENTIATION AND CHANGE WITHIN THE
JAMAICAN PEASANTRY 147
The Shift from Reproduction to Production 153
Economic Diversification: Agricultural
And Nonagricultural . .....162
Differentiation and Change in Rural Jamaica 173
Changes Within The Peasant Household 174
Changes Between Peasant Households 176
Changes Between Peasants, The State,
And Capitalists 182
VII CONCLUSION 191
Summary of Findings 191
Implications for Theory and Development 201
APPENDICES
A 1982 PRODUCTION COSTS PER CWT OF IRISH POTATO
(JAMAICAN DOLLARS) 217
B TABLES DESIGNATING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FARM
WORKERS WHICH ARE TANGENTIAL TO THE TEXT 219
C POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS 222
BIBLIOGRAPHY 228
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 242
V 1 1

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE PROMISE OF A COUNTRY: THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL U.S.
MIGRATION ON THE JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
By
David Craig Griffith
December, 1983
Chairman: Dr. Anthony Oliver-Smith
Major Department: Anthropology
Since 1943, Jamaican peasants have been legally
migrating to the United States seasonally and annually to
harvest agricultural products, picking apples in the
Northeast and cutting sugar cane in South Florida. This
study assesses the impact of these migrants on their home
communities, paying particular attention to their
utilization of U.S. earnings. Comparing a sample
population of migrants' households to a sample population
of peasants who have not had equivalent migration
experiences, the study tests hypotheses which predict that
returning migrants will invest in their primary economic
activities, in this case their peasant farms. These
comparisons reveal that few differences exist between the
v 111

two populations in terms of demographic, agricultural
production, and socioeconomic variables. The findings lead
to the rejection of hypotheses which predict that labor
migrants returning from developed countries to
underdeveloped ones will substantially contribute to the
development of their home countries. Instead, this study
shows that Jamaican peasant social structure, and peasant
production which is oriented toward household maintenance,
social security, and reproduction, function to spread the
migrants' foreign earnings throughout their social
networks, undermine their ability to accumulate capital,
and, ultimately, aid in the reproduction of the peasantry.
However, in cases of prolonged participation in seasonal,
international labor migration, í.ojl peasant households have
been able to shift from spending their earnings in ways
which reproduce the peasantry to the acquisition and
accumulation of capital. This process tends to result in
changes within and between peasant households, and usually
involves peasant households diversifying their economic
activities into agricultural and nonagriculrual sectors of
the Jamaican economy.
i x

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
This study investigates the consequences of
international labor migration on the social relations and
economic activities of a peasantry. Its central concerns
are the return of international labor migrants to their
home communities and the ways in which the migrants utilize
the money, goods, information, and experiences they acquire
through migrating to another country to work.
Specifically, the study focusses on the impact of the
British West Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program on the
Jamaican peasantry. This program is a legal labor
migration program in which workers from the five Caribbean
countries of Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and
St. Vincent travel to the United States seasonally and
annually to cut sugar cane in South Florida for around five
to seven months (late October to March or April). The
program also allows Jamaicans to travel to the U.S.
Northeast to pick apples during September and October. A
small percentage of those who pick apples also harvest
sugar cane. The decision to focus specifically on the
1

2
program's impact on the Jamaican peasantry was based on
preliminary analysis which discovered that 80% of the work
force comes from Jamaica and 91% of the Jamaicans are
peasant farmers while at home (McCoy and Wood, 1982).
Hypotheses and Research Methods
In March of 1981, a research team headed by Terry
McCoy and Charles Wood of the University of Florida
interviewed 302 British West Indian cane cutters at the
South Florida labor camps during the last few days of the
harvest. The purpose of the project was to identify the
sociodemographic characteristics of the labor force, and to
investigate the ways in which the workers were utilizing
their U.S. earnings, both in the U.S. and in their home
countries.
It is commonly assumed that migrants' earnings in
developed countries, carried home or remitted, as well as
the skills and experiences they acquire abroad, contribute
to the economic development of the sending countries
(Spengler and Myers, 1977; OEDC, 1978, 1977). Indeed, the
presumed beneficial impact of international labor migration
has been used to justify and legitimate the British West
Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program in both government and
industry circles. For example, a 1978 U.S. Senate/
Congressional report, citing previous testimony in court

3
cases concerning the program, asserts that the program
" . . .has the additional merit of being beneficial to the
economy of the British West Indies" and that ". . . mi¬
gration, both temporary and permanent, has contributed and
will in the future contribute to the realization of the
goals of development programs" (U.S. Senate/Cong ress , 1978 :
17, 29). Despite the fact that the program continues to be
justified both here and in the Caribbean by reference to
this presumed beneficial outcome (The Miami Herald, 1982;
The Daily Gleaner, 1982), little empirical evidence has
been brought to bear on the issue. It was therefore
important to discover whether or not these U.S. earnings
were being transmitted to the sending Caribbean economies
in the ways predicted by apologists of the program. A
central aspect of the survey conducted by McCoy and Wood
was whether these cane-cutters were accumulating capital at
home and laying the basis for income-generating activities,
or were simply consuming their earnings, reproducing
themselves and their households, without significantly
contributing to their home countries' economic development.
Survey results indicated that, with the exception of
Barbados, the cane cutters were predominantly recruited
from the small farm or peasant sectors of their home
economies. Around 68% of the West Indian population were
peasants while at home. Analysis of the Jamaican
sub-sample revealed that 91% of these men farmed some land

4
in 1980, with the average amount farmed being around 3
acres (McCoy and Wood, 1982).
With most of the men coming from small farms sectors
of the Caribbean, one way to determine the program's impact
is to ask whether these cane cutters use their U.S.
earnings for capital formation and accumulation resulting
in increased agricultural production and improved
productivity. The presumed positive impact of U.S.
employment implies that the return migrants would be buying
land, farm equipment and livestock, hiring workers,
bringing more land under cultivation, planting more cash
crops and adopting more of the characteristics of
capitalist economic activity because of their employment in
the U.S. and the skills, knowledge, information, and money
they gain the re.
McCoy and Wood tested this hypothesis by comparing farm
workers who had worked for fewer than four seasons with
farm workers who had worked for four or more seasons. As a
result of their longer participation in the program,
workers with four or more years of employment in the U.S.
presumably had more of the information, skills and earnings
than did farm workers with only one to three years of
experience. A multiple classification analysis
demonstrated that the "old timers'" earnings were higher
than the "newcomers'," a result of the sugar companies'
annually screening out the less productive farm workers

5
(Wood and McCoy, 1982). However, the comparisons revealed
that there were no significant differences between old
timers and newcomers in terras of selected agricultural
variables (amount of land farmed and numbers of heads of
livestock). These findings provide little support for the
contention that seasonal employment in the United States
leads to the formation and accumulation of capital among
small farmers in the Caribbean.
These findings, however, are inconclusive due to the
limitations of the method used by McCoy and Wood. The
approach compares migrants with other migrants rather than
migrants with other Caribbean peasants who have never
worked in this program or have not had an equivalent
employment experience. These tests also fail to take into
account the possibility of nonagricultural investments on
the part of the farm workers who migrate to the U.S.
Empirical evidence from numerous cases of Southern European
and Mexican return migration demonstrate that returning
international labor migrants often invest overseas earnings
in nonagricultural economic activities (cf. Abadan-Nervat,
1976; Brandes, 1975; Reichert, 1981; Dinerman, 1978, 1981).
These findings are supported further by research focussing
on the allocation of extra funds and extra family labor by
peasant households which show that peasant use these extra
resources to finance nonagricultural investments and
economic activities (Cook, 1983; Chayanov, 1966).

6
A more valid analysis of the impact of The BWI
Temporary Alien Labor Program involves comparing a
population of farm workers who migrate to the U.S. to a
population of Caribbean peasants who have not had the
opportunity to work in this program nor have had an
equivalent employment experience. The present study began
with the intention of making such comparisons.
Specifically, the focus of this analysis was to compare two
such sample populations in terms of a number of
agricultural and socieconomic variables. These variables
were derived from ethnographic field research conducted
during the first eight months of 1982. This research was
designed to determine the nature of Jamaican peasant
farming and to identify the opportunities open to Jamaican
peasants for investment, farm expansion and growth, as well
as the means by which Jamaican peasants become socially and
economically differentiated from one another.
This phase of field research was conducted in the
9861-acre Two Meetings Watershed in Jamaica's mountainous
interior. From 1977 to 1983, this area was the site of the
Ministry of Agriculture/ USAID Second Integrated Rural
Development Project (IRDP). The total population of the
watershed was around 2000 peasant farm families. In the
absence of a complete list of the families, cluster
sampling was used. The first step entailed mapping the
area and becoming familiar with patterns of settlement and

7
land use. Subsequently, the watershed was divided into 80
research areas of around 125 acres each. Forty of these
research areas were randomly selected, with the intention
of collecting information on 5 peasant households per area
or a 10% sample of 200. Inclement weather, transporation
problems and other difficulties prevented me from reaching
this goal. As a result, I finished the initial round of
interviewing and observations with a 6.7 % sample of 134
peasant households.
Of the households selected, forty-five of these had
one member, usually the male household head, who had
participated or was currently participating in the BWI
Temporary Alien Labor Program. The remaining 89, the
control population, had no such individual, although seven
of these households contained one member who had had
similar or more extensive migration experiences: six
participated in a Canadian Farm Workers Programme (nearly
identical to the U.S. apple harvest migration) and one had
been a long term migrant to England where he was a machine
operator for 15 years. In the final comparisons between
the two populations, I excluded the seasonal Canadian
migrants, yielding a control population of 83.
From all 134 households I collected information on the
aspects of Jamaican peasant farming discussed above as well
as sociodemographic data. This information was
cross-checked by direct observation, through the use of key

8
informants, with AMC, Potato Cooperative and IRDP records
and by repeated visits to the households and their fields.
Subsequently, I randomly selected a sub-sample of 11 farm
workers' households and 11 control households, from whom I
collected more detailed and more reliable data on
investment strategies, household histories, social
relations with other houses and changes in the farming
system over time, as well as supplementing previously
obtained information. This sub-sample was also used as a
gauge by which I could judge the reliability of the
findings from the larger sample of 134 respondents. From
the farm workers I also obtained additional information
specific to their experience of working in the United
States (e.g., number of seasons, whether they worked in
apples or cane or both, years of travel, expenditures in
the U.S., uses of overseas money, etc.).
After completing the survey research in Jamaica, I
traveled to the United States between September and
December of 1982 to conduct research in the appple growing
region of the U.S. Northeast and the sugar cane growing
region of South Florida. In the U.S. Northeast I visited
three apple labor camps, in Martinsburg, West Virginia,
Winchester, Virginia and Londonberry, New Hampshire. In
addition to observing and interviewing Jamaican farm
workers, I interviewed residents of the U.S. host
communities and U.S. Department of Labor personnel and

9
consulted local newspapers. Both in South Florida and in
the U.S. Northeast I paid specific attention to the
consumer behavior of the Jamaicans, to the wage figures
shown on their paychecks, to their remittance behavior, and
to their interactions with the native U.S. populations.
Because of difficulties associated with the geographic
distance between labor camps, random sampling was
impossible. Instead, I utilized my relationships with
Jamaicans I had met in Jamaica during the summer of 1982
for the selection of respondents. The information gathered
in this context provides useful data on migrant workers in
the U.S., although the nature of the sample precludes
generalizing to the labor force as a whole.
In 1983, I returned to Jamaica for four months to
observe the behavior of women in the Two Meetings Watershed
and their use of remittances received from the migrants. I
also interviewed and observed migrants' households from
parishes outside the Two Meetings Watershed (primarily St.
Elizabeth and Westmoreland) for comparative purposes.
Implications of the Study for Peasants as Labor Migrants
The findings of this study contain implications for
the study of peasants, especially those analyses which
focus on peasants as migrant laborers. Although peasants
have been the subject of scholary attention for decades,

10
controversy remains over the precise definition of this
term. While this work will not resolve this debate, it is
necessary to review the characteristics that enter into the
definition used here. Generally, peasant production is
organized on the basis of social relations within and
between rural peasant households. Unpaid or underpaid
family labor, cooperative labor arrangements, and hired
labor are combined within the peasant production process to
provide rural households with agricultural and petty goods
and services. The household is the principal unit within
which decisions are made and in which labor is allocated
for production. The relations within and between
households are dynamically related to the natural or
biological growth of the peasant household and its
relationship to the growth of other households. The
primary object of peasant production is to provide for the
subsistence and the eventual reproduction of the household
(Meillassoux, 1972). Subsistence involves the material
provisioning of the peasant household and draws peasant
households into relationships with one another, within and
between generations, which provide social security for
direct producers and for those too old and too young to
work. Reproduction involves the physiological reproduction
of the human energy necessary to engage in labor-intensive
production, as well as the reproduction of the social
relations within and between peasant households which

provide for social security and provisioning. Peasant
agriculture tends to be characterized by small and usually
marginal landholdings, labor intensive production
techniques, and diverse crop and livestock varieties which
assure household nuturitional needs. In addition to
meeting household nutritional needs, peasant farms provide,
or attempt to provide, rural households with cash through
the sale of produce to local, regional, national and
sometimes world marketing systems.
Peasants are not everywhere uniform in the strategies
they employ to survive and reproduce. Some peasantries, as
in the case of Jamaica, include segments who attempt to
acquire and accumulate capital for investment and expansion
purposes. Historically, peasantries such as the Jamaican
peasantry have been defined as living in open peasant
communities as opposed to closed corporate communities
(Wolf, 1957). Although peasants the world over live in
communities that are politically and economically parts of
nation-states, these communities differ with regard to the
degree of their interaction with the nation, and the effect
of outside contact on the social relations within the
peasant community. Jamaican peasant communities have
historically been open to outside influences. Typically,
peasantries such as the Jamaican peasantry include peasants
who, by responding to market and investment opportunities,
have become transformed from peasants into rural producers

who own and control small scale capital. The intrusion of
the world market demand for bananas into Jamaica, for
*
example, resulted in many peasants becoming small
capitalist farmers (Robotham, 1977: 53; Griffith, 1979),
many of whom retained links to the peasantry. In the case
of those who produced bananas, a substantial portion of
these capitalist farmers returned to a reliance on peasant
social relations following a plague of diseases which
crippled the banana trade in Jamaica (Griffith, 1979).
Although Jamaican peasants are similar to other
peasants in open communities, Migdal (1974) has argued
that communal control and resistance to outside contact in
closed peasant communities has begun to erode. Migration
has contributed greatly to this process (Migdal, 1974:
112-125; cf. Magnarella, 1974: 179-183, 1979:119-123;
Brandes, 1975: 13-17). The findings presented here on the
impact of labor migration on a peasantry may therefore be
applicable to both closed and open peasant communities.
Labor migration is common among peasants for a variety
of reasons. Because they often produce at levels below the
minimum needed for household maintenance and reproduction,
or because their household consumption demands expand as
they are exposed to wider varieties of goods and services,
peasants must often supplement income generated by
household production by seeking wage labor. The necessity
of supplementing household income with wage labor often

results in internal labor migration (migration within the
peasant's home country) or international labor migration.
Both internal and international labor migration among
peasants have received a great deal of scholarly attention
in recent years. These studies have resulted in the
development of theories which seek to understand, explain,
and predict the causes and consequences of labor migration
for both sending and receiving societies.
In the context of these broader issues, this study
presents an analysis of data on Jamaican peasants who
return to their home countries after participating in a
seasonal, international legal labor migration program. A
principal objective is to test the hypothesis that these
migrants contribute to the development of their home
countries by investing overseas earnings in primary
economic activites, in this case their peasant farms. The
findings also have some limited implications for theories
of labor migration among peasants, in particular theories
which address the issue of whether or not return migration
results in the economic development of countries which
routinely supply labor to other, more developed countries.
As noted previously, a central issue in the literature
addressing the relationships between return migration and
economic development is whether or not migrants returning
from developed to underdeveloped countries use their
earnings to acquire and accumulate capital. Capital

14
formation and accumulation among returning migrants have
received attention because these factors are assumed to be
economically beneficial for underdeveloped countries.
Positive macrostrue tura 1 effects, in turn, are assumed to
follow from the improvement of the individual migrant's
standard of living, the generation of employment, an
increase in the production of goods and services, and a
decrease in the migrant's reliance on state welfare
systems. On the other hand, if return migrants fail to
accumulate capital with their earnings, using them instead
to meet household expenses, the benefits of international
labor migration accrue primarily to the industries in which
the migrants work. The benefits to the migrants' home
countries and communities are vastly reduced or may, in
some instances, be negative. The latter is presumed to
follow from the fact that sending countries contribute to
the maintenance of migrant laborers during their
unproductive years (youth and old age), while the
industries and countries in which they work receive the
benefits of their labor power during the peak productive
period. Unless the migrants acquire and accumulate
capital, they continue to tax the support systems of their
home countries and communities while contributing little to
the development of productive enterprises which could, in
turn, reduce reliance on these support systems. Without
capital accumulation, the migrant returning home must

15
continue to rely on wage labor, compete with others for
jobs in countries usually characterized by high rates of
unemployment, as well as compete for such things as credit,
agricultural extension services, development monies, and
health and education services. Finally, without capital
accumulation, the migrant's children also continue to rely
on and need the systems of support provided by the state
and informal social security networks, and must continue to
rely on wage labor.
The impacts of internation labor migration on the
sending countries, however, should not be regarded as
entirely negative. The remittances migrants send to
underdeveloped countries provide foreign exchange for the
underdeveloped country, the migrants' households benefit
during the migrants' years of travel by acquiring goods and
income, and the absence of the migrants reduces pressure on
support systems and labor markets while they are away.
Nevertheless these positive effects must be placed in the
context of the negative factors noted above.
Three dimensions of The BWI Temporary Alien Labor
Program make it particularly suitable to the study of the
impact of return international labor migration on a
peasantry. First, it is seasonal labor migration,
providing Jamaican peasants with the opportunity to
annually move between their home communities and a setting
in which they are wage laborers, spending around half of

16
the year in each setting. The participation of Jamaican
peasants in this program thus differs from most incidences
of legal international labor migration among peasants,
which usually involve peasants residing in countries
foreign to them for long time periods, such as those who
participate in the European guestworker programs (e.g.,
Magnarella, 1979 ; Abadan-Unat, ed. , 1976 ; Rhoades, 1978 ;
Brandes, 1975). Seasonal migration among peasants is
usually confined to labor migration within their home
countries (e.g., Kemper, 1977). Second, the program is
international, with migrants moving between underdeveloped
countries in the Caribbean to a developed country and then
returning to the underdeveloped country. This provides
Jamaican peasants with an opportunity to receive wages
which are high by the standards of their home countries, as
well as to acquire the goods, information, and experiences
of an economically developed setting. Third, the Jamaican
peasants who participate in this program vary with regard
to the number of years they travel to the U.S., some
participating in the program only a single year and others
participting as many as twenty to thirty years. This
allows us to introduce a temporal dimension into the
analysis, focussing specifically on how differential
participation in the program, and hence different degrees
of frequency of movement between the peasantry and the wage

17
labor setting, leads to differential social relational and
economic impacts within the peasantry.
The analysis of this program's impact on the Jamaican
peasantry proceeds along two comparative lines. First,
comparisons are made between Jamaican peasants who have
participated in the program and Jamaican peasants who have
not had equivalent migration experiences. These
comparisons seek to determine the extent and nature of the
socioeconomic differentiation which occurs within the
Jamaican peasantry as a direct result of seasonal
international labor migration. That is, these comparisons
address the question of whether the single variable of
seasonal international labor migration functions to
differentiate peasant producers from one another.
Second, the aspect of differential participation in
the program allows us to compare the participants in the
program with one another, focussing on the results of
differing degrees of access to the wages, goods,
information, and experiences of the developed world. These
comparisons are designed to investigate the importance of
the number of years of participation. The information
gained through these comparisons contributes to a better
understanding of the role of international labor migration
in the process of socioeconomic differentiation and social
change within the peasantry. This portion of the study
provides insights into the changes which peasants undergo

1 8
as a result of differential participation in capitalist
wage labor settings.
A Note on Organization
The following chapter discusses the general aspects of
the BWI Temporary Alien Labor Program and the relationships
that exist between government, industry, and labor in the
U.S. and Jamaica in the context of the program. It argues
that U.S. agribusinesses desire access to this labor force
because they are "captive" laborers, and that the
continuation of the program rests on a particular intimacy
between industry and government which has widespread
political support. It then discusses the recruitment
process in Jamaica, pointing out that national level
intentions are subject to reinterpretation at the local
level, and arguing that the workers recruited for the
program have direct and indirect social connections with
representatives of the Jamaican power structure. Chapter
three, shifting to the microlevel affected by these broader
processes, describes the social environment from which
Jamaican peasants are recruited into the program, paying
particular attention to Jamaican peasant social structure
and the economics of peasant agriculture. Chapter four
presents the comparisons between the farm workers'
households and the control peasants' households, and

19
explains the results of these comparisons by examining
peasant social structure, the life cycle stage of the farm
workers, and the unreliability of peasant agriculture, in
terms of how they channel peasant economic behavior and
affect the ultimate destinations of U.S. earnings. Chapter
five focusses specifically on the role of women as
recipients of remittances from the program and argues that
their concern for social security functions to reproduce
the labor force and the conditions of life facing the
peasantry. Chapter six then shifts the analysis toward the
differences in expenditure patterns between long-term and
short-term participants in the program. It argues that
long-term participants are sometimes able to satisfy
household consumption, social security, and maintenance
expenditures, and subsequently shift from reproductive
expenditures to the formation and accumulation of capital.
Chapter seven then considers the case of Jamaican peasant
migration to the U.S. in terms of its implications for
theory and development.

CHAPTER II
THE BRITISH WEST INDIES TEMPORARY ALIEN LABOR PROGRAM
In a study prepared by the U.S. House/Senate
subcommittee on immigration, the program which underlies
this study is called The British West Indies Temporary
Alien Labor Program. In the Ministry of Labour and
Employment of the country which provides 80% of the
workers, they call it The Farm Workers Programme. These
names emphasize different aspects of the same program: the
former to its characteristic of admitting non-U.S. citizens
into the United States on a temporary basis, the latter to
its characteristic of admitting these men for agricultural
as opposed to industrial employment. The name Farm
Workers' Programme also conveys the accurate meaning that
the men who participate in the program work on farms not
only in the U.S. but in Jamaica as well. But in Jamaica
they are farm workers of a highly different character: they
work on farms not as wage laborers but as the owners or
principal managers of those farms. They are peasants at
home, rural proletariat abroad. They participate in two
qualitatively different sets of social relations of
production. The products they produce in the two contexts
20

21
are only superficially similar: they are agricultural
products in both contexts, but in the U.S. these
agricultural products, apples and sugar, are commodities,
grown strictly for sale. In Jamaica the agricultural
products the farm workers produce are grown for both home
use and for sale. That is, they are foods for the
household which, given a good yield and good market,
sometimes double as commodities, or commodities which,
given a poor yield and poor market, sometimes double as
foods for the household. In the United States they work to
help create profits for others; in Jamaica they sometimes
have to eat the goods which could possibly create profits
for themselves.
Begun during WWII, in 1943, legally sanctioned on
April 29th of that year under Public Law 43, the Farm
Workers' Programme in its first year of operation admitted
13,526 men from the Bahamas and the English-speaking
Caribbean to work as agricultural laborers throughout the
U.S. east of the Mississippi River. World War II was in
full swing and the industrial centers of Detroit, Chicago,
Gary, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and other
cities throughout the Eastern United States were drawing
U.S. citizens out of agricultural occupations and into the
armed forces and the defense industry. These population
movements within the United States stimulated simultaneous
populations movements from the countries of Latin America

22
and the Caribbean in the U.S. to fill the agricultural jobs
that the U.S. citizens left behind in their rush to help
the war effort. These job opportunities, formerly
restricted to people born and raised in the U.S., were
suddenly offered, on a temporary basis, to people born,
raised, fed, clothed, educated, enculturated, and
unemployed or underemployed outside of the United States.
Responding to cries of labor shortages among the nation's
producers of food and fiber, various agencies and
decision-making bodies within the U.S. government
organized, legalized, and administered the Mexican Bracero
Program, which ran from 1943 to 1964, and the BWI Temporary
Alien Labor Program, which continues today, forty years
later.
During the war years these programs stimulated little
controversy. Few people in either private or public
sectors of U.S. society and economy, including spokesman
for organized labor, accused these few thousand foreign
workers of displacing U.S. workers from jobs or depressing
wages and working conditions. Besides, two years after the
war's end, in 1947, the number of agricultural laborers
admitted from the British West Indies fell by around
10,000, to 3,722. In 1949, the number fell even further,
to 2,763. This absolute decline of BWI workers, however,
did not mean that U.S. citizens were returning to work in
the fields. Instead, in the post-war years, it was largely

23
mechanization of agriculture that was responsible for the
destruction of these jobs.
Nevertheless not all agricultural harvests have been
mechanized with the same speed and labor saving efficiency.
South Florida's sugar cane fields, for example, are soft
and mucky, formerly vast swamps, today disappearing due to
oxidation at a rate of around an inch per year. These
soils prohibit the use of machine harvesters used by
Louisiana sugar producers (these huge machines squash young
ratoons which grow into the following year's crop).
Regarding the apple harvests, no machine has yet been
successfully tested which can climb trees and gently pick
easily bruised fruit with the delicacy of the human hand.
In addition to the lack of fully mechanized harvest in
these agribusinesses, other developments affecting U.S.
agricultural production during the post-war years also
served to slow the extent to which mechanization undermined
the availability and number of jobs for agricultural
laborers. The sophistication of drainage and irrigation
technology, fertilizers, hybridization breakthroughs,
improved refining, storage and packaging techniques, more
rapid and complex systems of transport, the development of
new products, expanding domestic and overseas markets
during the rising post-war prosperity in the developed
world all contributed to an expansion of acreage planted in
food and fiber crops. Consequently, more agricultural

24
labor was needed for the production of those agricultural
products that were harvested primarily by human energy.
South Florida sugar producers and U.S. Northeast apple
producers, the principal agricultural producers in the U.S.
utilizing BWI laborers today, taking part in this more
general period of progress, thus needed more and more
workers for their harvests, workers which purportedly could
not be found or relied upon in the domestic labor market.
In 1950 the number of workers imported from the islands
began to rise.
Table 2-1
Numbers of H-2 Visa BWI Workers Admitted Into The United
States: 1950 - 1975
Year
Number of Workers
1950
6,255
1955
6,616
1960
9,820
1965
10,917
1970
11,887
1975
12,813
Source: U.S.
Congress/Senate , 1978 :
In 1981, the U.S. Department of Labor certified 14,735
British West Indians for work in South Florida (U.S.
Employment service, 1982).
How, in the face of rising domestic unemployment, can
these U.S. government agencies justify the continued
admittance of British West Indians for employment in the
United States? The most apparent reason for this is
offered by the Employment and Training Administration of

25
the United States Department of Labor, the government
agency which administers the BWI program. According to the
ETA, growers desiring access to this BWI labor force have
to satisfy two criteria: first, they must demonstrate that
the admission of BWI workers will not adversely affect
domestic farm laborers' wages or working conditions and,
second, they must, through active recruitment campaigns,
demonstrate that there exists no sufficient domestic labor
force to harvest their crops (U.S. Department of Labor,
1978). Satisfying both these criteria requires the active
involvment of local, state, regional, and the national
offices of the U.S. Department of Labor. Personnel from
the branch offices inspect housing conditions in the labor
camps, aid in the recruitment campaign for domestic workers
by advertising these farm labor jobs in their files, and
act as liaison people between the national DOL office and
the growers in the certification process. The national
office determines the wages and piece rates which are to be
paid to both domestic and foreign workers. Until 1981,
according to the ETA, the national office determined the
so-called "adverse effect wage rates," or the actual wage
and piece rates paid the workers, on the basis of a
Department of Agriculture publication entitled Farm Labor.
Farm Labor published survey materials that gave a state by
state average annual wage rate paid to field and livestock
workers. Taking, for example, Farm Labor's rate for the

26
State of New Hampshire during 1979 and 1980 and calculating
the percentage increase in the average annual wage rate
from one year to the next, the national office then added
the percentage increase onto the 1980 wage rate to
determine the rate for 1981 for New Hampshire. This rate
was then paid to the Jamaicans who picked apples in 1981.
It was also paid to Jamaicans who picked apples in New
Hampshire in 1982. In 1982, however, the same rate was
paid to Jamaican apple and sugar workers, not because there
had been no percentage increase in average annual wage
rates from 1980 to 1981, but because the Department of
Agriculture publication, Farm Labor, and its information
about wage rates, no longer existed due to U.S. Government
budget cuts.
These are the principal components of the U.S.
government bureaucracy annually involved in the BWI
program. Since 1943, U.S. agribusinesses have been able to
satisfy the criteria of no adverse effects and have been
unsuccessful in their efforts to recruit domestic farm
labor. According to the Florida Fruit and Vegetable
Association, Florida sugar producers annually spend around
$15,000 on recruitment campaigns directed toward domestic
farm labor (McCoy and Wood, 1982). Year after year these
campaigns have failed to produce an adequate, reliable, or
willing domestic labor force for sugar cane harvests. The
New England Apple Council annually publishes statistics

showing that between the beginning and end of the apple
harvest in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusettes, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, only around 20% of the
originally hired domestic labor force worked the entire
season. Most of the domestic laborers who quit do so
before the harvest is six days old (New England Apple
Council, 1980, 1981, 1892). Apple industry representatives
for growers in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New
York publish similar findings (Reubens, 1979).
But the question of whether or not a domestic labor
force exists to cut sugar cane and pick apples has not been
answered to everyone's satisfaction. The sugar and apple
growers maintain that no reliable domestic labor force
exists and appeal to statistics compiled and published by
growers and their representatives to support their
purported need for British West Indian labor. Yet many
organizations and agencies in the U.S., particularly since
the beginning of the 1970s, have legally questioned the
implications contained in these statistics. In 1973, the
United Farm Workers attempted to obtain an injunction
against the importation of foreign workers for the Florida
sugar cane harvest, claiming the sugar corporations were
lax in their efforts to recruit domestic cane cutters. The
UFW was defeated in court, primarily because of testimony
stating U.S. citizens simply could not do the work because
of a "social taboo" (Shabecoff, 1973: 24). In a series of

28
court cases brought against the growers since 1977, the
U.S. Department of Labor has attempted to provide a
domestic labor force for the sugar and apple harvests by
bringing in workers from various parts of the United
States, including Puerto Rico, but has usually failed to
have these actions legally upheld by court decisions.
In these cases, sugar and apple growers base their
denial of relying on a domestic labor force on past
experience. Grower-funded publications tell us that year
after year, although a full contingent of domestic workers
may begin the apple harvest, at least 70% of this domestic
labor force quits in the first five days of the harvest.
With Jamaican labor, however, the situation is quite
different. The Jamaicans are, in the terminology used by
the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S.
Department of Labor, a "captive labor force." They cannot
choose to move on to new and subjectively better jobs.
They are certified to work for a single emplyoyer, and they
cannot legally work anywhere else in the United States.
They can go back home if they so desire, or "run away,"
becoming illegal aliens. But if they wish to work legally
in the U.S., they must work for the single employer with
whom they have signed a contract. Domestic workers, on the
other hand, have the freedom of movement to move on to
better jobs and, according to grower publications, usually
do move on to better jobs. The captive nature of the

29
Jamaican work force thus assures the apple and sugar
growers that their crops will be harvested and it is this
aspect of the Jamaicans which primarily underlies the
growers' preferences for Jamaicans over domestic labor.
But this is not the only reason. The Jamaicans also
constitute a much more docile and accommodating work force
than domestic laborers, because if they act up at all,
attempt to unionize or strike, for example, the growers
will not call them back the following year. And, even
though the apple and sugar harvest may be undesirable
occupations among U.S. citizens, among the Jamaicans,
products of a poor country without employment opportunities
as relatively high-paying as these U.S. agricultural jobs,
these occupations are highly desirable.
The final and perhaps most convincing argument used by
the growers to gain access to this labor force concerns the
specific characteristics of the labor force and the
structure of the work setting. In Florida especially, the
work setting requires the mobilization and transfer of
eight to nine thousand men who are willing to work without
their families for five months out of the year, and who can
conveniently disappear at the end of the harvest. This
kind and scale of labor mobilization and transfer would be
difficult or impossible to achieve by relying on the U.S.
domestic labor market. Because the BWI workers come
predominantly from Caribbean peasantries, their own farms

30
and households can support them between sugar and apple
harvests, and while they are gone the other members of
their households can care for their farms. Thus, while the
U.S. domestic labor market may be unable to accomodate the
needs of growers, the Jamaican peasantry, as a labor
market, satisfies growers' needs.
The State and Recruitment in Jamaica
In Jamaica, the state is no less instrumental than the
DOL in the annual process of reproducing the program. U.S.
apple grower’s can request 100% of thier workers to return
annually. However, U.S. sugar growers can only request 60%
of their foreign workers to return each year. McCoy and
Wood describe the relationships that exist between the
sending governments and the sugar industry as follows:
For its part, the sugar industry seeks to restrict
participation to those workers who have demonstrated their
reliability and productivity during previous seasons. The
island governments, on the other hand, feel the need to
keep the opportunity open to as many of their citizens as
possible. The existence of these competing interests has
led to the institutionalization of a compromise recruiting
procedure. The arrangement balances the growers'
preference for a stable, experienced worker force with the
desires of the BWI governments to spread participation in
the migratory stream around among their populations. (1982:
8)
In Jamaica, in the spring of every year, job cards are
sent out from the Ministry of Labour in Kingston to

31
Ministers of Parliament throughout the island. These job
cards are passes into a three to four hour session in the
parish capitals where U.S. agribusiness representatives
meet with job card recipients and select from these
gatherings their labor pool. The job cards are chances at
employment in the U.S., not guarantees. They are scarce,
highly desired slips of paper representing not only the
possible chance to work in the U.S. but to acquire access
to the goods the U.S. has to offer and to have, for perhaps
the first time in their lives, steady incomes with which to
purchase those goods. The men who receive them protect
them with brown paper or plastic wrappings and handle them
as delicately as a single surviving photograph of a dead
mother.
Overtly, the system of job card distribution follows
lines of political patronage throughout the island.
Ministers of Parliament receive their quotas of cards from
the Ministry of Labour and Employment and pass them to
their appointed liaison officers and councillors within
their constituencies. Minister's quotas change annually
but the rural MPs receive more cards than urban ones, given
the agricultural bias of the program. The MP for Northeast
Manchester, for example, received 276 job cards in 1982.
On the local or district level in the countryside, the
political party action groups are called committees and
each district has both Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and

32
People's National Party (PNP) committees. If the MP is a
JLP member, it will be local JLP committees who receive the
cards from the MP's liaison officers and councillors.
These committee members are the men and women who actualy
hand the cards out to the Jamaican men who meet with the
U.S. agribusiness representatives. Along with the job
cards the committee members receive a sheet of paper
describing characteristics which they are to use to select
workers. Workers are supposed to be between the ages of 21
and 45, for example, have muscular builds, be reliable
workers, and so on.
But when dealing with a social resource as highly
desired as job cards, these selection criteria and the neat
structuring of the system of job card distribution yield
ground the to nepotism, favoritism, promises, achievement,
sympathy, kindness, bribery. As the following table
Indicates, although the primary sources of job cards are
committees, nearly 40% come from other sources:
Table 2-2
Sources of Job Cards (n=45)
Source Percent
o f p opu1 a tion
Commit tee
61.3
Minister of Parliament
12.9
From another person
who first received card
12.9
Justice of Peace
6.5
Ministry of Labour
6.5

33
There are indications that on the local level the
strongest determinants of the handing out of job cards are
largely familial or fami1i a 1 — 1ike in nature. The incidence
of committee members giving job cards to their sons,
step-sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, and other male
friends and relatives is high. Around 70% of the workers
in my sample have had brothers, cousins, fathers and sons
who have also received job cards. Another 20% received
their cards because of friendship ties, either directly or
indirectly through fathers or uncles who received the cards
because they were friends with some politician or other
involved in the job card network.
Table 2-3
Connections for Job Cards
Conne c tion
Percent of population
Kinship
68.5
Friendship
20.3
None
11.1
Other strategies of gaining access to these cards include
working for political party elections, giving labor free to
committee members, outright cash expenditures (tips) to
committee members, or committee members keeping the cards
for themselves. Moreover, the system of job card
distribution does not always end with the politicians (see
table 2-2, row 3). Once the committee members and other

34
politicians have parted with their cards, around a month
before meeting with U.S. agribusiness representatives, the
favors, debts, rights, obligations, and so on which come
into play are demonstrative of the desperation and
ingenuity which the rural poor so often draw upon to gain
access to scarce social resources. As evidence of the
desperation involved, one woman told me of a case where a
son threatened to kill his own father if his father failed
to give him the card he received from the committee.
Extreme and unimaginative means such as these, however, are
reported with much less frequency than cases of men
offering free of immediate charge their labor, time,
donkeys, spray pumps and other resources at their disposal
in order to cultivate connections with individuals who have
potential access to the job cards.
The resourcefulness and ingenuity of these Jamaican
men trying to get job cards is all the more admirable, as
well as more evidently desperate, when one considers that
these cards guarantee nothing. As noted previously, all
these cards do is let the men into a session where they
meet with representatives of the Florida Fruit and
Vegetable Association, the Jamaican Ministry of Labour and
the U.S. sugar corporations that hire the workers. This
team of selectors further trims the list of men eligible
for the program. How many names they put on the list which
constitutes the labor pool depends on how many men they

happen to need in a given year. By what objective or
subjective criteria these sugar industry representatives
decide to select or reject Jamaicans only the
representatives themselves can say, but the time they spend
with each man cannot be more than a few minutes. For
thirteen days, for an average of three to four hours per
day, these selectors visit one parish capital per day and
meet with between 300 and 400 Jamaican men a day. No more
than six or seven of this team actually interview the
workers. According to the workers, these six or seven
interviewers check the hands, eyes and teeth of the
Jamaican men and ask them a few questions like, "Can you
eat rice and pork every day for five months?" or "Can you
work all day seven days a week?" or "Have you ever cut
sugar cane before?" The check of the hands is supposedly a
means to determine a background of agricultural laboring
which causes a roughness and callousness to form over the
palms and fingers. The check of the eyes and teeth
evidently is some indication of general bodily health. If
they pass this verbal and physical screening, they are
subjected to a more rigorous physical examination in
Kingston and in their parish capitals on subsequent
occasions.
To give an indication of what these screening sessions
are like, on May 14, 1982, in a small park in Mandeville,
capital of the parish of Manchester, around three hundred

36
to four hundred men gathered, beginning at 6:00 AM, to
await the arrival of these sugar industry and Jamaican
government representatives. They showed up early, standing
around in groups of four and five, taking part in the
general tension and anxiety coursing through the crowd.
Around 7:30, three identical silver Honda Accords pulled
into the park. These contained the men from the FFVA and
the U.S. sugar corporations. Twenty minutes later, a
copper colored van bearing the Ministry of Labour insignia
pulled into the park, loaded with bureaucrats toting forms
in triplicate and other cumbersome paraphernalia.
Subsequently, the men filed through for their short
sessions with the FFVA and sugar industry representatives.
Then and there they were told whether they passed or failed
this initial screening, but even those who passed were not
assured of U.S. employment. They still had to pass the
medical tests and even then their names might have been
placed on a list of replacement cane cutters and apple
pickers, called only in the event of another worker meeting
an accident overseas. So even after all their jockeying
for political favor and job cards, the chance exists still
that they will not be called for employment in the U.S.

37
Recruitment and the Characteristics of the Labor Pool
Because the nature of job card distribution determines
the character of the labor pool from which U.S.
agribusinesses draw their men, any attempt to improve upon
the program by selecting for "desirable" characteristics
among the Jamaican men must acknowledge this discrepancy
between national and local level priorities, affiliations,
goals, and loyalties. What is of primary importance in
this study, however, is not the potential of an improved
program but the empirical dynamics of the program as it
exists today. It is within such empirical analysis, and by
virtue of empirical analysis alone, that we are able to
understand and subsequently determine what improvements in
the program are possible. Consequently the question we
must ask of job card distribution is this: What does it
tell us about the current complexion of the labor pool
which fuels this program?
Recent research on the socioeconomic backgrounds of
international and internal labor migrants tells us that
they tend not to come from the poorest strata of rural
society. Because of the high costs associated with
international travel and settlement in a foreign country,
extremely poor peasant farmers simply cannot acquire enough
money to make such a move. Instead, international labor

38
migrants tend to come from somewhat richer, better
educated, and generally more experienced members of rural
life, their migration being yet another step in the
continuing attempts at improving their already relatively
higher standards of living. Kemper, studying internal
migrants from Tzintzuntzan to Mexico City, found that
migration from the country to the city was not a single,
blind, desperate move but was instead based upon a dynamic
of social and financial support from the household of
origin to households, often related, at destinations within
Mexico City (1977). Such necessary connections are usually
cultivated through long, intergenerational social
positioning which draws upon the prior resourcefulness and
existing social connections of grandparents, parents,
siblings, and direct and mutual friends in both
Tzintzuntzan and Mexico City. Portes (1979), studying
illegal Mexican migrantas in Texas, found that they were
generally better educated than the norm of Mexican rural
society. Ransford Palmer describes the long-term Caribbean
immigrants to New York and other ares of the Eastern
seaboard as containing a high percentage of people from
skilled technical and professional fields (1976).
Bonacich, Light and Wong (1977), studying Korean immigrants
to Los Angelos, and Reichert (1981) and Dinerraan (1978,
1980) in Mexico also come to similar conclusions concerning
the backgrounds of migrants.

39
The logic common to these studies is that poor
households cannot finance migration. The Jamaican men who
travel to the U.S. to work in this program, however, do not
have to spend much of their households' money to do so.
Beyond nominal transportation fares between their home
districts, parish capitals, and Kingston for the initial
selection and medical tests and finally the flight to the
U.S., the burden of the costs associated with travel and
settlement are initially borne by the Government of Jamaica
and the U.S. apple and sugar companies for whom these
Jamaican men work. Free housing is provided for the men,
board costs are deducted from their fortnightly paychecks
and their air fare is paid by their employers as long as
they work for at least one half of the contract period
(Agreement for the Employment of British West Indians In
Agricultural Work in the United States of America, Form A,
1982: Clauses 5a and 5f). Without having to bear the heavy
transportation and settlement costs associated with an
international move, it is conceivable that men from
relatively impoverished households can participate in this
program.
The Jamaican men who come to the U.S. to work in this
program, however, do not come from the poorest strata of
Jamaican society. The reasons for this are clear. First,
the poorest of the Jamaican poor tend to be women household
heads and especially urban women household heads (Chaney,

40
1982). The obvious male and rural bias to this program
precludes these members of Jamaican society from
participation in the program. Second, in order to pass the
tests of U.S. selectors, these men must maintain an
appearance of strength, adequate nutrition, and other
visible characteristics associated with physical fitness.
Subsequent medical test must uphold the largely subjective
decisions of these U.S. selectors. This, however, does
little to diminish the male population eligible for the
program: distended stomachs, brittle hair, wasting away,
skin disorders and other visible characteristics associated
with debilitating nutritional deficiencies are highly
uncommon among Jamaican men over the age of 20. While
Chaney argues that "the principal dietary problem is
insufficient proteins and calories available to the poorest
70 percent of the population," she also says, "only 0.9%
could be classified as severely malnourished" (Chaney,
1982: 2-4). Most of these are young children. Finally, to
get job cards, participants in the program must in most
cases have either direct or indirect kinship or friendship
ties with local political party committee members, or else
must be able to devote time and energy to the cultivation
of these connections. In the Jamaican countryside, the
extremely poor, often landless peasants and rural
proletariat, usually do not have these ties and cannot
devote time to their cultivation. Two findings support

41
this: 1) the Jamaicans most qualified to cut sugar cane,
those who are professional cane cutters, represent only 20%
(see table 2-4) of the U.S. cane cutting labor force, and
professional Jamaican cane cutters are among the poorest
landless rural proletariat in Jamaica; and 2) the kinds of
land tenure arrangements which tend to characterize poor
Jamaican peasants (service tenure and sharecropping) are
practiced by only 1% of the U.S. cane cutting labor force
(see table 2-5) (McCoy and Wood, 1982; Beckford, 1972;
Griffith, 1979).
Table 2-4
Experience Cutting Sugar Cane (n=206)
Expe rience
Percent of population
None
58.3
On own farm
21.1
Professional
18.1
Own farm and
professional
1 .5
Professional on
another island
.5
Home Land Tenure
Table 2-5
Among Jamaican Workers In South Florida
(n=206 )
Form of Tenure
percent of population
Own
27 .2
Lease/rent
31.6
Sharecropping
1 . 1
Family land
27.4
Other
6.5

While the Jamaican men who participate in the program
do not come from the poorest strata of Jamaican society,
neither do they tend to come from households capable of
financing their members' migration and settlement in a
foreign country. They must be connected to or be capable
of establishing connections with local political figures,
but most often, for politically strategic reasons, these
local political figures at the district or committee level
are not much better off than the farm workers who travel to
the U.S. in the program. Indeed, many of the committee
members either give their job cards to brothers, nephews,
sons, step-sons or other male household members or keep the
cards for themselves. Nevertheless the committee members,
and by extension the recipients of job cards, are at least
loosely or indirectly connected to the Jamaican power
structure. This connection constitutes a social resource
with the potential of yielding not only jobs in the United
States but also such things as access to credit,
agricultural extension services, development programming
(i.e., aid monies and materials from Norway, New Zealand,
England, Germany, the U.S. and other developed countries),
government job contracts and so on. Whether they get these
job cards by their own resourcefulness or by being the son
of a committee member, eventual possession of them is
evidence that these farm workers have direct and indirect

access to Jamaica's social resources. Social resources,
throughout this work, refer to the resources a society has
which provide access to social forces of production, to
investment opportunities, employment opportunities, and
markets. In addition to job cards, they include, for
example, credit institutions, agricultural extension
services, lawyers, politicians, and administrators of
marketing centers. They can also Include influential
people who can provide access to economic opportunities.
Norman Long refers to this access to social resources
as "the strategic placement" of individuals within their
broader social systems (Long, 1977: 135). Other social
scientists studying peasants in recent years have referred
to this strategically placed segment of rural peasant
society by other terms and phrases but the importance of
these designations is usually the same: it is from these
strategically placed rural households that we expect to
find, and do in fact find, the highest levels of
entrepreneurship among the peasantry (Long, 1977; Long and
Richardson, 1978; Pearse, 1975; Migdal, 1976; Cook, 1983).
These peasants with the highest degrees of access to social
resources, either because of preexisting kinship and
friendship ties or by virtue of their own cunning and
ingenuity, tend to be the same peasants who innovate,
experiment, invest their time, energy, and money, and
utilize all the social and economic resources at their

44
disposal to better their standards of living and in some
cases create viable, growth-oriented, profit-generating
economic enterprises. In these endeavors, of course, the
social system within which they operate must cooperate to
some extent. Such socially advantageous situations,
however, are rare among the peasantry, and the social
systems in which they act more often hinder than help their
entreprenuerial activities. This is partly because of a
misunderstanding of the dynamics of peasant
entrepreneurship and partly because of the demands of a
broader social order which dictates poverty to many for the
maintenance of the wealth of a few. Nor does development
programming as it exists today and has existed for the past
thirty years tap this peasant resourcefulness, given the
documented failures of development programs throughout the
Third World under the rubric of the Green Revolution during
the 1950s and 60s and aid agencies such as USAID today
(Hewitt de Alcantara, 1976; Belshaw, 1976; Spicer, 1952;
Paul, 1955). The most innovative, creative, experimental
and ingenious of peasant entrepreneurs are not necessarily
or automatically the most receptive to development
programming. Although they usually will take advantage of
some of the services a development project has to offer,
peasant entrepreneurs, numerous social scientists have
demonstrated, are often more knowledgeable about the local
social setting, economic, and ecological constraints and

potentials than the so-called "experts" (whom the late
Solon Kimball defined as "someone from out of town").
Moreover, rural development programming is usually
agricultural development programming and little or no
attention is given to the documented attempts of peasants
to search for nonagricultural investments in such areas as
crafts production (Cook, 1983), transportation, middleman
functions, and so on (Pearse, 1975; Burchard, 1974).
Just because the Jamaican men who participate in this
program have access to these job cards and other social
resources, however, does not lead automatically to an
assumption of an ingenious population of peasants coming to
the U.S. to work. Most of these men, remember, acquire job
cards by virtue of preexisting kinship and friendship
connections. That they take advantage of the particular
social resource of job cards is no indication that they
will take advantage of other social resources. Nor is it
any indication they will put the money they make in the
U.S. to uses which generate future standard of living
increases. Surely some can and some do. However,
allegiances and influences change within the Jamaican power
structure and these are felt at the district level.
Nevertheless, the element of strategic placement and the
potential for entrepreneurship characterizes these seasonal
farm workers to the U.S. With all the overseas money they
make annually, around three to four thousand U.S. dollars

46
per worker per year, it is appropriate to assume, for the
purpose of social scientific investigation, that they enjoy
higher standards of living and finance, and engineer more
productive economic enterprises than their rural peasant
brethren whom they leave behind.

CHAPTER III
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF A CENTRAL JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
A Portrait of a Jamaican Peasant
It is before dawn and although Lenworth is still in
bed he has not been asleep for hours. A fog has thickened
during the night, reaching from the valley floor to above
the ridge, making the air damp and cool. The foot-worn,
bare, shiny concrete of the floor feels smooth and cool as
he slips from the double bed where his wife and their three
youngest children still sleep. The youngest child, a girl,
is two weeks old. There is no clock in the room and
Lenworth does not have to look at his wristwatch to know
that first light is less than an hour away. Through the
blue and green length of cloth that hangs in the doorway to
the next room he can hear his three other children
breathing, sleeping on blankets on the floor. Two of the
four rooms of his rough concrete block house are suitable
for living, but the room in which he sleeps is the only one
that is completed. The next room needs a jalousie window
in the space that is now boarded over, and a bed for the
children.

48
In two hours the July sun will have burned off the fog
and Lenworth will be waiting in Christiana outside the
office of the Director. The Director has three weeks of
work which consists of clearing away the tall grass around
the young pine trees along a northeast facing slope In the
Yankee Valley, across the asphalt road from Lenworth's
home. The Director promised Lenworth the work a month ago
but now the Community Development Officer is trying to give
the contract to a friend with whom he worked in the last
election.
Although it is still dark Lenworth does not light the
kerosene lamp on the dresser at the foot of the bed. The
room is small, ten by twelve feet, and Lenworth moves to
the front door in three strides and steps outside. He
stands in the gray dust of the unfinished block veranda,
inhaling the cool air carrying odors of farm animals and
bougainvillea and wet grass. He wears only a pair of
shorts. On his chest there are patches of tight, curly
hair. Soon the houses along the road will start their
morning fires and he will smell coffee and woodsmoke and
yams roasting. Somewhere far away a cock crows and
Lenworth thinks that a mongoose in the grass wakes to note
the cock's position. He stands looking at his two young
goats tethered to a breadfruit tree and hopes he will not
have to sell them to buy rice and flour and condensed milk.

He calls them his doctor bills. It would be a crime to
have to sell them for anything less than an emergency.
Lenworth walks over to the goats and consoles them.
His eldest son, Isra, will take them down to the summer
flowers and grass by the river before he leaves for school.
The goats press against him. Lenworth's skin is deep
black, as black as a Bible's cover, and when he stands he
is five feet nine and finely muscled from work in the
fields. The toes of his feet are splayed from walking
barefoot and his hands are rough and caloused.
Lenworth leaves the goats to walk through the four
square chains of garden around his house. He and Barbara
have planned the planting and care of the garden so it will
bear some kind of food during every month of the year.
Daily they can count on small yields of casava and yam for
the household. Soon they will have jack fruit and
breadfruit, just as the fruit of the sour sap tree begins
thinning. The sorrel plants are young now. At Christmas,
Barbara will squeeze the fruits into a sweet red
traditional drink. He stoops to the youngest of the yam
vines, their new growth smooth and purple. Behind them,
further down the slope, crooked stakes support the thorny
vines of yams that are ready to eat. Between these are a
few banana and plantain trees and seven small coffee trees.
Along the side of the house are patches of sweet potato,
pok chow, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, and thyme, and in

50
front there are twelve pineapple plants in a small space
ringed with begonia. Lenworth has five young ganja plants
which he is watching to determine whether they are male or
female. The males he will pull up to increase the potency
of the female s.
Around the side of the house, below the jalousie
window of the room where Lenworth sleeps, a rusted oil drum
stands with a twelve inch wide sheet of corregated zinc
rising from the water in the drum. Lenworth rounds the
house to the drum and dips a red plastic cup into the water
and drinks. Already the eastern sky is brightening. In
the pale light, the yellowing whites of Lenworth's eyes are
the color of the grayish tan smoke from burning sugar cane.
On Lenworth's chin is a small, square beard, and the tight
curls of his hair on his head are cropped close. His skin
conforms closely to his high, protruding cheek bones.
Between these his broad nose's nostrils angle up and back.
He is missing a front tooth.
He hears, inside, his wife Barbara stirring from bed.
Through the window he watches her leave the house, carrying
a machete. She walks around the other side of the house,
crosses the stamped smooth dirt of the back yard into the
field of yams behind the house that slopes down into the
valley. She digs down under the yam vines and severs a
piece of yam from the huge root. Finishing, she joins
Lenworth at the drum and drinks from the same cup. She is

51
five inches shorter than Lenworth, lighter skinned, still
overweight in the aftermath of pregnancy. The hem of her
full-length, light blue robe is the red of the soil and
frayed from dragging along the ground.
The small, rectangular wood structure behind them, now
their kitchen, used to be attached to a seven room wooden
house that they have since dismantled for firewood. It
belonged to Lenworth's mother, whose grave is marked in the
yard with a concrete slab. She has been dead less than a
year. During the last years of her life she lived with
Lenworth and Barbara. She saw Lenworth travel to Canada
for two years to work in a cannery and saw him use his
earnings to build the four room concrete block house. He
was not called back after the second year and the
construction of the house had to stop. Just before she
died she saw him begin travelling to the United States as a
farm worker.
The bottoms of the slabs around the the kitchen are
jagged, rotting, insect-eaten, rust-colored where they
touch the ground and soak up its moisture. Barbara crosses
from the drum to the kitchen and, inside, selects wood for
the morning fire. In the rear of the kitchen, on a metal
lid from an oil drum on a shelf, she builds the fire.
Smoke fills the kitchen, seeping through the cracks in the
kitchen wall and above through the ill-fitted shingles of
the roof

5 2
Lenworth is inside now, dressing for the meeting with
the Director. His finest clothes he keeps in a suitcase on
top of the tall cardboard wardrobe that stands in the
corner beside the door. Inside this same suitcase he and
Barbara keep their most important papers and records: the
title to two pieces of land, Lenworth's now expired
driver's license, Barbara's savings account pass book
showing a balance of two dollars, the identification card
Lenworth used when he travelled to Canada and a similar
card and pay slips from his two years as a farm worker in
South Florida. His second youngest child, a boy of four
years, breathes irregularly on the bed in the same room.
He has a slight cold. Lenworth treates the cold with a
mixture of myrrh, ganja, water, and white rum. Lenworth
believes that the ganja has the same effect as penicillin.
From the suitcase he takes his only pair of slacks
which do not have holes in them and a blue knit sport
shirt. If he were going to work in the fields he would be
dressing in the black ragged slacks and t-shirt that are
draped over a small wooden bench outside the door. He
wishes this thing with the Director and the Community
Development Officer had not occurred because he needs to
plant some yam heads on the three square plot of land by
the airstrip. Barbara could do it if she were not still
recovering from childbirth. The moon is right for the
planting.

53
There is enough light in the room from the sun now
that he can see himself in the mirror above the dresser.
Taped to the mirror are yellowing snapshots. Below these,
on the dresser's top, sit jars of Vaseline and lotions and
a tin of powder for the newborn. Lenworth adjusts his
beret in the mirror, slanting it to the side, and then goes
outside to join Barbara for breakfast. She hands him a
plate of roasted yam mixed with a small portion of salt
fish and a single slice of white bread. He has coffee in a
tin cup, sweetened and clouded with canned milk. Barbara
has only coffee.
They speak of the meeting with the Director. Lenworth
tells her that he needs a letter to show the Community
Development Officer. The letter must be signed by the
Director and must say that the work was promised to
Lenworth. The Director knew Lenworth's maternal
grandfather and Lenworth hopes that this will help the
Director decide in Lenworth's favor. Barbara knows that
once Lenworth has mentioned his grandfather he will begin
on the subject of his father's side of the family, most of
whom are in England. At fifteen Lenworth's father tried to
get Lenworth to England but could not acquire the necessary
papers. Lenworth is thirty-three years old and has not
seen his father for twenty-two years. He still regrets
that bad luck with the papers. In England, now, he has two
half-sisters who are nurses and a half-brother who drives a

54
bread truck. His father works in the bakery which supplies
the truck.
The sun is full now and the heat of the day beginning
to create waves of thick vapor from the green of the
valley. Soon the first taxi heading to Christiana will
pass. The kitchens along the road, beside their houses,
are now all beginning to send up smoke through the thatch
or around the zinc of their roofs. Inside the house the
children are waking up. Isra steps from the house in his
khaki school uniform and takes the two goats down the
footpath to the river. Barbara fetches the newborn and
suckles her. Gloria, Daphne, and Narissa, the other three
girls, step outside dressed in the 1ight-co 1 ored blouses
and navy blue smocks that Barbara sewed by hand. She
purchased the cloth In Christiana from a store owned by a
Syrian family. The money came from selling three hundred
pounds of yellow yam to Gwen, the higgler who owns a rum
shop by the airstrip. The last one out of the house is
Karl, the four year old with the cold. He is bare from the
waist down and the front of his striped shirt is in rags.
He has a round chubby face and small features like his
mo the r .
Lenworth has finished his breakfast and while the
others eat he goes into the unfinished room inside the
house and takes a paint can from the corner. Inside the
silver can are ganja and a portion of a brown paper grocery

bag. He tears off a section of the paper, fills it with
around one-quarter ounce of ganja, and rolls it into a
four-inch, cone shaped cigar, twisting the large end
closed. With the unlit cigar in his mouth he puts on his
tennis shoes and moves from the house to the kitchen to
light the cigar with a stick from the fire. Isra has
returned from tethering the goats. Lenworth tells him that
he must return directly home from school and then meet him
at the yam ground by the airstrip. They have to plant yams
and cut stakes for the vines from the brush near the IRDP's
fenceline.
From the road now, a half-mile away, come the sounds
of the light blue Hillman that will carry Lenworth to
Christiana. There are two taxis that travel the road
between Christiana and Silent Hill and always Lenworth
rides in the Hillman because it is owned by a friend of
his. He climbs the path to the road, ten yards away,
reaching the road just as the Hillman rounds the bend. As
he gets into the car he feels good that he is finally going
to meet with the Director.
Lenworth and his family live in the Two Meetings
Watershed in central Jamaica. The above description was
designed to give the reader a general impression of some
aspects of Jamaican peasant life. The following discussion
presents information on the physical, social, and economic
environment in which Lenworth and his family live.

56
The Two Meetings Watershed
Until early in 1983, the Two Meetings Watershed had
been one of the two sites of the USAID/Ministry of
Agriculture 2nd Integrated Rural Development Project
(IRDP), a project begun in 1977 with the aid of the
Norwegian government and subsequently funded by USAID fromn
1978 to 1983. According to Peace Corps volunteers and
USAID personnel, early in 1983, some accounting
discrepancies were discovered, funds allocated for specific
works projects had mysteriously disappeared, the project
crumpled and USAID pulled out. The former project's
southern boundary begins about a half-hour's ride by
minibus north of Mandeville, the bauxite mining boom town
and the country's largest inland city, capital of the
parish of Manchester. The watershed itself extends into
small sections of four parishes: N.E. Manchester, N.W.
Clarendon, S.W. St. Ann, and S.E. Trelawney. Shown a map
of Jamaica, someone asked to point to the dead center of
the island would probably come pretty close to the Two
Meetings Watershed. This central location accounts in
large part for the wide variety of foodstuffs and other
goods sold on Fridays and Saturdays in the peasant markets
in Christiana and Spaldings, the two major marketing
centers within the watershed. In addition to these

57
commercial centers, the watershed encompasses all or
portions of the smaller towns of Dump, Alston, Lorrimers,
Wild Cane, Bohemia, Moravia and Silent Hill. Such towns
are characterized by one to four small grocery stores (rum
shops), a bakery, a postal agency, a church, a school,
perhaps a ginger merchant or a banana boxing plant. In
all, there are around nineteen districts in the watershed,
the lowest level political divisions in Jamaica. In 1978,
IRDP personnel estimated the watershed's peasant population
to be around 2000 farm families, or around 15,000 people of
all ages. The settlement pattern today follows the road
system, most of the dwellings either on a road or within a
short walking distance of one, and the roads in most cases
follow the ridges atop the valleys that criss-cross the
watershed. A half century ago there was more settlement
along the small rivers on the better farmlands of the
valley bottoms, but today Jamaican peasants face the world.
Footpaths connect roads with other roads, houses with
fields and other houses, follow the small rivers or
sometimes disappear into the underbrush. Roads, footpaths,
and rum shops physically connect peasant households with
one another and with the information, goods and services
disseminating from Spaldings and Christiana and attaching
peasant households to the outside world, usually through
patron-broker-client relationships (Blustain, 1982a). From
Thursday evenings to Saturday afternoons this

58
interdependence of world, town and countryside is
particularly evident: trucks, taxis, minibuses and buses
bring the higglers and owners of rural rum shops into the
commercial centers to sell their produce and buy stock for
their shops. Marketing women descend from these means of
transport laden with burlap and plastic bags of Jamaica's
agricultural produce and an array of domestic and imported
clothing and other petty commodities. The owners of the
rural rum shops load their wholesale wares onto buses and
taxis. Through Christiana and Spaldings, goods from all
over the country and the world filter out into the
surrounding countryside.
Houses, Yards, and People
The peasants' households in the watershed accommodate
and average of six to eight people. Quite often, male
household heads also have one or two children from previous
unions whom they still support. Intergenerationally, this
phenomenon of "outside children" increases the number of
consanguineally related households between which money,
goods, services, and information flow. This biological,
social, and economic overlapping of peasant households is a
salient characteristic of Caribbean peasantries (Gonzalez,
1970; Clarke, 1957; Beckwith, 1929; Mintz, 1974) and is
common as well among peoples living in both rural and urban

59
impoverished conditions (Stack, 1970; 0. Lewis, 1966).
These diffuse kinship networks are adaptive in an
environment where households must combine a variety of
survival strategies as well as provide social security and
other services not provided by the state. At the same
time, such diffuse ties of family within and between
generations often undermine the foundations of capital
accumulation among Jamaican peasants because, quite simply,
too many individuals have some familial claim on whatever
resources funnel into the family network.
These ties between households are not highly visible,
however. The most readily observable family unit consists
of a woman, a man, the children they have had together and
the children the woman has had by other men. Variations on
this general pattern are frequent: it is not uncommon to
find an unmarried daughter with one or two children still
living at home, or a parent of the male or female household
head, or two conjugal or quasi-conjugal unions representing
parent and offspring generations living together with some
of the elder couple's children and most of the younger
couple's children.
Whatever the specific arrangement, the general
evolution of houses and yards which accommodate these
family units, as an ideal, varies little. Establishing a
new household, a young couple will either rent a place or
build a small, single room dwelling, usually of scrap wood,

60
corregated zinc, cut and straightened sides of cans,
bamboo, thatch and whatever other construction materials
they can obtain. If enough construction materials are
available, they will also build a separate structure which
serves as a kitchen. Around these structures the yard
consists of stamped and swept dirt reaching to the edge of
the family garden. These house-and-garden plots are
generally between one-quarter and one-half acre in size.
If all goes well, the house will expand as the family
expands, more elaborate and expensive construction
materials such as cement blocks, cement, reinforcement
rods, sheets of zinc, two-by-fours, jalousie windows, doors
and locks will accumulate and gradually coalesce into a
newer, larger, stronger structure as the cash to hire
masons and carpenters becomes available. Rooms will be
added on at a variable rate depending on income. During
this progression from wood to concrete the former single
room dwelling space will become the kitchen and the former
kitchen will become firewood. As for furnishings, the bed
and cooking ware come first, then a dresser, china cabinet,
tables and chairs and, for the more affluent, light
fixtures, sinks, appliances.
This general evolution is, of course, an ideal. The
actual wealth differences as expressed by house type and
elaborateness of housing vary greatly within the peasant
population of the watershed. Few peasant households have

61
indoor plumbing. A few more, but still a minority, have
electricity. Telephones are virtualy nonexistent among the
peasantry. Refrigerators are rare and stoves rarer. Most
of the cooking is still done over open fires within the
wooden kitchens separate from the sleeping quarters. The
insides of these structures are blackened and freckled with
ash, smoke filled. Firewood and dried yams are shoved up
into one corner in a pile. Along the walls from wooden
pegs hammered into pine beams hang pots and pans, if there
are any. A machete and a mortar and pestle are standard
equipment. Alongside these huts, old rusty oil drums catch
the rain for the family's drinking water.
During the day these kitchens tend to be the centers
of activity for those staying home from the fields. Women
and children gather in and around them, soaking and
squeezing the poison from bitter casava, spreading red peas
or coffee beans on sheets of zinc or strips of cloth or
cardboard in the sun, shelling peas, scraping green
bananas, roasting yellow yam, sorting seed potatoes,
skinning ginger root and piling up the shavings which
crinkle in the dense tropical sunlight. From these
activities mild and pleasant odors of ginger and pepper and
coffee emerge and drift out into the fields where they mix
with other fires' odors and the less appealing smells of
manure and beasts.

62
If there is a single characteristic which accurately
describes the majority of the houses and yards among the
watershed's peasants, it is that they are not yet finished.
The unfulfilled ideal of a fully furnished home which can
comfortably accommodate the entire family is in evidence
everywhere: piles of construction materials with weeds
beginning to grow up around them, skeleton rooms without
windows or doors or ceilings, bare rooms, families of eight
crowded into a single wooden windowless structure with a
thatch roof. The building and furnishing of a house among
the Jamaican peasantry is a number one priority in the
dreams of independence, yet it can easily become a life
long process of sporadic construction followed by years of
such acute poverty that further construction remains
hopeless. Although the squalid, hungry and barren living
conditions described by some scholars familiar with the
Third World's poor (e.g. Heilbroner, 1963) are rarely found
among the Jamaican peasantry, Jamaica's wealthy are the
people whom they compare themselves to, as well as those
closer to their standards of living but wealthier. To tell
them there are people starving in Ethiopia does little to
diminish their relative despair.
But they are not a continually despairing people.
They long for improvement, attempt to improve their
standards of living, but they do not sit around crying
about their poverty. Throughout their four centuries

63
of hardship, they have cultivated a knack for resiliency.
They may be dissatisfied with life and accept their
poverty, fatalists to some degree, occasionally ashamed of
their positions as other peasants around them improve, but
they are not terribly unhapppy, not totally bereft of
satisfaction and feelings of pride and accomplishment. At
dusk their rum shops fill with people playing dominoes,
shooting craps, dancing, listening to music, singing,
drinking and smoking what they believe to be the highest
quality ganja in the Western Hemisphere. At the same time
they can be a dignified, proud, friendly, courteous and
deeply religious people, capable of much generosity in
spite of their poverty.
Yet all societies are fraught with contraditions,
within as well as between socioeconomic classes and groups,
and Jamaica is no exception. To say that Jamaican peasants
or peasants anywhere are essentially cooperative or
essentially autonomous, rugged individuals finds no basis
in reality. Thus, these women and men trade labor and
tools with one another, give and receive food, sex, land,
and mutual aid, and simultaneously gossip maliciously about
one another, envy and mistrust each other, occasionally
cheat and steal from one another. For both cooperation and
antagonism there are historical foundations. Sexual
antagonism runs high. Child abandonment is not uncommon.

64
Verbal agression is widespread but physical aggression
extremely rare.
Phenotypica1ly ranging from deep, deep black to the
lighter shades characterizing the island's mulatto elite,
these peasants are visually quite sensitive to this
continuum of skin color. They routinely invoke their
richness of melanin as a means to explain their relative
poverty within Jamaican society. Many believe they are
poor because racist atitudes of the white society have
functioned to keep them down. A good deal of the
literature on social stratification and pluralism in
Jamaica has served to reinforce such explanations (M.G.
Smith, 1960; Henriques, 1953; Curtin, 1955; Beckford and
Witter, 1981). Most of the peasants in the watershed do in
fact fall at the melanin-rich end of the continuum. There
is no doubt that Jamaica is a highly racist society in
which shades of skin acquire significance in social
interaction and account for some social divisions, as well
as for the attitudes of salf-hatred and mistrust which
quite often surface in conversation. In a rum shop a
Jamaican once laid his arm on the bar next to mine and,
pointing to my arm, said, "This is good." Pointing to his
own arm he said, "This is bad. You give twenty dollar to
this color and you have to fight the man to get it back . .
." A little girl told my wife she wanted to go to Canada
so she could bleach out and come back and get a job in a

bank. Another black man told me that he knows when he
deals with blacks, something will go wrong, but whenever he
deals with whites he knows everything will be cool.
Nevertheless, many among the wealthiest families are
as rich in melanin as they are in capital gains. The
ethnic and racial pyramids which recent scholars continue
to draw to depict Jamaican society are no longer nearly as
fine and distinct as their diagrams would lead us to
believe (e.g. Beckford and Witter, 1981: 79). Of all the
barriers to capital accumulation or successful economic
management, skin color is not one of them.
General Characteristics of Peasant Agriculture in The
Watershed
The land which the watershed peasants farm is usually
rocky and steep. A broad deep valley, the Yankee Valley,
runs from the northwest corner of the watershed, beginning
in Trelawney, to the eastern boundary near Alston in the
parish of Clarendon. Numerous smaller valleys run
perpendicular to this and, as in so many other peasant
areas of the world, encompass a wide variety of ecozones
and soil types in a relatively short distance. People far
more knowledgeable about these ecological phenomena than I
have described the area as follows:

66
Topography: Rolling ridges with long steep or moderately
steep slopes. Soils: Halifax Donnington and Wait-A-Bit
clays, are derived from conglomerates, tuffs and shales.
These soils are extremely erodible and low in nutrients,
but they are easily cultivated. The soils are generally
very badly eroded, but the harm is reduced by the rapid
breakdown of the soil. Climate: generally cool and moist
by tropical standards. Average annual rainfall is about
70"; December to March (inclusive) is usually dry; during
the rest of the year there is normally sufficient rain for
crop growth. Winter night temperatures are quite low and
control growth. Altitude: 2000'-3000'. (Edwards, 1961: 51)
The variety of ecozones allows peasants in the watershed to
grow a wide variety of crops and affects to some extent,
along with socioeconomic factors, patterns of land use and
forms of land tenure. Root crops such as yams, coco and
dasheen are grown on virtually all of the farms. There are
a number of variety of yam and for many households they are
the most important crop. Other crops include banana,
coffee, Irish potato, red peas, plantain, bread fruit,
sorrel, sweet potato, chocolate, ginger, corn, carrot,
lettuce, cabbage, tomato, peanuts, chocho, cassava,
pumpkin, avocado pears, jack fruit, oranges, sour sop, pine
trees and marijuana (ganja). Monocropping does not fit
well with production strategies geared toward providing
subsistence for the family as well as growing crops for
sale. All fields are intercropped to some extent. Coffee
and bananas are nearly always planted together. Other
common crop combinations are Irish potato and red peas
during the late winter and spring months and red peas and

corn during the summer months, yellow yams and coco
throughout the year. It is highly typical, however, for a
single field to contain as many as a dozen different crop
varieties. From one informant's field I recorded the
following: lucea yam, yellow yam, barbados yam, negro yam,
red peas and Irish potatoes, carrots sown between the yam
hills, bananas, coffee, coco and dasheen along the drainage
ditches, sugar cane along another edge of the field,
patches here and there of sweet potato, cabbage, tomatoes
and lettuce, a few chocolate trees, a bread fruit tree,
cassava and ganja interspersed throughout the field.
Family gardens are always heavily intercropped; fields
planted primarily in cash crops usually are as well.
Among the crops grown primarily for sale are Irish
potatoes, red peas, banana, coffee, carrot, lettuce,
cabbage, tomato, chocolate and peanuts. Marijuana and yams
are produced for home use and for sale, depending on the
market, and the others listed above tend to be grown
primarily for home use. Which crops are grown for sale
primarily and which for home use varies from parish to
parish, however, and these generalizations concerning cash
crops and subsistence crops apply to the Two Meetings
Watershed. With the exception of donkeys and mules, most
livestock in the area are raised for the market, pigs, cows
and goats being the most common. These double as savings
accounts in Jamaica as elsewhere among peasants (Firth,
1963; Wolf, 1966). Donkeys and mules are valuable tools on

68
the farm and tend to be used as such rather than bought for
resale.
In terms of the factors within the Two Meetings
socioeconomic environment which influence agricultural
production decisions and behaviors, access to land and land
tenure is not nearly so determining a factor as are
household cash flows, credit, labor, and markets. There
are a few families in the area who own a great deal of land
in the watershed but who are not among the peasantry.
These families constitute a kind of old landed gentry who
have since fallen from the grace of world economics and
politics. Much of the land which they used to work has
been taken over by the peasants. The peasants recognize
that the land is owned by others, some claim to pay rent on
the land, but no rents have been collected for a number of
years on this land and the peasants are more or less free
to work it without threat of eviction. They also tend not
to make any improvements on land gained by these means,
however (cf. Blustain, 1982b). In addition to "capturing"
land, other means of gaining access to land include
inheritance (family land), buying land, leasing government
land, renting land (primarily from other peasants),
clearing land and working it for a few years rent-free in
return for clearing it, working the land of relatives who
have moved from the watershed, and in some cases simply
being given land by another peasant. Sharecropping,

69
although used in some cases among extremely poor peasants,
is uncommon, as is service tenure. At any rate, a peasant
household in the watershed with enough family labor or
enough cash to hire labor can usually find one means or
another to gain access to land. Land quality does directly
affect, along with market fluctuations, the scheduling of
planting and the choice of crops. If a peasant can get
access to land which holds water well, for example, he or
she is more likely to plant an earlier crop of Irish
potatoes than another peasant who cannot gain access to
such land.
Farms in the watershed are highly fragmented, with
peasants producing on anywhere from one to six or seven
parcels. Total farm sizes are around three to five acres,
two to three of which are cultivated and the remainder
lying fallow. The most typical tenurial arrangement in the
watershed is to own around one-quarter acre to one-half
acre which serves as the house plot and the family garden,
and to own or rent other parcels at varying distances from
the house, sometimes as far as four miles across some
pretty rugged country. This has been the pattern among
Jamaican peasants all over the island at least since the
turn of the century (cf. Beckwith, 1929; Eisner, 1961;
Clarke, 1957; Edwards, 1961). Having fragmented
landholdings sometimes results in crop loss due to theft
and an increase in demands on the household's time, but

70
also allows peasants access to a variety of land qualities
and hence a wider variety of cropping and scheduling
decisions.
To work land productively the peasants must first have
some cash. Peasant households in the Two Meetings
Watershed are chronically short of cash. Sources of credit
include the IRDP (now defunct), the People's Loan Bank and
other area banks, relatives, friends and, very
occasionally, visiting Peace Corps volunteers and
anthropologists. The banks, as is normal practice, have
interest rates which are considered too high by the
peasantry. Loans from banks are more often sought for
capital purchases, such as buying a mule or land, than to
cover the costs of planting. Long-term credit or revolving
credit systems such as those utilized by farmers in the
U.S. (Hansen, et al., 1981), if they exist in rural
Jamaica, are not available to the peasantry. Loans from
the IRDP are (or were) used with more frequency but these
are often rejected because such loans often require
peasants to adopt production strategies with which they do
not agree. This disagreement comes less from a love of
tradition than from a detailed scrutiny and knowledge of
the ecosystem and socioeconomic environment. As a result,
most peasant households in the watershed cover their
planting expenses with cash generated by previous

harvests, as well as by using cash-saving strategies such
as cooperative labor.
Peasants in the watershed, like most peasants, use
almost no heavy machinery. The IRDP used to sometimes
terrace fields for them or clear land with tractors, and a
very few peasants have hired tractor rigs on their own (I
found only one case of this), but the use of heavy
machinery is extremely rare. Nor are draught animals used
to plow land, although mules and donkeys are used to
transport produce from the fields to the roads or into
market. This leaves human energy for the farm work, and
labor is the most costly — in terms of both money and time
— of all the productive resources available to the peasant
farmer. Hiring labor is the preferred labor arrangement
among the watershed's peasants, but because household cash
flows are small most peasants in the watershed combine the
use of family labor and exchange labor (day-for-day) with
hired labor. Cooperative work bees, or "morning sport,"
are not common in the watershed, although are used in other
parts of the country (Edwards, 1961). Even with these
cooperative labor arrangements, however, there is some
expense involved: the peasant who needs the workers must
provide them with food during the day and often with rum
and ganja as well, whether they are exchange labor or
hired. At noon in the fields, over open fires, green
bananas, dumplings, yams and chicken backs seasoned with

72
pepper boil in huge pots. Drinks using chocolate or ginger
root or sarsaparilla root are usually provided for the
laborers as well, sweetened with Eagle Brand sweetened
condensed milk.
The specific combination of labor arrangements varies
from farm to farm according to farm size, household size
and composition, crop types, market fluctuations, cash
generated from off-farm sources and seasonal schedules.
Some larger farms have high labor requirements throughout
the year. However, the peak seasons for labor in the
watershed tend to be from January to late April, when the
rains begin, and again in September, November and early
December, scheduling activities around the heavy October
rains. During the summer months the crop labor
requirements are somewhat reduced and it is typically
during these months that the peasants seek off-farm
employment as well as devote time to house construction,
repair and so on. The tasks which require the most labor
inputs are clearing land, terracing, planting and
harvesting, but processing food for market and marketing
also take up a good portion of the time of some peasant
households, especially when cash crops are being grown on a
wide scale. Weeding and other general crop care are done
throughout the year but can usually be handled with family
labor or exchange labor alone. Livestock and tree-crops
are low-labor enterprises. There are, of course, a wide

73
variety of other farm and non-farm tasks which draw upon
the peasant's time (hauling water and firewood, cutting yam
sticks, child care, maintenance) and, although labor
requirements are seasonal, these people are rarely idle
(cf. Brush, 1977). Although there are some flexible ideas
about division of labor on the basis of sex, in actual
behavior women and men perform many of the same tasks and
women are equally as skilled at farm management as men.
The importance of these labor arrangements and labor
requirements as they are affected by participation in the
alien labor program will be discussed in more depth later.
The principal marketing options in the area include
the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC), the
Christiana Area Potato Growers' Cooperative, a few banana
boxing plants and ginger merchants, peasants carrying their
own goods to peasant markets and, the most commonly used
option, higglers. Higglers, usually women, are
professional itinerant buyers and sellers of produce who
come from peasant backgrounds and take advantage of
regional variations in crop types, generally buying produce
from peasants whom they are familiar with and bussing this
produce to peasant markets in other parishes for sale (cf.
Mintz, 1957; Katzin, 1959, 1971). Higglering, however, is
an occupation open to nearly anyone and for many peasants
throughout Jamaica it is a valuable and time-honored means
of supplementing farm income, as well as occasionally a

means to accumulate capital for agricultural and
non-agricultural investments. It is a highly competitive
and efficient means of getting perishable produce from
producer to consumer, but it is not without its problems.
Perhaps one of the most blatant contradictions between the
rhetoric of the Seaga regime and their actual behavior is
that they have recently initiated legislation aimed at
"savaging the higgler" (Stone, 1983), or curtailing the
previous free enterprise of higglers through complex
licensing requirements and taxes (Daily Gleaner, February
7, 1983: front page). Under Manley, supposedly an engineer
of "a disastrous decade of socialism" (Hempstone, 1982),
the freedom allowed the higglers to move the country's
produce around as well as to import goods was far greater.
With the higglers in the watershed the peasants
maintain a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, the
higglers often constitute the sole marketing outlet for the
peasants' produce. Also, unlike most of the other
marketing options, the higglers are numerous enough that
competition between higglers assures the peasant the
highest possible price for the produce. When the higglers
pay for the peasants' produce outright and bear the cost of
any loss due to spoilage themselves, there are usually no
problems between peasant and higgler. However, more often
the higgler does not have the cash up front to pay for the
crop and so the peasant must give the crop to the higgler

75
and wait until after the sale to receive his or her money.
This places a peasant producer in a position dependent upon
the honesty of the higgler. These higglers are usually
personal acquaintances of the peasants, people from within
the same district or same general area. To maintain this
delayed payment relationship, the higgler must return from
the market with some remuneration for the peasant on a more
or less regular basis. Nevertheless the higgler can return
with less money than the peasant bargained for and blame
the discrepancy on spoilage. The higglers do not have to
return proof that the crop actually spoiled. The peasant
producers thus must take the word of the higgler that their
products or portions of their products did not sell.
Jamaican peasants, as envious and suspicious of their
fellow peasants as peasants elsewhere (Foster, 1969; 0.
Lewis, 1951; Migdal, 1974; Popkin, 1979), have a low
threshhold of faith in their peasant brethren. They do not
enjoy being put in a postion where their income depends on
the honesty of another. George Foster's "Image of the
Limited Good" (1969) is perhaps the best known description
of these characteristics of mistrust and envy among
peasants, although it has since been criticized as somewhat
of a misinterpretation. That is, Foster saw the envy and
mistrust among peasants as being an expression of cognitive
orientation or belief that the goods of the world are
limited. Thus one person's gain is another person's loss.

Others understand this envy and mistrust as expressions not
of some natural cognitive orientation but rather
expressions of a recognition that the goods of the world
are, in actual fact and not in "image," limited. That is,
Jamaican peasants understand that they have historically
been denied access to land and other resources which place
them in direct economic competition with one another. When
one Jamaican peasant receives a job card it is quite clear
that another Jamaican peasant loses out. In terms of their
relationships with higglers, then, Jamaican peasants often
have to place themselves in these socially uncomfortable
positions. But this is nothing new to people for whom
hardship has been, for centuries, a way of life. Richard
Barnet reminds us: "If there is one observation about the
contemporary world which unites Marxists and non-Marxists,
it is that peasants are the world's most exploited peoples"
( 1981 : 103) .
Summary
The above discussion constitutes a general description
of peasant life and peasant agriculture in the Two Meetings
Watershed. The physical, social, and economic conditions
described are common to the entire peasant population of
the watershed. They represent the environment from which
migrants to the U.S. are drawn for the BWI Temporary Alien

77
Labor Program and to which these migrants return. The
following chapter presents the results of the comparisons
between a randomly selected population of participants in
the BWI program and a randomly selected population of
peasants who have not had equivalent migration experiences.
Both populations were selected from the environment
described above.

CHAPTER IV
THE IMPACT OF SEASONAL INTERNATIONAL LABOR MIGRATION ON
PEASANT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
Of the five sending countries, Jamaica supplies around
80% of the foreign labor which fuels the South Florida
sugar cane harvest and 100% of the foreign labor utilized
in the Northeast apple harvest. According to the Jamaican
Ministry of Labour and Employment's most recent estimate,
between six and seven thousand Jamaican men annually work
in the apple and sugar harvest (Jamaican Department of
Statistics, 1982a: 25). Data from three sample populations
indicate that the mean annual net earnings per man are a
little over US$3000.
Table 4-1
Mean Annual Net Earnings From Farm Work, Three Sample
populations
Population
Mean net earnings
South Florida
sample of 206
US$3141
U.S. Northeast and
South Florida
sample of 21
US$3418
Jamaican sample
of 45
US$3149
7 8

79
By a conservative estimate of US$ 3000/seas on/man, the
total Jamaican farm worker population annually nets around
twenty million US dollars. Twenty-three percent of this
amount is sent back to the island under a compulsory
savings program, generating between four and five million
dollars in foreign exchange for the Government of Jamaica
annually. This is as much as between 11% and 14% of the
estimated US$35,000,000 generated annually by the Jamaican
tourist industry and as much as between 4% and 5% of the
estimated US$92,000,000 generated by the bauxite industry
(Jamaican Department of Statistics, 1982a: 190).
While the benefit of the program as a foreign exchange
earner on national level Jamaican society and economy is
obvious, it is not readily apparent how the program affects
the Jamaican peasantry on the individual, household, local,
regional or national levels. We do know, however, that the
combined net earnings of the farm workers who travel to the
U.S. equals nearly one quarter (24%) of the gross domestic
product earned by the entire Jamaican peasantry (Jamaican
Department of Statistics, 1982a: 188). We also know that
the incomes of the individual farm workers are
substantially higher that the incomes generated by most
Jamaican peasant farms. Exactly how much higher is
difficult to determine, however. Although the 1980 per
capita income in Jamaica was US$1040 (The World Bank,
1982), information on the Jamaican peasantry as opposed to

80
the entire Jamaican population suggests that the annual
earnings of Jamaican peasant households fall far below this
per capita income figure and much further below the net
incomes of farm workers. The most comprehensive study of
Jamaican farmers, conducted by D.H. Edwards in the late
1950s, reported an average annual net farm income of just
under US$25 (Edwards, 1961: 184). More recent studies by
USAID personnel estimate that "80 percent of farm families
earn per capita incomes of less than US$200 per year"
(Goldsmith and Blustain, 1980: 3). Although income
information, especially that relying on verbal responses,
is among the most difficult to verify, it is nevertheless
clear that the farm workers' incomes are at least three
times as much as most peasant farms. It is therefore
conceivable that their farms might well benefit by this
income and give their households a distinct agricultural
production advantage over peasants who have not had similar
employment experiences.
From the setting described in the previous chapter I
drew random samples to compare migrant farm workers'
households with other peasant households who had not had
similar migration experiences (the control population).
Throughout this work the term farm workers refers to
participants in the BWI Temporary Alien Labor Program,
which is the term the Jamaicans use to describe these
migrants. The term control peasants refers to the

81
population of peasants who have not participated in the
program nor have had equivalent migration experiences. The
comparisons between the two populations were designed to
address the following questions: Were the farm workers
operating more productive farms than the control peasant
population? Did the farm workers have a higher incidence
of investment for farm expansion that the control
population? Were the farm workers producing
proportionately more cash crops than the control
population? Finally, were these differences between the
two populations caused by participation in the alien labor
program? These questions attempt to get at a larger
question: Does international labor migration between lesser
developed and developed countries cause or enhance
developement in the lesser developed country?
Results of the Comparisons
To begin answering these questions it is best to focus
on specific examples of agricultural production and
investment in the Two Meetings Watershed. The area's most
lucrative legal cash crop is Irish potato, produced on 61%
of the farms. I mentioned above that most peasant
households in the watershed control between three and five
acres of land but usually cultivate only two to three of
those acres.
Also, land is available by means of a variety

82
of arrangements and in most cases only additional cash and
labor inputs are required to expand production by bringing
more land under cultivation. Since labor for hire is
plentiful in rural Jamaica, coming up with the cash is the
constraint on expanding agricultural production. The total
cost of hired labor, seed, fertilizers, pesticides and
transportation necessary to plant, care for and reap a
single acre (14 CWT) of Irish potatoes amounts to J$1560
(US$880)(n) (see appendix A). By 1982/83 wage and piece
rates, a farm worker in the U.S. can easily earn this
amount in four to six weeks. With a yield of five to one,
remaining 14 CWT of seed for the following crop and
marketing the remaining 5600 lbs. at J$35/CWT, this acre of
Irish potatoes would gross J$1960, or a net profit of
J$400. This amounts to a 25% return per acre on the
original investment over a period of three to four months.
In the watershed it is possible to plant three crops of
Irish potato per year.
On the surface this appears to be a sound investment.
In practice, some of the labor necessary to plant, care
for, and harvest the crop will be drawn from the family at
no cost and probably some of the labor will be exchanged,
thus bringing the overhead costs down substantially and
increasing the profit margin. It is therefore quite
possible that returns per acre will be higher than 25%. In
spite of the apparently sound economics of expanding Irish

83
potato production, the households of the farm workers who
work in the U.S. do not invest in Irish potato production
on a broader scale than control peasant households. Table
I shows that, in fact, the reverse is the case.
Table 4-2
Comparisons Between Farm Worker and Control Peasant
Households For Irish Potato Production
Farm Worker
Control
Percent
planting
potatoes
69
57
CWTs planted
per household
per year
5.2
p= . 0 1
10.6
Average pounds
of potatoes sold
to potato
cooperative annually
(1967 - 1981)
1490
p=.228
1835
Average shares
held in potato
cooperative
9.88
p= . 2 5
13.48
(T-test, one tailed)
What does this
tell
us about
the impact of the alien
labor program on Irish potato production in the Two
Meetings watershed? First, in terms of this admittedly
restricted example, the prediction that return migrants
will invest in their home economies is not confirmed.
Indeed, it appears that participation in the program has

84
had a negative impact on Irish potato production in the
watershed. Nevertheless we cannot readily jump to the
conclusion that these production differences between farm
workers' peasant households and the control peasant
households are caused directly by participation in the
alien labor program. Even though the two populations were
randomly selected and are representative of the Two
Meetings peasant household population, there may be
alternate explanations as to why the farm workers'
households produce and sell fewer CWTs of Irish potato than
peasant households which do not have access to these U.S.
funds. However, as the following tables show, comparisons
between the two populations in terms of variables which
might suggest sampling biases which could account for
agricultural production differences reveal no significant
differences.
Table 4-3
Size and Composition of Households
Variables
Farm Worker
Control
Average age
of male
household head
38
4 2
p= . 0 8
Average age
of female
household head
3 I
36
p=.09 5
Average size
o f household
7 . 3
6.8
p= . 24

85
Tab le 4 -3 — continued
Average number
of male s
4.3
3.4
Average number
o f female s
3.0
3.4
Average number
of adults
(15 + years)
2.8
3.9
Average number
of children
(0-14 years)
4.4
3.0
Average number
of people aged:
60 +
.09
.5
50-59
.2
.3
40-49
. 5
.4
30-39
1 .0
1 .2
20-29
. 5
.8
10-19
1 . 7
1 . 1
0-9
3 . 2
2.3
Table 4-4
Ratio of Consumers to Workers Per Household
Farm Worker Control
Consumer:
Worker
Ratio 2.1:1 1.9:1
Note: workers are all able bodied people over the age of 11
who contribute to agricultural production.

86
Table 4-5
Relationships With Other Peasant Households Through Outside
ChiId ren
Farm Workers
Con t rol
Average number
of outside
children of
male household
head
1 .2
.8
Percent of males
with outside
children who are
responsible for
outside children
93.7
94.4
Mode number
of households
related to by
outside children
1
1
Moreover, careful reconstruction of the histories of
farm workers' households demonstrate that in most cases the
initial years of participation in the program coincide with
decreases in potato production and sales. In cases where
there was a break in travel to the U.S. of a year or two,
the farm workers' households' Irish potato production
increased during the years he spent in Jamaica, only to
decrease again once he resumed travel to the United States.
Irish potato increases subsequent to travel, however, do
not ususally represent substantial increases from the years
prior to participation, but instead a resumption of
previous production levels.

87
The most obvious explanation for decreases in Irish
potato production during the years the farm workers are
abroad is that their absence from Jamaica for a substantial
portion of the year prevents them from taking advantage of
this investment opportunity. This explanation however
ignores the fact that peasant farming, in Jamaica and
elsewhere, is a household rather than an individual
economic activity. That is, women in the Jamaican
countryside are as capable and as willing as men to
engineer the land preparation, planting, weeding and so on
associated with Irish potato production. The following
tables show that women are in most cases responsible for
the farm while the farm workers are abroad and that they
tend to use remittances to hire farm labor.
Table A-6
Principal Manager of Farm During Farm Worker's absence
(n = 4 5 )
Relationship
to farm worker
Percent of population
Wife/girlfriend
74.3
Brother
8.6
Father/father-in-law
5.7
Son
2.9
Othe r relative
2.9
Friend
2.9
Hired hand
2.9

88
Table 4-7
Percent of Population who Use Remittances to Hire Farm
Labor (n=45 )
Hire 73.5
Donothire 26.5
There are constraints upon a woman's time which arise
at particular stages in her life cycle, during which hild
care demands much of her attention. In Jamaica however two
factors undermine explanation of decreased agricultural
production: first, the salient phenomenon of overlapping
households means that cost-free child care services are in
abundant supply; second, as the above table shows, there is
a tendency for the wives and girlfriends of the farm
workers to use remitted U.S. earnings to hire laborers to
work on the farm, thus boosting these women to managerial
positions in the fields and allowing them time and free
breasts to feed and arras to care for the children while
monitoring the laborers' activities. Also, male household
members or male friends and relatives of the farm workers
often help the women in these endeavors in cases where
sexual antagonism undermines the woman's control over male
farm labor. We cannot, therefore, attribute these lower
production levels to the absence of the men.
This negative impact of the program is not typical,
however. More often, comparisons between the farm workers'

89
households and the control peasants households reveal that
the impact of the program as a whole on Jamaican
agriculture is neutral. That is, as the following tables
show, few significant differences emerge from comparing the
two populations on the basis of a wide variety of
agricultural variables.
First, in terms of land utilization, land tenure and
land fragmentation, the only differences that emerge are
the the farm workers' households utilize a greater
proportion of their land than the other households, and
that the proportions of rented land and owned land are
nearly reversed between the two populations. (Probability
levels refer, again, to one tailed Student's T-tests.)
Table 4-8
Land Utilization, Land Tenure, and Land Fragmentation
Variables
Farm Workers
Control
Average amount
of land rented
and owned (acres)
3.05
3.76
p= . 1 5
Average amount
of land cultivated
(acres)
2.26
2.64
p= . 1 7
Percentage of
land lying
fallow
17.5
29.5
p=.0 3 4
Average number
of parcels
cultivated
2.3
2.3

90
Table 4-8 — continued
Average percent
of land owned
Average percent
of land rented
Terms of tenure (%)
rent and own
own all
rent all
captured land
relative's land
relative's land
and rent and own
other
37
58
53
35
34.1
17.3
2.4
6.2
34.1
23.5
2.4
3.7
7.3
17.3
12.2
28.4
7 .3
3.7
These differences between the two populations,
however, do not result in different amounts of land
actually cultivated. Nor do they result in radically
different production strategies. That is, the following
tables show that for the production of crops for market and
livestock holdings there exist, again, few differences
between the two populations.
Table 4-9
Crops Production for Market
Variables Farm Workers Control
Average number
of hills of yam 726
p= . 1 1
Average number
of square chains
ofcoffeee 8.8
p= . 243
Percent planting
red peas
521
16.9
73
58

91
Table 4-9 — continued
Average number of
quarts of red peas
planted per year
19
23
Percent planting
bananas
46
46
Average number of
squares of banana
9.6
1 1
Percent planting:
ginger
32.5
31.7
corn
14
13.6
casava
4.7
6.1
sweet potato
4.8
8.6
lettuce/cabbage
9.3
7.3
carrots
4.7
2.4
Livestock
Table 4
Holdings
-10
Per Household
Varieties Farm
Workers
Control
Average
number
of cows
.7
. 9
Average
number
of pigs
.6
.7
Average
number
of goats
.6
. 6
Average
number
of donkeys/mules
.3
.2
Finally, in terms of farm management, the following
tables again attest to the striking similarity between the
two populations. Differences do emerge, especially in
terms of labor hiring practices, and these will be
discussed in a subsequent chapter. However, here it is

92
important to note that whatever differences do exist
between the two populations in terms of farm management,
these have not resulted in the farm workers households
managing significantly larger or more productive farms.
Table 4-11
Complexity of Farm
(index including number of markets utilized, number of
types of marketed crops, and number of types of livestock)
Farm Worker
Control
8.5
8.2
Table 4-12
Market Utilization
Market Farm Worker
Control
Percent using
AMC
49
60
Percent using
potato cooperative
57
52
Percent using
higglers
88
90
Me an s
Table 4-13
of Transportation
to Market
Means of Transport
Percent of
Percent of
Farm Worker
Control
population
p opula tion
Own vehicle
8.3
4.2
Hire vehicle
52.8
59 . 2
Donkey
2.8
2.8
Donkey and hire
33.4
31.0
Donkey and own
2 .8
2.8

93
Table 4-14
Labor Hiring Practices
Practice
Percent o f
Farm Worker
population
Percent of
Control
population
Exchange only
9 . 1
12.8
Hire only
43.2
36.0
Both, hire most
9 . 1
15.1
Both ,
Exchange most
29.5
22.1
No labor outside
of household
necessary
9 . 1
14.0
Use of Hired
year, number of
Table 4-15
Labor: average man-days of hired labor
weeks per year, and average daily wage
to hired labor
per
paid
Variables
Farm Worker
Control
Average number
of man-days
per year
107
p= . 1 2
75
Average number
of weeks
26.1
25.8
Average daily
wage
J$8.07
J$8.38

94
Table 4-16
Use of
Hired Labor
By Type of Task
Task
Percent of
Farm Worker
population
Percent of
Control
population
Weeding
0
2.2
Spray
3.7
0
Land
preparation
and planting
11.1
13.3
Land
preparation,
planting,
reaping
29.6
37.8
Terracing ,
ditching ,
other
improvements
3.7
0
All except
improvements
7.4
2.2
All
Í
1
1 •
1 -P-
44.4
Exchange Labor
Table 4-17
Relations Among Those households Who
exchange Labor
Relationship
Percent of
Farm Worker
population
Percent of
Control
population
With f riend s
83.3
90.0
With relatives
5.6
0
Both friends
and relatives
5.6
10.0
Others in area
5.6
0

95
Table 4-18
Sources of Cash for Agricultural Production
Source
Percent of
Farm Worker
Percent of
Control
With crop
or lives tock
sales
43.9
30
IRDP loan
14.6
21.2
Peoples
loan bank
14.6
11.2
Other bank
0
6.3
Used to borrow
0
1 .2
Denied loan
14.6
17.5
Job/Business
12.2
12.5
Percent
Table 4
o f Populations
-19
Using Fertilizers
Farm
Worker
Control
Use
66
67
Do not use
34
33
These findings lead to the rejection of hypotheses
which predict that migrants returning from participation in
the BWI Temporary Alien Labor Program will invest their
U.S. earnings in their primary economic activities. The
following discussion explains why these hypotheses have not
been confirmed.

96
The Importance of the Growth of the Peasant Household
Peasant economic activity is not individual economic
activity. The biological growth of the household within the
historical and structural position of the peasantry in
relation to the wider society has always directly
influenced the evolution of peasant production, whether
that production is agricultural or nonagricultural.
Explanations as to why these farm workers do not use their
U.S. earnings to fund significant agricultural production
increases must therefore begin with a consideration of the
natural growth of their households and link this
information with the experiences and economic expectations
of the farm workers both in the U.S. and at home.
The Life Cycle of The Farm Worker
The nature of the work for which these Jamaicans are
hired in the U.S. demands a relatively young group of
workers. Picking apples and cutting sugar cane cannot be
done as productively by older men as it can be by younger
men. With the exception of the relatively few upper level
positions within the work force (e.gforemen, firemen,

ticket writers), the vast majority of the workers occupy
the actual manual labor postions which require stamina and
youth. McCoy and Wood demonstrated that the relative level
of productivity, as measured by seasonal earnings,
constitutes a major criteria for culling workers from the
program (McCoy and Wood, 1982). Their data also showed
that around 90% of the Jamaican workers fall between the
ages of 24 and 46.
Table 4-20
Age of Farm Workers (n=206)
Age
Percent of population
20 -
25
9.2
26 -
30
21.8
31 -
35
20.9
36 -
40
21.8
41 -
45
15
46 -
50
7.3
51 -
55
2.4
56 +
.5
According to my sample from the Two Meetings Watershed, the
most common ages for males to father children in their life
cycles are from 21 to 37 years of age.

98
Table 4-21
Years Of Fatherhood
Age at birth
of first child
Percent of population
(n= 4 5)
15 - 19
26.6
20 - 25
51.1
26 - 30
15.5
31 - 35
6.6
Age at birth
of last child
Percent of population
(n=19 )
31 - 35
10.5
36 - 40
52.6
41 - 45
15.8
46 - 50
2 1.1
Note: the sample of
19 includes only those men
who are ove
the age of 39, when
years of fathering children
coming to
close.
This age range overlaps fourteen years with the common
years of participation in the program and this directly
influences the expenditure patterns of Jamaican peasants
working seasonally in the U.S. That is, from their early
years in the program, their households' consumption demands
are beginning to increase. During these years a farm
worker will likely become responsible for around five to
seven children. Most of these children will live with him
in his household but, given the common phenomenon of
"outside children" (children born by a woman a man

99
currently does not live with), one or two may very well
live elsewhere (see table 4-5). As noted earlier, these
outside children, although residenti a1ly separate from the
farm worker, remain his responsibility both legally and by
social sanction. Fulfilling this obligation often involves
contributing to the maintenance of both the outside
children and their mother as well. In most cases, this
leads to the farm worker actually being responsible for the
maintenance and reproduction of the household he resides in
while he is in Jamaican and partially responsible for the
maintenance and reproduction of households containing his
outside children. Severing these ties is not impossible
nor even very difficult in a legal sense. Nevertheless
severing these ties is uncommon (see table 4-5). This
phenomenon of overlapping households among the Jamaican
peasantry, within and between generations, is an essential
ingredient in understanding the impact of the alien labor
program on the Jamaican peasantry.
Farm Worker Interaction with the U.S. Host Communities
and Consumerism Among the Workers
Because these farm workers tend to participate in the
program during the years that their households are growing,
substantial portions of the workers' U.S. earnings never
leave the U.S. but are instead converted into consumer
goods in the shops and department stores of the communities
where these Jamaicans work. Reubens cites the high degree

100
of consumerism among the work force as a counterargument to
"the widespread notion that most of these earnings are
remitted abroad and the simplistic fear that the U.S.
economy is thereby impoverished" (1979: 21). Virtually all
of the farm workers spend some of their U.S. earnings on
clothes and shoes. In addition to this, the farm workers
need to spend some of their earnings to purchase
supplementary food for immediate consumption in the U.S.
because the labor camp food is considered inadequate by the
workers. Secondary purchases include small appliances,
watches and other jewelry and occasionally larger
appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, motorcycles.
Table 4-22
Farm Worker Consumer Behavior In the United States (n=54)
Goods
Percent making purchase
Clothes/shoes
100
Radio/tape player
87
Watches/jewelry
37
Television
29.6
Stereo
27.7
Motorcycle
5.5
3.7
The consumerism of the workers is the most visible of
all their expenditure behavior. During the sugar cane
harvest, Belle Glade, Florida, the major shopping center

101
for most of the workers, becomes a crowded bustling
commercial core which caters to West Indian needs and
tastes. The Cuban markets stock yams and Jamaican
pastries. Kentucky Fried Chicken offers a Jamaican special
and does a land office business. The Winn Dixie and other
supermarkets lay in huge supplies of pepper sauce, canned
goods, soap and other goods purchased in great quantities
by West Indians. Strings of shops owned by Palestinians
downtown stock clothes, shoes, radios, tape decks, stereos,
speakers, small and large appliances. Few items are
priced. Chicago's Maxwell Street dealing or open
marketplace haggling characterizes the conduct of business.
These merchants roughly estimate that 80 to 100% of their
business comes from the cane harvesting labor force. Signs
on their store's windows boast that they can easily ship to
Jamaica any item in the store.
During the harvest the whole town comes alive in the
manner of a resort area during the peak of the tourist
season. From October's end to March's, nearly every
evening by around four or five p.m., the streets of
downtown Belle Glade begin to fill with West Indians with
money in their pockets. They drift in and out of stores
and restaurants exchanging buying experiences and swigs of
liquor and beer, shopping, checking out prices, comparing
product qualities, planning future expenditures, wheeling
carts through the supermarkets. Discreet drug transactions

102
occur here and there. Patois dominates the linguistic
scene. Even the most casual observer can tell you that the
West Indians have not come to town to window shop. Almost
none leave the downtown without making at least some small
purchase: jeans, a t-shirt, a chicken sandwich. Between
seven and eight o'clock the cane cutters gather in small
groups of three or four or stand by themselves on corners,
their crates, boxes, and sacks resting at their feet,
waiting for transportation back to the camps. Taxis and
minibuses cruise through the downtown with the same
flexible scheduling of the Jamaican minibus system, the
drivers yelling the names of labor camps and the passengers
flagging them down, stuffing boxes and sacks under the
seats or into the trucks and piling in. In the first early
hours of darkness at the labor camps, these vans and taxis
unload and the men return to their barracks where, beside
their bunk beds in lockers, they lock up their goods. By
nine o'clock the cultural complexion of downtown Belle
Glade returns to Floridian occupation.
The communities of the U.S. Northeast which host the
Jamaicans are less dependent on their consumerism than the
merchants of downtown Belle Glade, but the workers there go
on similar buying sprees. By Jamaican standards the
products they buy are reasonably priced. A pair of tennis
shoes which would cost around thirty to forty U.S. dollars
in Jamaica costs between nine and twelve at K-Mart. Tape

103
decks usually sell for as much as seven times in Jamaica
what they sell for in New York or Boston. Designer jeans
and t-shirts cost around half as much in the U.S. as in the
Islands. Watches, jewelry, televisions, motorcycles,
refrigerators — virtually anything in the "durables"
category in the U.S. costs less than it does in Jamaica,
especially after fluctuating currency exchange rates beat
down the buying power of the Jamaican dollar. Coming
across bargains like these at a time when they have steady
incomes from farm work and also have the needs of a growing
household back home to think about, it is no wonder that
these men spend between 30% and 40% of their total gross
seasonal earnings on U.S. goods. From their net earnings,
after deductions for board and insurance, the proportion
spent on U.S. goods is even higher, between 40% and 50%.
In conjunction with board deductions, an average of one
half (51%) of the worker's total seasonal earnings never
leaves the United States in cash form.
Table 4-23
Categories of Expenditure: mean percent of gross earnings
(n= 21)
Category Percent of gross earnings
Consumer goods in U.S. 38
Goods to carry home 32
Supplementary food 6
Compulsory savings 23
Remittances/
cash carried home 24

104
Table 4 -2 3 — continued
Board deduction
Insurance deduction
13
2
Mean Percent of Net
Table 4-24
Earnings Spent On U.S. Goods (n=21)
Consumer goods
45
Goods to carry home
39
Supplementary food
6.3
The earnings which remain in the U.S. thus have little
chance to contribute to Jamaican economic development. In
light of these spending behaviors, moreover, it is no
wonder that Jamaican peasants, witnessing the return of the
farm workers with suitcases full of clothes and other
goods, their girlfriends, wives and children dressed in
fine clothes for Easter services, conceive of the United
States as a land not only of opportunity but of "many
pretty things." The farm workers' material testament to
this further nourishes the desire among these peasants to
participate in the alien labor program (cf. Magnarella,
19 79 ) .
This U.S.-West Indian interaction in the context of
buying and selling, however, does little to increase the
experience of the West Indians in ways which could have
economically beneficial repurcussions in the Caribbean
countryside. I mention this here because many scholars
imply or explicitly state that informational exchanges in

105
contexts such as international labor migration serve to
broaden experiences, expose people to new and "progressive"
ideas and perspectives, and ideologically pave the way for
capitalist economic development (Rogers, 1972; Spengler and
Myers, 1977; Smelser, 1968; Bauer, 1972). However, West
Indians participating in the program tend not to interact
with U.S. citizens beyond the work situation or in the
context of consuming U.S. goods.
This lack of interaction with U.S. citizens is due
primarily to the physical isolation of the labor camps.
Tri-County Fruit Growers' labor camp, in Martinsburg, West
Virginia, is located around five minutes outside the
community's residential edge among pastures and woods,
invisible to the Martinsburg residents from their homes.
In Winchester, Virginia, near the railroad tracks and a
large industrial complex of packaging sheds and warehouses,
another labor camp housing around nine hundred men sits
back from the road, largely hidden from view. The
Okeelanta sugar camp outside of South Bay, Florida, is a
huge combination factory where the raw cane is processed
and living quarters for upwards of two thousand men.
Guards are posted at the entrance. Nearly all of the South
Florida labor camps are surrounded by cane fields. These
factories-in-the-fieId scar the horizon ominously, separate
from the nearby towns of South Bay, Pahokee, Belle Glade,
Clewiston and Moorhaven. Linguistically and culturally

106
these labor camps resemble Jamaica far more than the U.S.
They bring to mind discussions of "total institutions" use
to describe slave plantations, fuedal haciendas and
p ris on s .
They are not however generally squalid. Although
crowded, conditions are by and large clean and minimally
accommodating. The men have lockers and beds and bathroom
facilities such as those characterizing living conditions
in the armed forces' boot camps. Electrical outlets
provide energy to their newly purchased tape players and
televisions. Some of the smaller labor camps, such as
Woodmont Orchards' in Londonberry, New Hampshire, consist
of reconditioned old houses with small upstairs bedrooms
like the fraternity houses of small college campuses. Even
these smaller camps, far less imposing than the larger
sugar and apple camps, are no less socially isolated.
The physical and social isolation of the workers thus
militates against any sustained communication which could
aid in investment and other economically beneficial
activity in the Islands. The sugar companies offer classes
leading to a high school diploma to the workers but
attendance is poor. In the actual work situation the
workers learn nothing they do not already know that could
conceivably be put to productive use on their own farms in
Jamaica. To cut sugar cane or pick apples requires stamina
and strength but no highly specialized skill. There is

107
nothing to suggest that their experiences in the U.S. offer
them anything besides their wages which could be
economically beneficial to them in their home countries.
Primary Uses of U.S. Earnings In Jamaica
With the remittances and the cash which does make it
back to the island, however, they can attempt to improve
their standards of living and, possibly, to contribute to
the development of Jamaican society in the process. Here
again the consumption demands of the farm workers'
households receive priority for the use of these funds.
These consumption demands include not only clothing,
footwear, and entertainment, but the satisfaction of a
larger consumption demand as well: the purchase of a house
and garden plot and the construction of a house. As the
following tables indicate, over half (61%) of the farm
workers designate house construction as their first or
second use of the funds which make it back to the island
and 50% utilize the money in their compulsory savings
accounts primarily for house construction or expansion.

108
Uses
of U.S.
Table 4
Earnings
-25
in J amaic a (n
= 45)
Use 1st
use
2nd
3rd
4 th
5 th
House
construction
48.3
13
11.1
10
28.6
Farming,
crops
25
47.8
44.4
50
14.3
Farming,
live stock
3.4
21.7
16.7
0
42.8
Land
purchase
10.3
8.7
16.7
20
0
Meet household
expense s
10.3
8.7
11.1
20
14.3
Uses of
Table 4-26
Compulsory Savings in
Jamaica
(n=4 5 )
Use 1st
use
2nd
3rd
4th
5 th
House
construction
28.6
21.4
0
8.3
40
Farming,
crops
39.3
39.2
56.2
33.2
0
Farming,
crops
14.3
25
25
16.6
0
Land
purchase
7 . 1
3.6
12.5
8.3
20
Meet household
expenses
10.7
10.7
6.2
25
40

109
Table 4-27
Proportion of U.S. Earnings which Reach Jamaica Spent on
Primary Categories of Expenditure
Expenditure
Percent of earnings
House construction
23.3
Farming, crops
14.2
Farming, livestock
8.3
Land purchase
16.6
Household expenses
36.6
The use of money from migration for the purchase of
real estate is extremely common among returning migrants
all over the world (Magnarella, 1979; Brandes, 1975;
Dinerman, 1978, 1981; Reichert, 1982; King and Stratchen,
1980; Hill, 1977).
As noted in the last chapter, the construction and
expansion of housing tends not to be a single year project.
Most commonly, farm workers will lay the initial groundwork
for house construction during the first year of
participation in the alien labor program, and then add to
the house in subsequent years. Building or adding a single
room costs around J$100/square foot or between J$1000 and
J$1400. How many years U.S. funds, and what portion of
those funds, are spent on house construction depends on
family size as well as personal tastes and preferences. It
is noteworthy that the ownership of a house which
approximates the Jamaican ideal — bedrooms, living room,
kitchen, bath and veranda — is closely associated with the

110
achievement of the Jamaican ideal of independence. This
visible expression of wealth and idependence is also highly
prestigious in the Jamaican countryside. Achieving such
elaborate housing conditions and the perceived feelings of
independence, pride and prestige this confers can take a
number of years. The data from Jamaica indicate that at
least some portion of the U.S. earnings (between 18 and
26%) is used for house construction and expansion during
the first five years of participation in the program (see
table 4-28).
After these primary areas of expenditure — U.S.
goods, maintenance expenses while working in the U.S., and
house construction — have eaten into the U.S. earnings,
how much does the average farm worker have left over for
possible investment purposes? Based again on average
figures for the total farm working sample, out of around
US$3000 in net seasonal earnings, after insurance and board
deductions, 38% or $1140 will be spent on U.S. goods and
around 23% or $700 will be spent on house construction,
leaving 39% or $1170 for other expenditures. What are
these other expenditures? Around half of this $1170,
between $500 and $700, they send back to their wives,
girlfriends, mothers and others during their stay in the
U.S., leaving another around $400 to $600 per year (see
tables 4-22 -4-26). Before specifically addressing the
uses to which recipients of remittances put their U.S.

Table 4-28
Changes In Expenditures of U.S. Earnings in Jamaica Over Time
Number of
years in
program
Number who have
worked x n of
years in program
House
construction
Keep farm
and household
stable
Expand
farming
Nonagricultural
economic
activities
number
percent
A
B
A
B
A
B
A
B
of total
1
54
100
9 1
9 1
100
100
0
0
0
0
2
4 1
76
90.2
68.5
100
75.9
0
0
0
0
3
37
68.5
81.1
55.5
9 1.9
62.9
0
0
0
0
4
32
59.3
62.5
37
62.5
37
25
14.8
0
0
5
26
48.1
46.1
22.2
53.8
25.9
34.6
16.6
23 . 1
11.1
6
19
35.2
36.8
13
15.8
5.5
19
7.4
15.8
5.5
7
12
22.2
16.6
3.7
8.3
1 .8
8.3
1 .8
8.3
1 .8
8
10
18.5
20
3 . 7
10
1 .8
10
1 .8
10
1 .8
9
8
14.8
12.5
1 .8
12.5
1.8
12.5
1.8
12.5
1 .8
10
6
11.1
16.6
1.8
16.6
1.8
16.6
1.8
0
0
1 1
6
11.1
16.6
1.8
16.6
1 .8
16.6
1 .8
16.6
1.8
1 2
5
9 . 2
20
1 .8
20
1.8
20
1 .8
20
1.8
13
5
9.2
20
l .8
20
1.8
20
1.8
20
1.8
14
5
9 . 2
20
1.8
20
0
20
1.8
20
1 .8
15
5
9.2
20
1 . 8
0
0
20
1.8
20
1.8
16
4
7.4
25
1 .8
0
0
25
1 .8
20
1 .8
17
4
7.4
25
1.8
0
0
25
1 .8
0
0
A = Percent of farm worker population who have worked x number of years in program.
B = Percent of total population.
Note: some double counting occurs due to farm workers spending U.S. earnings on
categories for more than one year and due to farm workers diversifying into two or more
areas or expenditure.
1 1 1

1 12
funds, I will only mention here that substantial portions
of these remittances do in fact ultimately help finance
agricultural production. In light of this and the previous
discussion concerning comparisons between the farm worker
and control peasant households in terms of agricultural
production, we must again address the question posed
previously: With somewhere around J$2400 above consumption
expenditures annually coming into the peasant household
from farm work in the U.S., why is this money not being
used to significantly expand agricultural production and
economically differentiate farm worker households from
control peasant households?
Although most of the farm workers' U.S. earnings are
spent on the satisfaction of household consumption demands,
there still remain sufficient funds to subsidize some farm
expansion. (Keep in mind, too, that all these figures
represent means, and that farm workers with more expereince
in the U.S. will be netting more income.) Nonetheless,
farm workers are not utilizing their overseas earnings to
subsidize agricultural development. They do use their
overseas earnings to finance agricultural production, as
the above tables indicate, but this does not generally lead
to the development of agriculture in the sense of expanding
production.
The primary reason for this is that nature of economic
activity among the Jamaican peasantry does not

automatically channel economic decisions toward large scale
investment in agriculture. The production of crops and
livestock constitute only two alternatives within the
Jamaican economy which are open to the peasantry. These
alternatives are time-honored and extremely important, but
they are also at times highly risky and unpredictable.
Although the range of nonagriclutural economic
opportunities open to the peasantry is highly variable and
dependent largely upon developments external to peasant
spheres of control (shifts in political power, fluctuating
market demands, historical capitalist alignments, etc.), at
times there are nonagricultural economic opportunities open
to them and occasionally these opportunities overshadow
agricultural opportunities. Occasionally, too, the
restriction of nonagricultural opportunities make farming
the only viable alternative.
The question is, how viable? In the last chapter 1
mentioned that a dominant characteristic of Jamaican
peasant farming is crop and livestock diversification as
opposed to specialization. Such diversification is in part
a response to the unreliability of weather and markets and
in part related to the demands of the household as
consumers of the peasant farm’s food. A nutritionally
sound diet does not usually result from crop specialization
among a peasantry. Bernard Nietschmann, for example,
working among the Miskito Indians of Eastern Nicaragua,

114
demonstrated that the shift from diversified economic
activities to the exploitation of a single natural
resource, green turtles, a shift which was brought about by
the penetration of world gourmet market demands, resulted
in increased pressure on the fauna of the region, a
disruption of social networks formerly relied upon to
assure distribution of meat throughout the village, and a
consequent decrease in meat consuption among the Indians,
resulting in protien deficiency (1972). Ingrid Palmer,
drawing on information from all over the world, argues that
the diffusion of agricultural technology and ethnocentric
emphasis on monocrop grains production in rural development
programming has led to nutritional deficiency throughout
the world (1972). The necessity of Jamaican peasants to
consider their households' nutritional needs as well as
their cash incomes from farming militates against crop
specialization which could possibly yield high incomes but
which does not have the security of diversified
agriculture.
To reintroduce the example of Irish potatoes, a peasant
farmer in the Two Meetings Watershed could make between 25
and 40% return on his or her investment per every acre
planted. This rate of return is, however, based on optimal
conditions from the planting to the marketing of Irish
potatoes. It is based on an assumed yield of five to one,
as assumed market price of J$35/CWT, an assumed market

115
capable of purchasing all the potatoes a farmer has to
sell. Realizing these goals is not impossible. However,
neither is it certain that such yields, prices or marketing
successes can be relied on from year to year. Anyone
familiar with the business of farming knows that farmers,
whether large or small, peasants or capitalists, are
subject to risks imposed by both the ecosystem and the
socioeconomic environment. Ecosystem constraints can be
compensated for somewhat through such facilities as
crop-damage insurance, government disaster aid, long-term
credit and sophisticated agricultural research and
extension services, making farming a viable and less risky
economic enterprise. But even in the area in Jamaica where
I initially worked, the site of a rural development
project, such facilities either do not exist or are not
utilized by Jamaican peasants because using them often
involves unaffordable interest rates or adopting new,
unproven, and unfamiliar production techniques,
implementation problems which are extremely common
throughout the world in the context of rural development
programs (cf. Spicer, 1952; Paul, 1955; Long, 1977; Hunter,
1969; Hewitt de Alcantara, 1976; Belshaw, 1976). The
deficiencies within the rural Jamaican socioeconomic
environment thus undermine much of the expectation of
high-yield investment opportunities. Recognizing the risks
of using all their money for Irish potato production, these

116
Jamaican peasants abstain from such investments on a large
scale. During the spring of 1982, for example, the rains
came early, partially damaging the potato crop and reducing
yields to round two or three to one. The damaged potatoes
were unacceptable to the two major marketing centers — the
AMC and the Potato Cooperative. Although the local
higglers would purchase them, they did so at a reduced
price. Admittedly, this was an exceptionally bad year for
potato production; it does, however, graphically illustrate
the possible risks of planting potatoes.
Instead of investing all their overseas money in a
single potentially lucrative but also highly risky
endeavor, Jamaican farm workers to the U.S. tend to spread
their risks by diversifying their economic activities.
Such diversification is an adaptive strategy among the
Jamaican peasantry. Diversification includes economic
activity but is not restricted to it. The social relations
within and between households come under its influence and
the bulk of the funds the farm workers earn in the United
States yields to its power. The concern of the Jamaican
peasantry with the maintenance and well-being of the
household arises from a history and perception of
restricted opportunity and a hope of a future which may
allow their children to participate in social and economic
shperes which were never available to them. This
participation holds the glimmer of upward social mobility

117
which may carry the parent generation up the social ladder
along with the success of the children. Failing such
upward mobility, the children will at least provide for
their parents in old age. Thus the investments which
characterize the returning farm workers are social as well
as economic in nature. The decisions these men and other
members of their households must make weigh the
possiblities of current economic opportunity against the
more reliable securities of the cultivation of social
relations among their neighbors and with their children.
Do I neglect my family for the possibility of economic
improvement? Do I overlook what appears to be a sound
economic opportunity capable of high pay-offs because my
wife and children desire nice clothes, schooling, even the
chance for music to come into our home? These are the
difficult questions facing the returning farm worker.
Processes beyond their immediate sphere of control — at
the levels of the state and the world — can do a great
deal to shift the emphasis from the social to the more
strictly economic end of the scale and back again.
Jamaican peasants are sensitive to changes in state and
world politics and economics which appear to offer them
increased opportunity, yet they are experienced enough to
be skeptical and cautious of such appearances. They take
chances but at the same time are conservative. They weigh
social security and economic gain against one another with

118
the tempering mechanisms of experience and expectation.
Perhaps nowhere is the behavioral expression of maintaining
such balances more evident than in the behavior of women as
they receive and utilize the remitted money from the farm
workers.

CHAPTER V
WOMEN, REMITTANCES, AND REPRODUCTION
The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of
every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the
production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this
special article. . . . Hence the sum of the means of
subsistence necessary for the production of labour-power
must include the means necessary for the labourer's
substitutes, i.e., his children, in order that this race of
peculiar commodity-owners may perpetuate its appearance in
the market. (Marx, 1939: 339-340)
The agricultural self-sustaining communities, because of
their comprehensiveness and their raison d'etre are able to
fulfill functions that capitalism prefers not to assume in
the underdeveloped countries: the functions of social
security. The cheap cost of labour in these countries
comes from the super-exploitation, not only of the labour
from the wage earner himself but also of the labour of his
kin group. (Mei11assoux, 1972: 102)
"They rob our sweat."
—a farm worker, referring to the sugar companies.
In any economy there are two dimensions to
reproduction. The first, most obvious is the biological —
the renewal of human energy for the production process by
means of male/female relationships, birth, nurturance,
maintenance and the eventual maturation of the young. The
1 19

120
second is the social — the reproduction of the social
conditions which provide the necessary means to achieve
biological reproduction and which largely determine the
role of the replacement generation in the production
process. When educational, employment, and investment
opportunities which reduce the children's reliance on the
household's productive resources, or when the household's
productive resources are sufficient to meet the demands of
all household members, the burden of the parent generation
ends with the maintenance of the children. The more social
and economic resources and opportunities provided by the
economic system and the state, the less the parents have to
rely on the social resources generated within the networks
of friends and kin.
Among the peasantry in Jamaica and throughout the
Caribbean, since the abolition of slavery, migration has
provided one means to alleviate the pressures on social and
economic resources controlled by peasant households (cf.
Lowenthal, 1972; Eisner, 1961; Hall, 1959; Hill, 1977).
One of the most common means to gain access to land is to
utilize the family land of a relative who has migrated.
The remittances which result from migration further reduce
the pressure on the household's resources. Whether
migration and the consequent remittances contribute enough
to production and investment to propel successive
generations to higher standards of living, or whether they

121
simply reproduce the conditions of life enjoyed or suffered
by the parent generation, depends to a great extent on the
recipients of the remittances. The nature of their social
and economic behavior is crucial to the eventual
consequences of labor migration on the sending area. The
social and economic behavior of these recipients of
remittances depends in turn on their estimation of the
range of opportunities open to them, on their economic
experience and their expectations, which are historically
derived. In the context of the alien labor program, this
responsibility rests primarily on the shoulders of women.
Women account for 93% of the principal recipients of
remittances of the farm workers in the United States. The
most important category of recipients are the wives and
girlfriends of the farm workers, who receive an estimated
US$40 to $60 every fortnight, or a seasonal total of around
US$400 to $600.
Table 5-1
Principal Recipients of Remittances (n=206)
Recipient
Percent of population
Wives/girlfriends
78.9
Mothers
14.1
Fathers
2.5
Grandparent
1 .5
Sister
1 . 5
Daughter
. 5

122
Table 5-1 — continued
Friend . 5
Other .5
Table 5-2
Average Amount and Frequency of Remittances Sent to
Principal Recipients (Based on 21 informants in U.S. and 22
Jamaican recipients)
Recipient
Amount
Frequency/season
Wives/girlfriends
U S 5 2
10.5
Mothers
US4 1
4
Other
US 5 0
1
The total Jamaican farm worker population remits
around 4.8 million US dollars to Jamaica annually. Nearly
all this currency is exchanged on the black market, which
in 1982 yielded around J$2.00 to J$2.40 for US$1.00 . (The
official exchange rate for 1982 was J$1.77 for US$1.00).
Their monthly incomes for the five to seven months their
husbands and boyfriends are in the U.S. thus come to around
J$200. Weekly, this is the equivalent of minimum wage
earnings in Jamaica.
Mothers make up the second most common category of
remittance recipients. They receive anywhere from US$30 to
$50 but usually with less frequency than the girlfriends
and wives, around every second or third fortnight. For the
total season the amount sent to mothers averages around

123
US$200 to $300. Beyond these two categories of kin, the
farm workers remit very little money to other members of
their kindreds. Although occasional money orders are sent
to fathers, children, grandparents and siblings, these are
infrequent and generally smaller than those sent to wives,
girlfriends and mothers.
What do the women do with this money? For the most
part, they use it in ways which also ultimately serve to
reproduce the labor force and to reproduce the social
conditions of the peasantry. Their expenditures are
time-honored, channelled by traditions which have taught
women in Jamaican the lessons of female survival in a
social system publically governed and geared toward men.
They use this money, not surprisingly, for their children,
investing in their primary source of social security.
A byproduct of this is agricultural production. To
keep children healthy the nutritional output of the family
farm must remain stable. Women are quick to point out that
idle or barren land hurts no one but the household. And
women, remember, are usually the managers of the farm
workers' farms while the men are in the U.S. (see table
4-6). Fifty Jamaican dollars per week will sustain six
people at the barest of subsistence levels and then only at
the expense of schooling for the children and indulgence.
With unreliable postal services where letters from South
Florida are occasionally sorted into post office personnel

1 24
pockets in Kingston, the wives and girlfriends of the farm
workers cannot totally depend on this source of cash. Thus
while agricultural production may not be expanding as a
result of this program, neither is it being totally
undermined.
In the process of keeping agricultural production
stable with remitted monies, a positive impact of the
program emerges. These women take care of young children
and manage the household as well as the farm while the farm
workers are abroad: they cannot handle all phases of crops
and livestock production by themselves. For this reason,
most of the remitted money which is used to keep farm
output stable goes into the pockets of hired hands. Labor
in Jamaica, 1 earlier pointed out, constitutes the most
precious and dear agricultural resource. With cash coming
into the household, the tendency among Jamaican farmers is
to opt for the preferred labor arrangement of hiring wage
laborers at a daily rate of around J$8.00 to $10.00 plus
meals, chocolate drinks, sometimes rum and ganja. Thus
these wives and girlfriends of farm workers, predictably,
opt for the preferred alternative and hire wage laborers.
It is a case, you could say, of energy begetting energy:
the human energy expended in the U.S. for wages leads,
through the medium of remittances, to additional energy
expenditures in Jamaica on the farms of the farm workers.
Not only does the program generate employment in the

125
Jamaican agricultural sector, it generates employment in
construction as well. Carpenters, masons and day laborers
are hired to help build the farm workers' homes.
Construction workers however tend to be paid directly by
the farm workers with the money they carry back and with
the money from their compulsory savings accounts, instead
of with remitted money.
How many agricultural jobs do these remittances
provide annually? On the basis of the sample from the Two
Meetings Watershed, 82% of the farm workers hire all or
some of their labor for agricultural production (see table
4-14, column 1, rows 2-4) and 73.5% use remitted money to
do so (see table 4-7). Although the mean figure of
man-days of hired labor per year is 107 for the households
that hire labor, I have divided up the farm worker sample
into thirds, with one third falling at the low end of the
farm labor requirement scale, the second in the middle, and
the third at the high end:
Table 5-3
Mean annual Man-Days of Hired Labor Per Year Farm Worker
Households' Farms, High, Medium, and Low Figures
population
Range
Me an
Percent of
High
100-720
230
33.3
Medium
52-96
73
33.3
Low
3-48
19
33.3

126
According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment's
most recent estimate, the average annual number of farm
workers who went to the U.S. in this program for the
1978-1980 seasons was 8962, with a stable average annual
population of around 6229 (Jamaican Department of
Statistics, 1982a: 25). Ninety-one percent of these
individuals manage small farms. To estimate the number of
man-days of hired labor per year generated by remittances,
then, I use this simple formulas:
((A x B) xC)xD=X
Where A is one third of the stable labor force (6229/3 =
2076.3), B is the peasant portion of the labor force (91%
or .91), C is the proportion of the farm worker population
who hire labor with remittances (73.5% or .735), and D is
the mean figure for for man-days of hired labor/farm/year
(230, 73, or 19). For X, then, the low figure is 26,385.93
man-days of hired labor/year generated by remittances, the
middle figure is 101,377.52, and the high figure
319,408.63. Given the particular seasonality of farming
systems on the island, moreover, most of this labor will be
required while the farm workers are abroad. Edwards's
comprehensive study of small farming throughout Jamaica
shows that reaping and planting, the two most
labor-intensive activities of Jamaican peasant farming,

127
occur primarily between October and March, during the farm
workers' absence, in five out of nine of the areas studied
(Edwards, 1962: 62-65). In the other four areas around 50%
of the reaping and planting is done during the farm
workers' absence. Thus for most of the island the farm
worker households' agricultural labor requirements are
highest while the farm workers are in the U.S. Although
the farm workers do tend to tailor their cropping schedules
so that they can take part in at least one phase of the
crop cycle, the evidence suggests that even households
whose hired labor requirements fall far below the mean
figures presented above hire the majority of their labor
during the farm workers' absence, using remitted money to
do so.
The figures presented above thus represent the upper,
medium, and lower points in the range of man-days of hired
agricultural labor/year generated by the program. Based on
a daily wage of J$9.00, the program annually generates
between J$237,473 and J$2,874,677 in wages paid to day
laborers in Jamaica, with the middle figure being around
J$912,397 (US$515,479). Stated in terms of another
measure, the remitted earnings from the program annually
provide 84 to 1024 full-time jobs in Jamaica (based on a
6-day work week, 52 weeks per year). This is as much as
between .006% and .1% of the total Jamaican Labour force
(Jamaican Department of Statistics, 1982b).

128
These measures of wages and numbers of jobs, however,
actually understate the benefit of these remitted U.S.
earnings as they generate employment and wages. A
qualitative consideration of this information yields a
clearer picture of the nature of this impact than does a
quantiti ative one. These wages are paid to temporary day
laborers, not permanent hired hands; they create part-time
not full-time jobs. Moreover, these jobs are given, for
the most part, to neighbors (not necessarily friends) of
the farm workers' households. Usually these neighbors are
peasants themselves who manage their own small farms. As
such, they too need a little extra cash income at the very
times of the year when their own farm expenses are, like
the farm workers' households', high. Although able to rely
on family and exchange labor for their labor needs, these
peasants who hire themselves out as day laborers, to plant
and reap their own crops, need cash income for things such
as seed, fertilizers, pesticides, rents, transportation to
market and chicken backs and rum for those with whom they
exchange labor when the work is being done on their fields.
These day laboring peasants can hire themselves out and
still devote time to their own household economic
activities. Thus the ripple effects of the money remitted
to girlfriends and wives is that it serves to help keep
agricultural output stable on these day laborers' peasant
farms as well as on their own. This, in turn, further

129
guarantees the reproduction of labor for the program and
for other capitalist industries and other peasant
households that utilize the Jamaican peasantry as a labor
market. At the same time, however, this practice
reinforces among the peasantry their tradition of engaging
in part-time seasonal wage labor as opposed to full-time
wage labor, a tradition which has preoccupied capitalists
and Jamaican legislators since the abolition of slavery
(Hall, 1959; Eisner, 1961) yet which has simultaneously
militated against the formation of class consciousness and
effective unionization among the peasantry (Mintz, 1979;
Knowles, 1959; Griffith, 1979).
With these remittances, then, the tendency among the
women is to keep farm output more or less in line with what
it was prior to the absence of the farm worker. That they
tend to neither innovate nor expand production is not
surprising. Most of the wives and girlfriends are at the
times in their life cycles when their family sizes and
consequent domestic responsibilities are increasing, just
like the men who participate in the program. They still
must care for young children and for the day-to-day demands
of the household. They cannot spare time for the detailed
observations and practices that agricultural
experimentation requires (cf. Johnson, 1972). In addition,
agricultural extension in Jamaica has been and still
remains sexist, oriented toward males. The female

130
component of the IRDP, for example, consisted of classes in
nutrition, breast feeding information, child care and the
preparation and care of family gardens. No attention was
given to cash cropping on larger fields. Without social
supports for the feminization of agriculture, these women
cannot be expected to significantly expand or innovate on
the peasant farm. Moreover, there are indications that
agricultural production undertaken by women is oriented
more toward subsistence than toward surplus generation.
First is the tendency of women to care for family gardens
and to care for crops which are more commonly grown for
home consumption — sweet potato, casava, pumpkin, corn,
pok chow. Second, although women will put in cash crops of
Irish potatoes or red peas, for example, the farm workers
tend to tailor their cash cropping somewhat to the schedule
constraints of their absence. That is, they usually plan
their cash cropping so that they can take part in at least
one phase of the crop cycle. For example, few farm
workers, during their travel years, have their wives put in
an early crop of Irish potatoes which would prohibit them
taking part in any phase of the crop cycle. Finally, the
records of the potato coop and the AMC, two of the three
principal marketing outlets for cash crops, contain a
disproportionately small number of female sellers. Looking
over 956 AMC receipt vouchers from three different years
(1974, 1978 and 1981), 739 vouchers were made out to men

131
and 207 were made out to women. The men sellers outnumber
the women three and one half to one.
The greater orientation toward subsistence
agricultural production than toward cash crops production
is predictable. Women throughout the Caribbean have
traditionally channelled their entrepreneurial ability into
goods and services circulation as opposed to production
(Mintz, 1957, 1964; Katzin, 1959, 1971). Also, the
development of strong mother-son bonds has, ever since the
beginning of large scale, predominantly male emmigration,
served as a valuable social investment among women (Clarke,
1957; Kerr, 1952; Henriques, 1953; Hill, 1977; Lowenthal,
1972). Maintaining these bonds involves satisfying the
nutritional well-being of the children through subsistence
agriculture. The result of this increased orientation
toward subsistence agriculture is that the money which goes
into farm output eventually is consumed by the children and
thus facilitates the physiological reproduction of the
labor force.
While maintaining agricultural production draws upon
remitted money, so does schooling. Although education in
Jamaica at public school requires no tuition expenditures,
parents must buy uniforms, books, and supplies, and provide
their children with lunch money. Schooling, like
maintaining agricultural production for the nutritional
well-being of the children, constitutes an investment in

132
human capital and a possible delayed, indirect means of
upward socioeconomic mobility and prestige for the parent
generation. The following letter from an unemployed
migrant mother in Boston to her daughter in Jamaica
demonstrates the importance that women place on the
education and welfare of their children. The names have
been changed and the addressed omitted but otherwise the
letter is here reproduced in its entirety:
5.2.83
Hello my dear sweet darling daughter Michelle,
How are you doing. How are the rest of the kids doing
Well I hope you are all fine, Say hello to and kiss Lee,
Gloria and Beverly and your Uncle Isra for me.
I hope you are all doing your lesson Michelle remember
if you do not have a P.H.D and masters degree you will not
be able to get a Job or even to find something to do into
this world and to get a degree you have to be able to go
through high school, through college and university and to
go to all these places you must be able to read and write
well in order to pass your exam, so please see to it the
other children do their lessons. I hope you are not giving
Mr. Simmit any problem that he get angry with you, remember
he is a very nice person to you all so dont let him vex
with with any of you and find any fait of you all. I hope
you are taking the best care of little Beverly for me tell
her that I still love her and hoping to be with her again.
Tell Lee to behave himself and be a good boy so that he
wont have to get much beeten, because if he do not behave I
told Mr. Simmit not to play with him. Tell your Uncle Isra
I hope he Is not been a headache to Mr. Simmit. Take care
of Gloria. Tell Lee I hope he will and is staying into the
yard and not roming street that people have things to say
of me, that I left them like hog and dog. O.K, and will
you continue to behave and grow as a nice little girl as
you always do remember to keep out of bad company anything
please tell it to Mr. Simmit, for God sake. Do remember
that is because of you kids why I have to be away into this
cold 1 am so Cold that I can hardly manage the pen if you
ever see outside snow is on the ground like a sand heap and
like mountain can you imagine, you will experience one day

133
not very long from know. So all you have to do is behave
your self and have manners to Mr. Simmit who is more than
your own father he is head wise and good with out him I
dont know how I would ever manage. I dont start work as
yet so I dont have any money any way see I send a $1 Ask
Mr. Simmit to change it for you that you can buy stam to
write me. Say Hello to Angel, Karl Robert and Jusset them
for me. Tell Miss Grace I will soon write and Mrs. Bennet.
How are you managing with the house work is the girl come
to stay as yet send and tell me how Beverly getting on in
school. Is Autie Flo come to look for you. Aunt Madge
send hello, I am fine.
P.S. be a good girl now as you always do.
Tell Mr. Simmit that money should be at the courts office
by now.
Take care and Write soon always loving Mother
Even though the recipients of remittances stress
education, as does this woman, there is no evidence that
the schooling of children is entirely dependent on the
receipt of remittances. Comparisons between the farm
workers' households and the control population show that
around 90% of both groups have all of their children who
are of school age attending school.
Table 5-4
Percent of Households with all School aged Children in
School: Comparisons of Farm Workers' Households and Control
Households (n=45)
farm worker
control
90.6
87.1
One
reason for
this
is that
schooling
of children is
generally
seen as a
top
priority
inve s tment
among Jamaican
peasants and that some portion of any money which comes

134
into the household will be diverted to this end. Another
reason is that the receipt of remittances from
participation in this alien labor program is temporary,
rarely lasting more than five or six years. The household,
of course, contains school-age children for a considerably
longer time.
Although the emphasis on formal schooling for the
children acts as a drain on household resources, including
remittances, there are few indications that as an
investment in human capital it is likely to yield high
dividends of prestige and upward socioeconomic mobility.
Thirty-nine percent of the total unemployed Jamaican labor
force in 1981 had received post-primary formal education
and 59% had attended primary school, while 77% of the
employed Jamaican labor force had recieved no formal
education of had only attended primary school (Jamaican
Department of Statistics, 1982b: 34-35; 84-89). This is
not to say that putting money into formal schooling of
Jamaican children is a wasted effort. As the woman who
wrote the above letter indicated, the ability to read and
write, as well as to count, is in itself a major
achievement and a possible means to other economically
beneficial ends.
From the above discussion it is clear that these
remittances provide women in Jamaica with the additional
means to invest in their most promising source of social

135
security. That mothers of farm workers constitute the
second largest category of remittances demonstrates that
this investment strategy pays off on an individual level.
On a social level, however, the extent to which we can
consider these investments in human capital among women
truly developmental is questionable. Consider, initially,
the curious thing which happens to the farm workers
themselves as a result of this generalized investment
strategy among women: intergenerationa1ly, they are
partially dealt out of the social security network
established with the money they send home. To describe
this process, a few case examples are necessary (again, the
names are fictitious).
Case one: Mitchell Stevens has been a farm worker for
seven seasons. He currently lives with his girlfriend
Stacy, their two children and three other children whom
Stacy had by another man. Stacy's ex-lover has since
migrated to New York, married a U.S. citizen and fathered
another child. Still, the New York father keeps in contact
with the kids he had with Stacy, sending them money
occasionally at Christmas and Easter. While Mitchell is
cutting cane in South Florida, he remits money to Stacy, to
his mother, and to another woman named Ann, his former
girlfriend with whom he had four children. Ann lives in
another house with the children she had by Mitchell, with
her current boyfriend Raphael, and with two more children

136
she and Raphael have had together. Raphael in turn has
connections with other households, but for the sake of
parsimony, consider only the following three households
between which cash, goods, services, information,
connections, love, and social security flow: Mitchell's and
Stacy's household (#1), the New York household (#2), and
Ann's and Raphael's household (#3).
Even though this does not exhaust Mitchell's
interhousehold connections, in this example we can see
that, first, although Mitchell lives in only one household,
he contributes to the maintenance and reproduction of two
(1 and 3); although he has only six children, he
contributes to the support of eleven. Neither Stacy nor
Ann, in their behavior toward their children, differentiate
between Mitchell's children and the other children because
Mitchell is the one sending the cash. Consider, though,
where the primary loyalties of the children lie and whom
they will take care of in old age. The money which goes to
the support of Mitchell's own biological children as well
as the children he lives with may enventually pay off in
terms of his support later on, but not necessarily. That
is, although the children who live with him may acknowledge
their debt to him, the three children whom Stacy had by the
New York migrant will probably acknowledge some debt to the
New Yorker as well. Not only does the New Yorker continue
to occasionally send his Jamaican children cash, he may

137
prove to be a valuable connection for the potential
migration of the children. Stacy recognizes this
possibility and actively keeps the New York connection
strong. If these children migrate, Stacy will be the
primary beneficiary. A second consideration here is that
Mitchell's children who live with Ann and Raphael may, in
the future, acknowledge their debt not to Mitchell but to
Ann and Raphael. This is less likely to occur than the
first situation, because Mitchell, as their real father,
keeps in contact with these children while he is in
Jamaica. Neverthless these children's primary loyalty will
be to Ann, and her household will benefit before Mitchell's
household in terms of social security. Finally, although
Mitchell's money contributes to the support of the two
children born to Ann and Raphael, there is no reason to
believe that these children will help Mitchell out at all
in later years, since he is neither their biological nor
sociological father.
In sum, while Mitchell contributes to the support of
eleven children, the best he can hope for is that nine of
those children will acknowledge their debt to him and
contribute to his welfare later in life. Seven of these
nine children will have other obligations as well. In the
worst of all possible outcomes, Mitchell's investment in
the support of eleven children will only yield social
security support from two. Even those two children will

138
attend to the needs of their mother, Stacy, prior to
considering Mitchell's needs. As the investments in social
security being to pay off in rural Jamaica, it is primarily
the women, who attend to the children's needs, not the
absent men, who reap the most rewards.
While Mitchell's case demonstrates the drains on his
U.S earnings because of previous unions and outside
children, and the intergenerationa1 result of this, what
happens to the remittances of farm workers who have no
outside children and who can be relatively certain that
investments in their sociological and biological children,
channelled through the women, will pay off? In the first
case I omitted Mitchell's ties with his parents' household
for the sake of clarity; in the second case I focus
specifically on these relationships.
Case two: John Rattray has been a farm worker for
eleven seasons. He lives in a household with his wife and
their thirteen children. Neither he nor his wife have had
children in other relationships. Nevertheless John
contributes to the support and reproduction of two
households with his U.S. earnings, both of them quite
large. He sends money and carries home U.S. goods for both
his own household members and for his mother and father.
As is typical in Jamaica, John's parents' household
consists of three generations: the mother and father, their
children who have not yet left home and their children

139
have left home but returned after unsuccessful
relationships, and some of their grandchildren. Like John,
some of John's sisters and brothers contribute cash and
unpaid labor to their parents' household. John, however,
is the only one of his parents' children who has a more or
less steady source of cash from his participation in the
program. Although John's parents do not depend on John's
contributions, they nevertheless expect them, and John does
in fact annually send between US$200 to US$300 to his
folks .
It is important to consider two things here. First,
the money John remits to his parents' household will not,
in the future, benefit John. That is, he is acknowledging
his debt to his parents for raising him. Second, the money
which John remits to his parents cuts into his total net
earnings, so that John has less money to spend on his own
children, the children whom John can expect to support him
later in life. John thereby lessens the amount of money
invested in each child and lessens their individual chances
for success and achievement. Finally, with so many people
drawing upon John's U.S. earnings, John has little chance
to accumulate capital assets which could help him or his
children strive toward higher standards of living.
Case three: The third and final case presented here
illustrates the manipulation of mother-son bonds by
household members and the effect of this manipulation on

140
the distribution of job cards. This case involves two
households related by a male PNP committee member named
Samuel Evans. In his first relationship with a woman,
Samuel and the woman had five daughters and two sons.
Subsequent to this, in 1974, he moved in with another woman
named Gloria who had two sons of her own from a previous
relationship. At the time he moved in with Gloria, her two
sons were 21 and 26 years old. The elder of these had
already moved out of the household and the younger one was
soon to leave. Samuel's two sons were 18 and 24 years old.
Thus Samuel was more of a social as well as the biological
father to his own children than he was to Gloria's
children. The bond between himself and Gloria's children
was not strong. However, after the move, Mr. Evans became
a PNP committee member, began receiving job cards, and gave
the first card he received to Gloria's eldest son rather
than to one of his own sons. The following year he gave
his second job card to Gloria's second son. Again, he
passed over his own son in order to give a job card to the
son of the woman he was currently living with. Only after
he had given cards to both Gloria's sons did he give the
third card to his own eldest son.
Considering these behaviors, one can readily see the
material basis of Samuel's decisions concerning the
distribution of job cards. That is, Gloria's two sons
remit money to Gloria and hence to the household that

141
Samuel lives in at the present time. His own son, however,
remits money to Samuel's ex-wife and hence to a household
that Samuel is no longer a part of. His own son also sends
money directly to him, but with far less frequency than he
sends money to his mother. By giving the job cards to
Gloria's sons rather than his own, the household Samuel
currently lives in benefits.
The above cases illustrate different dimensions of the
same process: simply, the social relatioships within and
between households function to spread remitted money
throughout the Jamaican countryside. This results in the
farm workers contributing to social security networks which
never benefit them in the future or which benefited them in
the past. These contributions further undermine their own
investments in personal social security networks and their
investments in human and nonhuman capital. At the same
time, these contributions benefit primarily women
recipients of remittances in terms of their social security
networks of today (as mothers of the farm workers) and of
tomorrow (as mothers of children who will eventually
contribute to thier own welfare later in life. Finally,
remitted money is further spread thoughout the countryside
as wives and girlfriends of farm workers, satisfying the
investment needs of social security networks by maintaining
farm output for household maintenance, hire agricultural
day laborers.

142
I do not mean to suggest here that the farm workers
themselves derive no benefits from these remittances.
These behaviors function to provide social security for the
farm workers themselves, even though women are the primary
beneficiaries. Also, the women provide for the farm
workers a broad range of services which contribute to the
social security, current and future welfare, and well-being
of the farm workers. They manage and maintain the farm
workers' households while the farm workers are abroad, they
care for their children who will aid the farm workers later
in life, and they provide affection and sexual
gratification for the farm workers upon their return. The
major point here is that these behaviors function to reduce
the extent to which farm workers have funds left over for
the possible formation and accumulation of capital and for
investment'.
The alien labor program does not cause these social
relationships which serve to spread remitted money
throughout the countryside. These relationships existed
long before 1943 and the money remitted from farm workers
only reinforces preexisting conditions. Nor is this money
the only or even the primary fuel keeping these
relationships alive. Out of a peasant population of well
over one million, only six to seven thousand men
participate in the program annually. These six to seven
thousand men, however, coming from households consisting of

143
around seven persons, contribute to the direct maintenance
of at least 45,000 people (6500 x 7 ) . Assuming that every
farm worker has social relationships which draw on his
funds with at least one other household (his parents', his
wife's parents' or his outside children's), these six to
seven thousand men also contribute to the maintainance of
at least another 45,000 people. Thus at least 90,000
people annually benefit by these U.S. earnings (nearly 5%
of the total population of Jamaica). The actual number of
direct and indirect beneficiaries is of course much higher,
when one adds into these figures the day laborers hired
with remittances and thier household members and when one
considers that many of these farm workers, like Mitchell
Stevens, contribute to three or more households.
In terms of the impact of the BWI Temporary Alien
Labor Program, there are a few different ways to interpret
this information. Considering the sheer volume of people
who benefit by these remittances, we could conclude that
this constitutes a socially beneficial impact of the
program, helping support and educate children, helping
day-laboring peasants meet their own farms' and households'
cash income requirements, providing social security and the
means to future social security among the peasantry. In
fulfilling these obligations with remittances, however,
they are helping to reproduce the peasantry and the social
conditions of the peasantry because this money goes into so

144
many pockets, hands, and storaachsn These behaviors make it
difficult to accumulate capital and to consolidate wealth.
Without the ability to consolidate wealth and to use that
wealth to accumulate more wealth, economic growth among the
peasantry is stifled.
These processes which aid in both senses of the
reproduction of the Jamaican peasantry, from another point
of view, are functional. Capitalist and peasant producers
who utilize the Jamaican peasantry as a labor force benefit
from these reproductive processes because, as Marx said in
the quote opening this chapter, the laborers continually
appear in the labor market by means of biological
reproduction and they continually need to appear in the
labor market to supplement their incomes. In addition,
because their social security is provided by relations
within and between peasant households, the state and the
economic enterprises which utilize the peasants as laborers
are relieved of a portion of the maintenance costs which
reproduction demands, as Meillassoux said. What neither
Marx nor Meillassoux pointed out in their writings is that
this particular social arrangement between peasants,
capitalists and the state sometimes backfires: it allows
peasants a degree of independence which cuts into their
reliability as wage laborers. Economic enterprises that
need wage laborers can, in underdeveloped countries, always
be assured of having a labor pool from which to draw. They

145
cannot however be assured of keeping the same members of
peasant households working for them. Under such an
arrangement, that is, there are high turnovers of
personnel. New personnel always emerge but productivity
slows down as these new personnel are being trained. The
USAID personnel working for the IRDP were constantly
complaining because of these high turnover problems. They
called the Jamaicans lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to
work, when what was really going on was that these peasants
had their own farms — their sources of independence — to
attend to. In a factory setting where the timing of
manufacture is crucial to the industry's total productive
output, such as those characterizing free production zones
and export platforms (cf. Barnet, 1981: 245-251), new
people coming in can slow down the entire enterprise.
Barnet argues that these problems arising from the
relationships between peasants and capitalist industries
has led to more and more capitalists in Third World
settings to rely less on the local labor market and more on
machines for production (1981: 260-262).
To the Jamaican peasantry, are these reproductive
processes beneficial in terms of improving their standards
of living or the standards of living of their children?
The individual farm workers, while they travel, benefit, as
do their households. That is, they obtain clothing, some
extra cash, can satisfy a few obligations and at least

146
begin contraction on their homes. The impact of their
participation may be short-lived, but it is nevertheless
important to the individuals while they are participating.
But on a social level or in a developmental sense, as long
as extensive informal social security networks draw so
heavily on funds received through international labor
migration, wealth consolidation, capital formation and
accumulation, and investment become difficult or
impossible. The bases for economic growth continue to be
undermined.

CHAPTER VI
DIFFERENTIATION AND CHANGE WITHIN THE JAMAICAN PEASANTRY
The analysis so far has focussed on comparison between
the households of men who participate in the BWI Temporary
Alien Labor Program and Jamaican peasant households whose
members have not had equivalent migration experiences.
These comparisons demonstrate that very few differences
exist between the two populations, especially in terms of
agricultural production, and lead the the conclusion that
seasonal, international labor migration among the Jamaican
peasantry will not differentiate peasant producers from one
another. Indeed, the tables presented in chapter four
demonstrated that the two sample populations are extremely
similar in terms of both demographic and agricultural
production variables, and the following tables show that
they are extremely similar in terms of socioeconomic
variables as well.
Table 6-1
Home Tenure
Farm Worker
Control
Rent
25.6
17.6
Own
60.5
68.2
147

148
Table 6-1 — continued
Lives with
parents
2.3
2.4
Lives with
other relative
4.7
5.9
Other
7.0
6.0
Table
Characteristics of
6-2
House and Yard
Farm
Worker
Control
Average number
of s tructures
in yard
1 .8
1 .9
Average
of rooms
house
number
i n
3.2
3.9
Table 6-3
House Construction Material and State of Completion
Percent of Percent of
Farm Worker Control
Material :
Covered
concrete block 44.8 60.4
Rough
concrete block 48.3 13.2
6.9 26.4
Wood

149
Table 6-3 — continued
State of Completion:
Finished 62.1 65.5
Unfinished 37.9 32.7
Table 6-4
Other Socioeconomic
Indicators
Indicator
Farm Worker
Control
Percent owning
rum shops
6 . 7
5.5
Percent with
in homes
29.6
34.0
Percent with
indoor plumbing
9 . 1
13.0
Percent owning
televisions
36.0
14.6
In these tables there are only two comparative outcomes
which would suggest that the farm workers' households are
of somewhat higher socioeconomic standing than other
peasant households. That is, around twice as many farm
workers' households own television sets, and a larger
percentage of farm workers live in houses made of concrete
block as opposed to cheaper, less prestigious, and less
structurally sound wooden houses. These differences have
little to do with agricultural production, capital
formation and accumulation, investment, and other economic

150
activities which would indicate that participation in
seasonal, international labor migration will automatically
lead to economic development in the Jamaican countryside.
The above analysis, moreover, explained the lack of
differences between the two populations by examining and
describing aspects of Jamaican peasant social structure.
Relationships within and between peasant households, based
on a need to consider social security and reproduction
before expanding production, function to spread the U.S.
earnings of the farm workers throughout their kinship
networks and serve to reinforce prevailing social
strategies within the peasantry. It should be noted that
social structural factors such as these are central to
historical-structura1 approaches to the study of labor
migration, a point which will become important in the
following chapter.
In this chapter I shift the focus of analysis
somewhat, and attempt to determine whether the length of
participation in the program is a crucial variable in
differentiating the farm workers' households from one
another and whether prolonged participation in the program
leads to differentiation and change within the Jamaican
countryside. To accomplish this, I focus in particular on
those farm workers who have succeeded in accumulating
capital with their U.S. earnings, and then move on to
discuss the repercussions of their economic activities in

151
the Jamaican countryside. Comparisons between the farm
worker population and a control population do not reveal
these cases because the generalizations outlined in the
last three chapters are applicable to the farm worker
population as a whole, not to selected portions of it.
Although these cases constitute only 39% of the farm worker
population (see tables 6-5 and 6-6), although they are
unrepresentative, these cases provide insights into the
potential of Jamaican peasants to improve their economic
conditions and insights into the potential of an improved
alien labor program.
Table 6-5
Proportion of Farm Worker Population who have Accumulated
Capital (n=54)
Ab solute
frequency
Percent of
total
Numb e r
with 4
seasons
or more
Number
with 5
seasons
or more
percent of
4+ season
worke r s
Have
Accum¬
ulated
capital
2 1
38.8
2 1
19
65.6
Have not
Accum¬
ulated
capital
33
61.1
1 1
10
34.4

152
Table 6-6
Nature of Capital Accumulation Among Farm Workers (n=54)
Capital
Absolute
frequency
Percent
total
o f
Percent of
workers with
4 plus seasons
Agricultural:
Land purchase
of more than
.5 acres
13
24
40.6
Livestock of
20 or more
head
2
3 . 7
6.2
Nonagricultural:
Transportation
4
7.4
12.5
Rum shop
or other
merchandising
12
22.2
37.5
Other
business
3
5.5
9.4
Note: includes only capital
acquired
during
or after
participation in
program; some double
counting occurs due
to farm workers
diverdifying
into more than
one economic
activity.
More importantly, however, these cases offer us clues
to the nature and direction of social change within the
Jamaican peasantry. That is, although these farm workers
do not represent the farm worker population, the ways in
which they improve their economic conditions are common
methods by which Jamaican peasants take advantage of
employment and investment opportunities. They are,
moreover, indicative of the ways in which capital formation
and accumulation alters and reinforces social relations
within the peasantry

153
All the farm workers I discuss in this chapter have
participated in the program for at least four years. All
have personal histories of attempts to accumulate capital.
They are not all highly successful nor all permanently
successful, but a discussion of their economic activities
yields the empirical information with which we can better
build theory capable of predicting peasant behavior, and
with which we can better grasp the needs, desires, and the
potential of the peasantry for developmental purposes.
The Shift From Reproduction to Production
In the last two chapters we have seen that the
majority of farm workers' earnings are used for three
general purposes: 1) consumer spending in the U.S.; 2)
house construction in the islands; and 3) the cultivation
of future, and the material acknowledgement of present,
social security networks. All three areas of expenditure
aid in the sociological and biological reproduction of the
Jamaican peasantry. This, not development, constitutes the
principal impact of the alien labor program on the Jamaican
peasantry.
When participation in the program lasts for a number
of years, however, these areas of expenditure may begin to
draw proportionately less of the farm workers' earnings.
That is, they are sometimes able to complete the house,

154
recycle clothes, and no longer need additional tape decks
and televisions. When and if this occurs, do the farm
workers then tend to expand agricultural production, invest
in farm and nonfarm productive assets, and acquire and
accumulate capital? Do they, in short, begin to shift from
social and biological reproduction spending to spending
which lays a foundation for growth and upward mobility?
Finally, if they do, are they still peasants?
The difficulty in answering these questions lies in
determining how long it takes to satisfy or reduce the
reproduction expenditure commitments. This length of time
is variable within the farm working population, depending
on a wide variety of social and individual factors. The
farm worker with seven children spread between two
households, for example, will need more money to satisfy
his reproductive expenses that the farm worker with two
children in one household.
Despite this variability, we can estimate the general
length of time required to satisfy or reduce these
reproduction drains on U.S. earnings by considereing that
100% of the farm workers who have accumulated capital with
their U.S. earnings have worked in the program four or more
seasons and 90% have worked in the program five or more
seasons (see table 6-5). This suggests that it takes
between four and five seasons to begin to shift from
reproductive spending to investments oriented toward the

155
acquisition and accumulation of capital. Some qualifier
statements are necessary here. First, I have not included
house-and-garden land purchases of less than one-half acre
in the category of capital assets, since these, although
used for some crops and livestock production, tend to
produce goods which are ultimately and primarily used
(through sale or direct consumption) to maintain and
reproduce the members of the household. Second, the four
to five season requirement refers to consecutive seasons
working in either the apple and sugar harvests or the sugar
harvest alone. Those men who work only in the apple
harvest or do not work consecutive seasons usually do not
utilize their overseas earnings for anything other than
household maintainence and reproduction. Finally, all farm
workers who have worked four consecutive seasons or more
have not made the shift from reproductive spending to
capital formation and accumulation (see table 6-5). That
is, this shift is not automatic. In fact, only 65% of the
four or more season men have made this shift (see table
6-5). It is within explanations of why some have made the
shift and why others have not, as well as within
descriptions and interpretations of the consequences of
these shifting expenditures, that we find the most
informative clues to the nature and direction of social
change within the Jamaican peasantry

156
Discussing the recruitment of men into the alien labor
program, I earlier noted that the possession of job cards
indicates an indirect or direct link to the Jamaican power
structure. This connection constitutes a measure of
"strategic placement" (Long, 1977: 135) within the Jamaica,
meaning that these men possess the means to gain access to
at least some of the social resources which jamaica has to
offer. These social resources are social relations between
individuals which yield material, economic, and
informational benefits. They are connections with MPs,
committee members, administrators of marketing outlets,
wealthier peasants, influential men and women in the
district, loan officers at banks, rural development
personnel, lawyers, real estate agents, and others who
might be able and willing to put in a good word for them or
offer them jobs or investment opportunities. They usually
involve patron-client relationships but can also take the
form of business partnerships, where all involved parties
are socioeconomic equals. They yield such things as job
cards, government jobs contracts, legal titles to land
which can be used as collateral for loans, agricultural
extension attention, part-time jobs, the free use of
vehicles, tools, labor or land, lenient financial terms for
the acquisition of productive resources, orders for yellow
yams at the AMC and USAID housing materials or agricultural
supplies. Examining those farm workers who have acquired

157
capital with their U.S. earnings, one characteristic common
to these cases is that they tend to utilize most of the
social resources available to them.
Table 6-7
Social Resource Utilization Among Four or More Season Farm
Workers
Those who have Those who have not
acquired capital (n-21) acquired capital
(n=11)
Average number
of social
resources
utilized 4.3
Nature of social
resource utilization
Agriculrual
extension 13
Creditors 17
Hire
lawyers 7
Utilize all
marke t s 2 1
Political
connections
and other
influential
people 20
Note: does not include job card
to all.
1 .3
3
2
0
3
5
connection, which is common
Not only do these farm workers utilize those social
resources they already have access to by virtue of kinship
and friendship ties, they attempt to cultivate new
connections which will yield further access to social
resources. Sometimes they use the money earned in the U.S.
to do this, hiring lawyers, loaning money to other

158
peasants, buying drinks for influential people, tipping
politicians. What is important to note here is that these
farm workers do not generally acquire these social resource
connections as a direct Result of participating in the
alien labor program. That is, all of the farm workers who
have acquired capital were taking advantage of their social
resources, seeking ways to invest their earnings in
productive assets, prior to travelling to the U.S. to cut
sugar cane or pick apples. The money they earned in the
U.S. enhanced, not caused, this behavior.
Does it then follow that these farm workers were,
prior to participation, richer than those who spend their
money on maintenance and reproduction alone? Certainly
they all were and are richer in terms of social resource
connections, and most in fact did have somewhat of a
socioeconomic edge over other farm workers prior to travel.
Looking into their backgrounds, 62% come from families who
indicate somewhat higher socioeconomic positions than other
four or more season farm workers.
Table 6-8
Indicators of Socioeconomic Backgrounds: Comparisons of
Four or More Season Farm Workers Who Have Accumulated
Capital with Those Who Have Not
Indicators Have capital Do not have capital
1 1
Family has
financed migration
of one member
0

159
Table 6-8 — continued
Family has
financed college
education of
one member 3
Farm Worker has
inherited land
of one or more
acres 8
No land inheritance 10
Have access to
land of emigrant
relative 9
Percent of population
who come from higher
socioeconomic
backgrounds 62
0
0
1 1
0
0
Thirty-eight percent, however, come from backgrounds
with no more wealth than those who have not acquired
capital with their U.S. earnings. For the 62%, though, do
we have a case of the rich getting richer while the poor
stay poor? Perhaps. But these peasants whom I call richer
still take care of household maintenace and reproduction
expenditures prior to branching out into alternate
investment areas. By their neighbors' standards they may
be wealthier, but by the standards of the Jamaican middle
class they are not usually wealthy.
How do they differ from the four or more season
workers who have not made the shift away from reproductive
spending? The easiest explanation, and the most
conservative, is to call these farm workers who have not

160
begun accumulating capital lazy, lacking ambition, and so
on (Henry, 1978). However, any farm worker who has worked
for four or more consecutive seasons in the alien labor
program has passed some U.S. company's objective and
subjective tests of skill, devotion, productivity,
compliance with management and whatever else goes into the
decisions to request a worker to work again and again for
the same company. That these men are requested to return
testifies to their willingness and ability to work hard.
More plausible explanations of the inability for
accumulation among 35% (see table 6-5, row 2, column 5) of
the four or more season farm workers arise considering
their backgrounds against the more general portrait of the
Jamaican peasantry. As table 6-8 shows, all of these men
come from poorer peasant households. None have inherited
any land. None have access to the land of an emigrant
relative. Those who own land own only house-and—garden
plots. This tendency for extremely small landholdings or
no landholdings among this group suggests two other
tendencies which inhibit their households' abilities to
economically grow. First, they have trouble getting loans.
Athough some have tried to borrow money from a local bank
or the IRDP, they have no collateral to speak of. Some
have succeeded in receiving aid from the IRDP, but this
lack of collateral effectively restricts their credit
alternatives. With this restriction and with small

landholdings, they tend to orient their agricultural
production primarily toward production for use.
At this point one could ask why these individuals have
not, like some of the four or more season successful farm
workers who also come from poor households, used their U.S.
earnings to buy land, improve their credit worthiness,
borrow and expand production. In deference to the
conservatives, there were two individuals in this group
who, according to their wives and neighbors, have been
spending their money in ways which the Jamaicans considered
foolish. One kept purchasing housing materials but gambled
and drank heavily, reselling the materials to finance these
activities. The other spends nearly everything, every
season he works, on U.S. goods. He owns no capital assets
nor even owns his own house, but he does have quite a nice
sound system. The lack of ability of the others to
accumulate resources, however, can be attributed to their
extensive kinship networks. All of these individuals
support three or more households because of outside
children and the acknowledgement of debts to the parent
household. They tend to have not one or two outside
children, as is common, but four or more.
Again, these explanations come as no surprise. The
underlying obstacles to the accumulation of resources among
these farm workers are by no means restricted to them.
They are the same barriers to economic growth faced by the

162
entire Jamaican peasantry. In terms of their social
security functions they are adaptive, but maladaptive in
terms of the consolidation of wealth and economic growth.
Yet some, by legal as well as illegal means, partially
circumvent these obstacles and begin to show signs of
getting ahead.
Economic Diversification: Agricultural and Nonagricultural
The most salient characteristic of economic activity
within the Jamaican peasantry is diversification. By
diversified economic activity I do not mean to suggest that
we have a case of everyone doing the same thing, everyone
producing the same goods and services, with little or no
economic specialization. In a qualitative sense this
process of economic diversification is more similar to the
Western industrial conglomerate than it is to the kind of
diversification characterizing, for example, hunters and
gatherers. But even this comparison suffers from
inaccuracies: Western industrial conglomerates such as ITT
diversify their economic activities, usually, after they
become a dominating economic entity in one field
(Heilbroner, 1980: 298-299). These peasants diversify
their economic activity long before they even begin to
exert a dominating force on the market for agricultural
products or handicrafts or transportation services.

163
Moreover, this diversification includes diversified
employment activities as well as diversified economic
activities which the peasant owns or controls.
Those successful farm workers who shift from
reproductive spending to the formation and accumulation of
capital are by no means unique in their efforts to
diversify their economic activities. In the mountainous
interior, away from the tourist areas and larger cities,
agriculture remains a strong economic base from which the
Jamaican peasant branches out into other, nonagricultural
or semiagri cu 1tural, economic activities. In addition to
their wealth of access to social resources and their
tendency to utilize social resources, a high commitment to
agriculture as both an investment, cash cropping enterprise
and a subsistence operation characterizes 85.7 of the farm
workers who have accumulated capital.
Table 6-9
Agricultural Commitment Among Farm Workers who have
Accumulated Capital (n=21)
Ab solute
f requency
Percent of
total
High
commitment
18
85.7
Low
c ommitment
3
14.3
The information in this table is based on the fact
that the high commitment farm workers tend to plant nearly

164
every cash crop their knowledge and access to ecozones will
allow, maintain high personal inputs of labor into the
farming enterprise as well as hire additional labor,
utilize all marketing options, are sensitive to market
fluctuations, and usually seek credit and agricultural
extension information (see table 6-7, column 1). Like
their total range of economic activity, their farming
systems tend to be complex, diversified, changing. All
raise livestock or have at one time, utilizing the savings
generated from such operations to fund land purchases, hire
labor, meet fertilizer and pesticide costs, buy seed and so
on. This strategy of cross-finaneing within agricultural
production activities occupies a central position in their
overall economic lives. Although they nearly always
verbally insist that they "only do farmin'," persistent
observation and repeated visits reveal that these men
rarely specialize in farming alone. In addition to working
in the U.S., these farm workers, prior to participation,
sought wage labor opportunities in Jamaica during the times
of year their farm labor requirements were low, usually
quitting these jobs when their farms needed their labor,
managerial skill, social connections, and entrepreneurial
abilities. In some cases they kept these jobs either
because the pay was good (as in the alien labor program) or
because they had some specific purchase in mind.

165
Through farming and part time wage labor, gradually
these farm workers have been able to move into other
economic activities. In descending order of importance,
these other enterprises include various forms of
merchandising (higglering, opening grocery stores, street
vending, selling goods from their homes, etc.),
entertainment (bars, catering services and dance halls),
transportation (operating taxis, minibuses, and trucks for
hauling), manufacturing (handicrafts, frozen confections,
clothes, shoes, etc.), repair serivices (automobile,
clothing, shoes, etc.), and running small businesses which
utilize previous skills, usually in the construction
industry (masonry and carpentry) (see table 6-6).
Within each of these economic activities, including
agriculture, a wide variety of social relations come into
play in the production process. These are flexible and
make it possible for a single household to combine up to
four or five of these activites, including wage labor and
peasant farming (cf. Painter, 1981). Often, the relative
importance of one activity in relation to the others in
changes, and these changes affect changes in prevailing
social relations both within and between households. It is
also noteworthy that diversification into nonagricultural
enterprises, besides wage labor, is a Jamaican ideal which
materializes successfully for relatively few households.
That is, although most peasants have at one time in their

166
lives attempted to combine agriculture, wage labor and one
or two other nonagrici cu 11ura1 enterprises in the total
household production process, it is most often the case
that these nonagricultural economic activities never reach
a viable income level and fail.
Quite often the attempt to move into nonagricultural
economic activities consists of no more than buying cartons
of cigarettes for J$22 and selling them for 15 cents each,
making a net profit of J$8/carton. Merchandising, or
buying for resale, is the most common nonagricultural
economic activity undertaken by the Jamaican peasntry. In
all, 37% of all four or more season farm workers'
households are involved in some form of merchandising (see
table 6-6, row 4, column 2). This enterprise is dominated
by, but not restricted to, women. Its most widely
practices and most thoroughly studied form is higglering,
which is intimately tied to agricultural production,
usually, but which is nevertheless a nonagricultural
economic activity. Higglers, by and large, come directly
from the Jamaican peasantry. In separate studies by Mintz
(1957) and Katzin (1959, 1971), the system of higglering in
Jamaica has been characterized as an ecologically efficient
means of distributing foods and other goods throughout the
island, with high labor and low capital inputs and broad
based participation which effectively serves to
redistribute wealth as well as spread information

167
(economic, political and other) throughout the island.
Merchandising however covers a wide variety of economic
activity, including higglering, and farm workers sometimes
purchase U.S. goods to either begin merchandising
operations or expand them. For example, motorcycles have
been purchased by a number of farm workers and in most
cases these become capital goods, as opposed to consumer
goods, in Jamaica. With a motorcycle a farm worker can
take advantage of regional crop and commodity
specialization, taking goods from his area to areas where
such goods are scarce and returning home with goods which
are scarce in his area, marking up prices at both ends.
Arbitrage businesses can be facilitated with other goods
purchased in the United States, such as freezers which
reduce loss due to spoilage in the case of perishable
commodities. These kinds of transactions are common in
Jamaica and often rely on specific or localized markets
such as the tourists. While marijuana can be sold
throughout the island, for example, the prices in the
interior are far lower there than on the coast, where
tourists will pay as much as ten times for marijuana as
Jamaicans, often paying in more versatile foreign
currencies.
Another extremely common form of merchandising, one
which is seen as a goal by many Jamaican households, is
opening a rum shop which provides both grocery store and

168
bar services as well as, usually, entertainment. Like
house construction, these shops may take three to four
years to complete and stock. Rum shops, like elaborate
housing, constitute a source of prestige among the Jamaican
peasantry, yet they are quite often characterized by boom
and bust cycles. Competition is stiff. It is common to
find three or four rum shops within one hundred yards of
one another, and insuring a regular clientelle involves
taking advantage of and reinforcing existing friendship
ties, sometimes through extending credit (although this
very rarely involves large amounts). Here again, the farm
worker's access to U.S. goods can increase his competitive
edge. With the purchase of a freezer or a sound system he
can stock a wider variety of goods or draw customers to his
shop with music. A freezer can also be used to manufacture
frozen confections called "suck sucks," similar to
popsicles. In an article discussing returning migrants to
Spain, Rhodes (1978) tells us that these kinds of
businesses are common among returning migrants and nearly
always are funded with money earned through migration.
Joshua Reichert (1981) finds similar uses among Michoacan,
Mexico, migrants returning from legal and illegal migration
to the U.S. Both men question the soundness of such
investments as profitable business enterprises, noting the
stiff competition from a high number of other, similar or

169
identical, businesses. The Jamaican findings further
support this contention.
The final nonagricultura1 business I shall discuss in
some detail here is transportation. Transportation is a
booming industry in Jamaica and the utilization of a car or
truck for moving people and goods around the island can
generate substantial income. Carrying passengers tends to
be more lucrative than trucking goods, but neither are
subject to the stiff competition characterizing rum shops.
On Fridays and Saturdays in particular, the marketing days,
the demand for vehicles is generally adequately supplied,
but it is rare for these vehicles to have empty seats and
common for people who desire rides into town to have to
wait. During the rest of the week business slacks off, but
the connections between town and countryside in Jamaica are
strong enough to facilitate a steady, though reduced,
supply of passengers. The amount of income generated by a
taxi service varies according to the route, which are
assigned by the Ministry of Transportation, type of
vehicle, the relations between customers and the driver and
so on. These net incomes can range from between J$20,000
to J$50,000 per year for taxi owners and J$75,000 to
J$125,000 per year for minibus owners. Few minibus owners
come from the peasantry, since minibuses tend to cost
upwards of J$25,000. However, it is not uncommon for taxi
owners to come from the peasantry, remaining tied to the

170
peasantry through social relations yet beginning to adopt
many of the economic behaviors of the Jamaican rural petty
bourgeousie.
Again, overhead costs can be reduced in the
transportation industry by having connections in tax
assessing and licensing offices or by connections with
local police, paying out bribes instead of official fees.
During my stay in Jamaica, however, the Minister of
Transportation began restricting imports of vehicles, and
recent JLP legislation threatens to further impede the
development of this industry by restricting licensing and
levying heavier taxes. The restrictions imposed on this
industry and on merchandising (Stone, 1983) are currently
being used as political propoganda by the opposing PNP
members, since transportation and merchandising constitute
two nonagricultural industries traditionally utilized by
the Jamaican peasantry.
Although the incidence of farm workers importing
vehicles as large as cars or trucks is rare (I heard of
only one case of this, and no farm workers in my sample had
done so), farm workers can utilize savings to purchase cars
and trucks in Jamaica. This is costly initially, for high
import duties on automobiles drive up their costs. It is
difficult to purchase a reliable automobile for under
J$3000. However, extremely long term farm workers with ten
or more seasons are often capable of such purchases after

household related expenses have been taken care of. Twelve
percent of all four or more season farm workers have
purchased vehicles (including motorcycles) with U.S.
earnings (see table 6-6, row 3, column 2). Also, farm
workers who own vehicles and who are still participating in
the program have access to lower cost, and wider varieties
of, automotive parts in the U.S. Jamaicans are not the
only peasants who are currently diversifying into the
transportation industry. Lagos (1983) is currently
conducting research in Bolivia among truckers who are
usually also peasant farmers. These peasant truckers
utilize relations with other peasants in their communities
to enter into contractual relations and sharecropping
arrangements for the production of crops which they see as
highly marketable and which they will truck to market.
Long and Richardson have found that the transportation
industry is a common nonagricultural industry among
Peruvian peasants as well (1978).
The diversification into nonagricultural economic
activities allows for a great deal of mutual reinforcement
between these industries. The opportunities for
agricultural production to aid in the financing,
development and success of these industries are numerous.
Higglering is a logical outgrowth of crops production, as
are arbitrage transaction businesses. Transporting goods
and passengers around the Jamaican countryside can be

172
combined with both agricultural marketing and with the
stocking of rural rum shops without greatly increased labor
inputs. Automotive repair services evolve out of the
ownership and continued operation of one's own vehicle. By
the same token, automotive repair skills lead to the
acquisition of one's own vehicle at a reduced cost.
Freezers used in rum shops to widen the variety of goods
for sale are used to manufacture frozen confections and
store goods from arbitrage transactions.
Given that a single household may diversify into two or
three enterprises, it is not surprising that there is
considerable cross-finaneing going on, with farm production
subsidizing rum shops or transport businesses and vice
versa. The strategy of diversification also affects the
allocation of tasks and labor within the household and, for
those households whose commitment to agriculture remains
high, seasonal cycles affect the labor time devoted to the
operation of these and other enterprises. From an economic
anthropological perspective, however, the most interesting
aspect of the strategy of economic diversification involve
the nature of the resulting social change. Here again,
however, it is important to point out that the farm
workers' participation in the program, while enhancing
these processes, do not cause them. The following
discussion, then, should be nderstood not as a comparison
between farm workers and other peasant households, but as a

173
description of the nature of social change which can occur
as a result of Jamaican peasant households accumulating
capital and attempting to diversify and expand production.
The farm workers' access to U.S. earnings and goods in some
cases has helped them accumulate capital, and has helped
fuel changes occuring within the peasantry.
Differentiation and Change in Rural Jamaica
Three dimensions of the process of differentiation
resulting from capital accumulation will be dealt with
here: 1) within the rural peasant household; 2) between
rural peasant households; and 3) between rural peasant
households, the state and capitalists. Throughout this
discussion it is necessary to keep in mind that, due to the
complexity of social relations involved in the process of
socioeconomic differentiation and social change,
distinctions between peasants and capitalists at times
become blurred. The general point is that the
transformations taking place are not unilineal in nature,
with peasants automatically adopting production social
relations which characterize capitalists. These
transformations involve, rather, combinations of social
relations which draw upon peasant social relations,
depending heavily on unpaid household labor, maintaining
cooperative relations with other households (often

174
superficially), practicing clientellism for markets and
supplies of labor and raw materials, and which also utilize
more depersonalized wage labor social relations (cf. Wolf
and Mintz,1957). In addition to this the changes are often
temporary, as one (or more) of the household's economic
activities fails, overshadows the others and so on.
Despite this complexity, some general trends emerge.
Changes Within the Peasant Household
Within the peasant household, as economic
diversification and capital accumulation take place, the
social relations between household members tend to change
in two general ways. First, the managerial functions of
both the male and female household heads become more
pronounced and they exert more control over the other
family members with regard to the allocation of labor, at
the same time limiting, or attempting to limit, their
participation in economic activities which will not benefit
the household. Increased control over family members in
the coordination of an economically diversified household
results in increased specialization of tasks on the part of
family members. For example, one seventeen season farm
worker who had succeeded in utilizing U.S. earnings for
farm expansion, the building and stocking of a rum shop
(with a sound system and a freezer) and the purchase of a

175
pick-up truck divided up the tasks in the family as
follows. The male household head (the farm worker) divided
his time between all the enterprises, but unequally,
spending most of his time and labor on the farming,
overseeing the trucking business second (which carried
goods to market for other peasants in the area), and,
finally, monitoring business at the rum shop. His two
eldest sons worked with him on the farm, spending little or
no time with the other two enterprises, and his third
eldest son was the principal driver and mechanic for the
truck, devoting little or no time to farming or to the
operation of the rum shop. The rum shop was primarily the
responsibility of the female household head, along with
their eldest daughter. The rum shop and the house sit side
by side and, although the female household head could
oversee the management of the household and the care of the
youngest child, these tasks had become the responsibility
of a younger daughter and the fourth youngest son. It is
noteworthy in this case that the three eldest sons,
although in their early to middle twenties, had not yet set
up their own households, instead remaining at home to
contribute to the family businesses.
I do not, unfortunately, have detailed quantitative
data concerning the proportionate income of each of these
activities, nor the actual distribution of earnings among
family members. However, although household members are

176
not paid in the form of direct wages, some portion of the
income generated by the transportation business is utilized
by the third eldest son for his personal expenses, and some
portion of the farm income is utilzed by the two eldest
sons for their personal expenses. According to both
household heads, the rum shop and the portion of the farm
nearest the house and shop, consisting of a one and
one-half acre plot, will serve as the primary sources of
income when the household heads become too old to actively
oversee all the production processes.
Although there does tend to be labor specialization
such as that described above in households with diversified
economic activities, the entire family can be and in fact
are utilized when the seasonal farm requirements become
heavy or one of the other enterprises demands high labor
inputs. The specialization which occurs among family
members, therefore, retains a measure of flexibility (cf.
Painter, 1981). This flexibility is adaptive in an
environment where the success of the household's economic
activities may at any time be easily undermined by
competition or by state regulation.
Changes Between Peasant Households
The changes which occur in the social relations
between peasant households are the most telling in terms of

177
the overall direction of social change among the Jamaican
peasantry. A change in social relations between
socioeconomically unequal households, especially when the
change is permanent, often involves the subordination of
poorer households' members to the production processes of
wealthier households.
By far the most common incidence of this is the
tendency among Jamaican peasants to withdraw from
cooperative labor arrangements, partially or fully, and
hire wage labor for all phases of agricultural and petty
commodity goods and services production. This process
takes two general forms, one more permanent that the other.
First, there are those farm workers' households who shift
from cooperative labor to hiring labor only during the
years that they travel, while they have the extra cash to
hire, and then returning to cooperative labor arrangements
once their travel to the U.S. ends. As noted in the
discussion concerning the generation of employment by
remittances, this process includes around 73.5% of the
peasant farmer farm workers (see table 4-7). However, the
temporary shift from cooperative to hired labor does not
always involve the subordination of one households' members
to the production of the hiring household. That is, hiring
which goes on between households of more or less the same
socioeconomic status is often reciprocal and hence is
actually disguised exchanged labor.

178
The second form this process takes is a more permanent
withdrawal from cooperative labor arrangements and
concommitant increase in reliance on hired labor, as well
as unpaid or underpaid family labor. This withdrawal can
be either full or partial, depending on the nature of the
economic activity and its prospects for success. That is,
often peasants will remain involved in cooperative labor
and other services networks, utilizing these when cash is
scarce. Or they will utilize these relations to assure a
regular clientelle for enterprises such as rum shops or
transport businesses. On numerous occasions, for example,
I experienced peasants passing up rides into town from one
taxi driver to patronize another with whom they had some
sort of friendship or kinship ties. These kinds of social
relations, maintained to assure regular customers, are of
course widespread and common in capitalist enterprises as
well as among peasants. Sometimes, however, these social
relations are maintained not only through offering reliable
and pleasant service, as Wendy's Hamburgers advertisements
claim, but also making somewhat token contributions of
one's labor to the farm of another.
Whether withdrawal from cooperative labor arrangements
is full or partial, if it is permanent it always
corresponds with the increased formation and accumulation
of capital. The reason for the correspondence between
capital accumulation and increased reliance on hired as

179
opposed to cooperative labor is that, with high labor
requirements of larger farms or diverse economic
activities, the resource-controlling household does not
have the time to pay back all the labor which it needs to
run its own enterprises. In addition, the increased
managerial functions of the economically diversified or
larger farm households make increased control over the
labor necessary. Peasants who were involved in cooperative
labor arrangements were continually complaining that
cooperative labor was far less reliable than hired labor,
and my own observations confirmed this. Cooperative
laborers tended to show up for work late, leave work early,
and not work as hard on the job. They also would
occasionally question the production decisions of the
peasant on whose farm they were working. Hired workers, on
the other hand, put in a full hard day's work, and
performed tasks without question, leaving the managerial
decisions up to their employer.
The result of this withdrawal from cooperative labor
arrangements is that the households which supply labor to
the hiring household become subordinate to the hiring
household in the sense that they must tailor their own
economic enterprises around the needs of the hiring
household. That is, the labor-supplying households most
often supply the labor of the male household head, thus
depriving the household of labor which could be utilized

180
for production on the farm as well as for participation in
cooperative labor networks. Because day laborers are
always drawn from the same ecological area, the day
laborer's household loses his labor and access to
cooperative labor during the time of year when his farm,
like the hiring farm, need these resources the most. In
addition, the relations between the hiring household and
the labor-supplying household generally retain a degree of
familiarity which assures the labor-supplying household
with part-time wage work and assures the hiring household
with one or more reliable day laborers. Unlike capitalist
enterprises, which tend to draw labor from an impersonal
pool of workers, the hiring households and the
labor-supplying households tend to have personalized
relationships. In some cases this familiarity between the
households results in the hiring household allowing the
labor-supplying household to cultivate a portion of the
hiring household's land rent-free. This situation often
has hidden benefits for the hiring household. First, this
further binds the day laborer to the labor needs of the
hiring household, increasing the day laborer's reliability
during the very times of year when his farm labor
requirements are, like the hiring household's, high, and
hence during the time of year that the day laborer is least
likely to be reliable due to his own household's needs.
Second, rent-free plots of land are often plots which

require some clearing or on which the hiring household is
growing tree crops which benefit from the day laborer's
fertilizers. Although there are mutually beneficial
aspects to arrangements such as these, the benefits which
accrue to the day laborer are fewer than those which accrue
to the hiring household.
Another means by which successful farm workers'
households as well as wealthier households have been able
to subordinate other households to their own production
processes involves the acquisition of productive resources
which all peasant farmers need to produce and market crops
and livestock. On a small scale, this involves buying such
tools as motor-powered spray pumps (for spraying
pesticides) or beasts of burden, and lending these tools to
other farmers in return for labor. On a somewhat larger
scale, this involves the ownership of a truck, exchanging
transport services (for passengers or produce) for cash
payments or for labor. Finally, sometimes this simply
involves buying land, dividing it up into smaller parcels
from one square chain to an acre in size, and renting out
these parcels to other peasants for houseplots or for crops
production. Payment for the use of this land can be made
in cash or can involve a kind of service tenure
arrangement, where the renting household provides the
land-owning household with labor, clears the land, or
improves it in other ways (terracing, ditching, etc.).

182
These kinds of arrangements, however, rarely involve the
complete dependence of the renting household on the
land-owning household, as perhaps characterized feudal
lords of the middle ages or 20th century haciendas (Wolf
and Mintz, 1957). This is because the renting household
will most often farm land under other tenurial arrangements
elsewhere. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier chapter,
"capturing" land or squatting on land has been common since
the decline of the old landed gentry banana planters.
Finally, cash rates for land rentals tend not to be very
high, ranging from between J$20 to J$30 per acre per year.
Changes Between Peasants, the State and Capitalists
What is most telling about the development of these
1andlord-tenant relationships is that they usually involve
a broad base of support outside of the peasantry which is
cultivated by the land-owning household. For example, one
nine season farm worker succeeded in acquiring a three-acre
piece of land by utilizing a number of social resources,
including the IRDP, an area bank and a local lawyer. In
1979, following his last season in the United States, he
moved from a nearby parish, where he owned six acres of
family land planted in tree crops and a house, into the Two
Meetings Watershed. He rented out his house to a man in an
arrangement whereby the man would care for the tree crops

183
in return for the use of the house. Just prior to the
move, the farm worker purchased a one and three-quarter
acre plot of land and a house in the watershed with his
U.S. earnings. Immediately after the move he sought aid
from the IRDP to improve the land in the watershed,
building terraces and planting pine trees. During this
time he secured the services of a lawyer to locate the
title to the land he had purchased in the watershed. Using
the title on the improved land as collateral, he secured a
loan from a local bank and purchased the three-acre piece
of land, farming one acre and renting out the other two.
The above example is typical of the kinds of social
relations which develop between these more successful
peasant households, the state and capitalists. It is, of
course, nothing more than a specific example of the broader
phenomenon of the utilization of social resources which
characterize those farm workers who are able to make the
shift from reproductive spending to capital formation and
accumulation and growth-oriented production. These
relationships can be interpreted as social class alliances
between peasants, the state and capitalists which appear to
contain the seeds of social change. That is, these more
successful farm workers and other peasants, securing loans,
hiring lawyers, seeking and receiving development aid, seem
to be moving in the direction of a fundamental structural
change in the social and economic relations between this

134
segment of the peasantry and the state and capitalists. My
understanding of structural change is that it constitutes a
change in the manner in which two or more segments of a
society relate to one another, the two segments in this
case being the state-capitalist alliance and the peasantry.
Perhaps the most difficult question to address with
regard to this apparent process concerns the distinction
beween peasants and capitalists. That is, do the changes
occurring in rural Jamaica, changes partially but not
primarily fueled by participation in the alien labor
program, constitute no more than peasants transforming into
capitalists and subsequently joining the state-capitalist
alliance and its socioeconomic classes? Certainly these
more successful peasants have adopted many of he behavioral
characteristics which characterize capitalist production.
They utilize and manipulate the existing social relations
in order to accumulate capital and market their products.
They use their status as owners and controllers of capital
to both gain access to more capital and to assure
themselves of the labor power of less fortunate households.
They benefit from and take advantage of low wage rates, and
low wages assure them of always being able to extract
surplus value from the labor power of day laborers. They
compete for raw materials and markets. They reinvest
profits into their businesses, expand by diversifying, and
they tend to be oriented toward growth. Are they, then,

185
that much different from capitalists as to necessitate a
different analytical category? Surely some peasants have
transformed into capitalists both behaviorally and
ideologically, but two factors in particular undermine an
argument of such a unilineal transformation.
First and foremost is the tendency among these
peasants to combine essentially peasant social relations
with capitalist social relations in the production process,
in particular their continued reliance on the family as a
labor source, but also their partial reliance on
cooperative networks not only for production but for
marketing as well (e.g., building a pool of regular
customers for a rum shop or a transport service). Because
of the continued reliance on family labor, the production
processes and the success or failure of those processes
remains intimately tied to the natural or biological growth
of the household. This characteristic suggests that these
households who have accumulated capital are still firmly
entrenched in peasant social relations, the underlying
logic of which is to provide for the reproduction and
social security needs of the peasantry (Meillasoux, 1972:
101-102). Decisions to diversify or expand necessarily
include the labor availability and the skills within the
peasant household, its relationships with other peasant
households, and its relations with the state and
capitalists.

186
The second feature distinguishing these peasant
economic activities from capitalist ones arises from the
qualitative nature of their relationships with the
state-capitalist alliance. Because their enterprises are
small scale and because they are highly susceptible to boom
and bust cycles which undermine their assurances for
success, the relationships between these households and
banks, merchants, market administrators, politicians and so
on remain decidedly unequal. Compared to merchants,
bankers, industrialists and others, who belong to Rotary
clubs and maintain strong political connections (typically,
Ministers of Parliament are also wealthy businessmen),
these more successful peasant households have little or no
political power. Their relationships with the state and
capitalists are not class relationships in the sense of
either the political power of banking and big business or
big labor bargaining with big capital in the context of
trade unions. These relationships between peasants and the
state-capitalist alliance are, rather, individual
relationships which sometimes materialize into the
household and its members joining the capitalist
bourgeousie at the lower levels. Still, in hard economic
times, even these successful peasants continue to sell
their own labor power to capitalists, both in Jamaica and
in the U.S. Finally, these farm workers who accumulate
capital come from the peasantry and maintain their

187
association with the peasantry as a source of livelihood
when and if their economic endeavors fail.
In some senses, then, although still intimately tied
to the peasantry, these successful households demonstrate
signs of an emergent petty bourgeousie, or a capitalist
class controlling small scale capital. The word "emergent"
is, however, somewhat misleading, because of their tenuous
ties with more powerful political and economic groups in
Jamaica. Whether or not their political and economic
interests coincide with the interests of the
state-capitalist alliance depend less on their needs and
desires, as a "class", than on the needs and desires of the
more politically powerful, historically stronger capitalist
bourgeousie in Jamaica.
The behavior of these farm workers is important to
examine because they are people who come from peasant
backgrounds, who maintain strong ties with the peasantry
and peasant agriculture for social security purposes, yet
who seem to be moving out of the peasantry in their
economic activity. I am quick to point out that Jamaican
peasants have always been open to outside influences, and
in this sense they are probably not representative of
peasants all over the world. However, as I have said
before, Migdal has argued that closed communities are
finding it more difficult to remained closed with the
increasing penetration of capitalism into rural areas of

188
underdeveloped countries. They are sometimes able to slow
the pace of this penetration, as Painter has found (1981),
but they are nevertheless affected by it. Because of this,
Jamaican peasants may be more representative of peasants
today than they were in the past, and they offer us clues
to the ways in which segments of peasant populations deal
with the increased penetration of capitalism into the
countryside.
Finally, it must be remembered that these farm workers
who have accumulated capital have been able to do so at
least in part because of their prolonged participation in
the alien labor program. They represent a very small
segment of the peasantry and one which has access to a
particular opportunity of working for high wages abroad and
having access to U.S. goods which help them run their
businesses. These findings suggest that, although the
peasantry remains strong in Jamaica, the increasing
penetration of capitalism can be used by segments within
this mode to acculate capital and expand their economic
activities. It also must be remembered that their
positions are by no means secure. In light of recent JLP
legislation designed to further restrict merchandising and
transportation (Stone, 1983), as well as agricultural
development targeting larger, capitalist farms rather than
peasant farms, evidently the Seaga regime's interests do
not coincide with these enterprising rural households.

189
One major point to be derived from the discussion in
this chapter is that the U.S. earnings and access to goods
of the farm workers can be used to enhance economic
activities which are common means by which Jamaican
peasants (and Jamaican rural petty bourgeousie) attempt to
improve their lives. I stress again, as I have previously,
that prolonged participation in the program seems not to
cause these behaviors, but rather to aid in production
increases and economic diversification strategies. The
important thing to realize here is that those farm workers
who have accumulated capital represent a small percentage
of the total population, but a somewhat larger percentage
of the population of four or more season farm workers (see
table 6-5) The following table, based on data collected by
McCoy and Wood (1982), shows that only around one third of
the Jamaican farm workers work four or more seasons and
that the percentages fall steadily thereafter.
Table 6-10
Percentages of Farm Workers Working Four or More Seasons
(n = 206 )
Number of seasons
percent of population
4or more
37.4
5or more
25.7
6or more
18.4
7or more
16
8or more
12.6

190
Table
6-10 — continued
9
o r
more
9.2
10
o r
more
7.3
1 1
o r
more
5.8
12
o r
more
3.4
13
or
more
2.9
14
o r
more
2.4
15
o r
more
2.4
16
o r
more
1 .9
On the average, the chances are that if a farm worker
is not washed out of the program in the first year, he will
work a total of five or six seasons. This means that most
farm workers will be washed out of the program either prior
to or around the time they begin to shift from reproductive
spending to capital accumulation and growth.

CHAPTER VII
CONCLUSION
Summary of Findings
This study assessed the impact of the British West
Indies Temporary Alien Labor Program on the Jamaican
peasantry. The intention has been to determine whether the
farm workers who migrate seasonally to the United States
contribute to the development of Jamaica by using their
U.S. earnings to acquire and accumulate capital. This was
accomplished by comparing a sample population of farm
workers who have participated in the program to a sample
population of Jamaican peasant households whose members
have not had equivalent migration experiences. Contrary to
the developmental impact used to justify the alien labor
program by U.S. growers and legislators, this study has
shown that the majority of farm workers who participate in
the program do not earn enough income in the United States
to enable them to accumulate capital in Jamaica, to
significantly expand their farms or other productive
enterprises, nor to lay the economic bases for future
capital accumulation which might result in higher standards
of living among the farm workers. The major finding that

192
the farm workers' households and farms do not significantly
differ from the households and farms of Jamaican peasants
who have not had equivalent migration experiences suggests
that the program does not cause long-term improvements in
the standards of living of those who participate in the
program.
Although the findings of this study suggest that the
program does not lead to development in Jamaica, the
program does contain some benefits for those involved.
Through remittances and compulsory savings, the program
generates foreign exchange for Jamaica. Second, the
households of the farm workers (those in which they reside
and those with which they have connections through outside
children, parents, or other kinship or friendship ties)
benefit by increasing their levels of consumption while the
farm workers travel to the United States. By the same
token, the farm workers themselves are usually able to at
least begin and sometimes complete construction of houses
by virtue of their participation in the program. Third,
because women manage the farm workers' farms while they are
gone and tend to use remitted money to hire workers for
agricultural production, the U.S. earnings generated by the
program create some employment in Jamaica. The character
of that employment — part-tme jobs for peasants who hire
themselves out as day laborers — also helps these day
laboring peasants meet their own expenses during the times

193
year that they need cash income for the operation of their
own farms. Not only do these remittances contribute to the
generation of employment in Jamaica and provide day
laborers with cash, that these remittances are used in part
to subsidize agriculural production on the migrants' farms
suggests that agricultural production remains stable while
the farm workers are in the U.S. and hence participation in
the program has no deleterious effects on Jamaican peasant
agriculture. Fourth, the program provides work and income
for between six and seven thousand men annually. By
providing these men with work and income, the program
reduces pressure on competition for employment in Jamaica,
as well as possibly reducing pressure on such things as
credit, agricultural extension services, and other social
services these men might utilize were they to remain
jobless in Jamaica. Finally, although this study primarily
concerns the program's impact on the sending country, in
the U.S., beneficiaries of this program include those apple
and sugar growers who utilize Jamaican labor and the
merchants of the communities near the labor camps which
house the workers. The apple and sugar growers are assured
a willing, reliable, docile labor force, and some of the
merchants in South Florida receive nearly all of their
business from the BWI workers.
Despite these benefits, an important finding is that
the households of the farm workers do not significantly

194
differ from the households of Jamaican peasants who have
never participated in this program or in similar seasonal,
international labor migration programs. Even in such areas
as housing, where the farm workers spend a good portion of
their money, the farm worker population does not own
proportionately more houses than the control population
(see table 6-1). I consider this the study's major finding
because not only does it show that the program has no
developmental impact on the Jamaican peasantry, it also
suggests that participation in the program ulitmately
provides no more of an opportunity to most Jamaican
peasants than the opportunities (or lack of opportunities)
which exist in the Jamaican countryside. Although there
are some short-term benefits, a farm worker who
participated in the program has as much opportunity to
improve his life chances, his households' standards of
living, his ability to generate employment or achieve
higher production levels, by remaining in Jamaica.
Because of this finding, the second contribution of
this study consists of explaining why these farm workers'
households do not differ from other Jamaican peasant
households. The reasons for explaining this lack of
differences are important. First, the farm workers' U.S.
incomes are at least three times as high as the per capita
earnings for all of Jamaica (The World Bank, 1982), and
fifteen times as high as USAID estimates of the annual

195
incomes (US$200) of most Jamaican peasant farming
households (Goldschmidt and Blustain, 1982). Second,
because the household is capable of keeping agricultural
production stable during the farm workers' absence,
participation in the program appears to have no effect
which might require additional income to compensate for the
farm worker's absence. This suggests that there are little
or no opportunity costs involved with participating in the
program. Third, although a minority, some farm workers
have been able to accumulate capital with money earned in
the U.S. (see tables 6-5 and 6-6), and a very few have been
able to begin small merchandising and transportation
businesses which generate employment and provide their
households with independence from wage labor. This
suggests that the incomes of the farm workers (in
particular those who whork for four seasons or longer) are
indeed sufficient to engineer purchases of capital goods
which could contribute to Jamaican development. Given
these findings, it became necessary to explain why the vast
majority of farm workers do not utilize their U.S. earnings
for the formation and accumulation of capital and therefore
do not demonstrate greater production levels or different
economic strategies than other peasant households.
I explained this lack of differences between the two
populations by considering the social structural and the
socioeconomic environments in which Jamaican peasants

196
operate, and by coordinating this information with the
dynamics of the alien labor program. The principal reasons
why farm workers are not able to accumulate capital with
their U.S. earnings arise from the nature of Jamaican
peasant social structure. That is, Jamaican peasant social
structure is characterized by a great deal of
interdependence between peasant households which comes
about by unstable male/feraale relationships resulting in
men and women having children by more than one mate. While
children tend to remain living with their mothers, men are
responsible for children who live with them and also for
their children who live in other households. Between
generations, parent and children households usually retain
a high level of interdependence as well, a fact which is
clearly evident in that mothers are the second most common
category of remittance recipients (see table 5-1). These
relations between peasant households, I have pointed out
again and again in the above discussion, are adaptive in
the Jamaican countryside because they provide social
security to great numbers of people in a country were no
such social security is povided by state welfare systems.
However, the effect of these relations between households
is that the farm worker, as a member of a diffuse social
network involving three or more households, must spend a
good deal of his earnings on the maintenance of the
households with which he has connections. With so many

197
individuals drawing upon his overseas earnings, it is
difficult for him to consolidate his wealth, to save, to
withhold money from immediate consumption and invest, or to
accumulate capital. The necessity of considering first the
maintenance of the households results in large portions of
farm workers' earnings being used to finance purchases of
house and garden plots and to finance house construction
and expansion. The farm worker's earnings, consumed by the
households he is a part of, simply serve to maintain and
reproduce those households.
The tendency of Jamaican peasants to cultivate and
reinforce these diffuse social networks is also seen in the
behavior of remittance recipients. Female recipients of
remittances tend to spend remittances, directly and
indirectly, on the children, keeping agricultural
production stable and using produce to meet the household's
nutritional requirements. Again in this context, the
earnings of the farm workers tend to be used for the
maintenance and reproduction of their households.
The importance of maintaining these diffuse social
networks not only affects the dispostion of earnings which
make it back to Jamaica, but this, in combination with the
life cycle stage during which most men participate in the
program, also accounts for the expenditure behaviors of
migrants in the U.S., where they use around 40% of their

198
gross earnings to purchase U.S. goods, primarily clothes
and shoes (see tables 4-22, 4-23 and 4-24).
In addition to the effect of Jamaican peasant social
structure on the farm workers' earnings, the nature of
peasant economic activity also results in drawing upon the
farm workers' earnings in ways which mitigate the chances
of farm workers to accumulate capital. That is, it is
common for Jamaican peasants, farm workers or not, to
spread their economic risks by diversifying their
production strategies, both by planting a wide variety of
crops and raising livestock and by diversifying into
nonagricultural production activities. Such a strategy is
by no means restricted to peasants, but is quite common
among people operating at a subsistence level of production
and common as well among people in all walks of life who
give economic security more importance than the possiblity
of taking risks to potentially make large profits.
Diversification within agriculture among a peasantry is
also necessary to assure a nutritionally sound diet.
The net result of these social structural and
socioeconomic factors at work within the Jamaican peasantry
is that the majority of farm workers' earnings are used for
consumption instead of investment or capital formation and
accumulation. The earnings therefore tend to be used for
the maintenance of the farm workers' households and
facilitate the eventual reproduction of these households.

199
This assertion does not mean that the alien labor program,
or participation in the program, in any way causes these
social structural or socioeconomic situations, which are
more properly viewed as the outcome of longstanding
historical processes. The point of this study is not to
unravel these historical relations, but to determine how
the alien labor program affects them. Clearly, the
expenditure behavior of the majority of the farm workers
serves to reinforce these social security networks,
relations between households, and economic diversification
strategies. Reinforcing these networks, relations, and
strategies, the earnings of the farm workers contribute to
their reproduction. Because these social conditions serve
to spread income rather than to allow its consolidation and
use for capital accumulation and investment, the earnings
of the farm workers thus contribute to the reproduction of
the social conditions in which their households operate.
This means that participation in the program does little to
reduce the need of Jamaican peasants, or more specifically
the need of ther farm workers' replacement generation, to
engage in wage labor as a means to supplement imcome.
At this point one could question whether or not the
farm workers earn sufficient incomes to invest or to
acquire and accumulate capital in a socioeconomic
environment, such as Jamaica's, characterized by a paucity
of investment or business opportunities. In fact, the

200
third contribution of this study has been to show the
various ways in which Jamaican peasants who participate in
the program have been able to utilize their U.S. earnings
to begin or enhance small business ventures in Jamaica.
This small-scale capital accumulation occurs only among
those workers who have worked in the program for four or
more seasons, and usually begins with initially expanding
the household's agricultural base and then diversifying
into nonagricultura 1 production activities, most notable
merchandising and transportation. This study has shown
that these farm workers have personal histories of attempts
to accumulate capital prior to participation in the
program, and that their participation in the program does
not cause this entrepreneurial behavior. This
entrepreneurial behavior is characterized by a tendency to
utilize the social resources of Jamaica, and by households
combining a variety of social relations to produce goods
and services and to keep or expand markets for these goods
and services. This results in changes within the peasant
household, between peasant households, and between peasant
households, the state and capitalists, sometimes resulting
in peasant households joining the Jamaican petty
bourgeousie. Unfortunately, for whatever subjective or
objective reasons U.S. companies decide to terminate the
participation of the farm workers, the data from Wood's and
McCoy's (1982) South Florida study show that only 37% of

201
the workers participate four or more seasons and thereafter
the proportion drops steadily to around 2% working sixteen
or more seasons (see table 6-10).
Implications for Theory and Development
In the introduction to this work I stated that a
central issue in the study of return migration's impact on
the sending countries was whether or not returning migrants
significantly contribute to their home countries' economic
development through the formation and accumulation of
capital. At the risk of oversimplifying, studies
influenced by microeconomics predict that migrants
returning from developed to underdeveloped countries will
contribute to their home countries' economic development
not only by capital formation and accumulation but also
through the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and
information in the developed area (Spengler and Myers,
1977 ; OEDC , 1978):
Upon their return, repatriates serve as agents of change by
applying the ideas and skills acquired abroad to establish
farms, businesses, and other enterprises conducive to
development. According to the equilibrium model, the
international movement of labor thus leads to a gradual
convergence in the levels of economic growth and social
well-being. (Wood, 1982: 301)
As in the case of the BWI Temporary Alien Labor program,
these assumptions are often used to justify the continued

202
utilization of labor of underdeveloped countries by
industries in developed countries. This has contributed to
the formation of programs such as the one discussed here,
as well as the European guestworker programs and the
increasing phenomenon of the "internationalization of
labor" (Portes and Walton, 1981: 189-191).
Critics of this perspective on return migration point
out that microeconomic studies tend to focus too
exclusively on the individual as the primary unit of
analysis, ignoring historical and broader social and
ecnomic factors which 1) reduce the range of opportunities
available to the returning migrants, and 2) reduce the
ability of the returning migrant to act on his or her own
initiative without regard for the needs and desires of the
social group of which s/he is a part (Wood, 1982: 303).
Other studies of return migrants have shown that often
migrants returning from developed countries have acquired
skills which cannot be utilized in their home countries
(e.g., King and Strachen, 1980).
The findings of the above study by and large support
these criticisms of microeconomic assumptions concerning
the impact of return migration on the sending countries.
Clearly, the Jamaicans who participate in the program
acquire few skills and little knowledge or information
which can be put to economically beneficial use in the
Jamaican countryside. Also, the farm workers' membership

203
in diffuse social networks certainly reduces their chances
to consider investments which might benefit them
individually, or even benefit the households they reside
in, at the expense of both acknowledging past and
cultivating future sources of social security. Finally,
although some farm workers have found investment areas
within the Jamaican economy, the majority are faced with
high-risk opportunities.
An alternative set of assumptions concerning the
impact of return migration come from the diffuse theories
and prespectives influenced by the writings of Marx, which
Wood has grouped together in the category of "the
historical-structural perspective" (1982: 301). Again at
the risk of oversimplifying, this perspective conceives of
international labor migration as a process of transferring
value from a social unit characterized by underdeveloped
means of production to a social unit characterized by
developed means of production. This process is
accomplished by means of complex historical relations
between units (e.g., social classes, modes of production,
core and periphery countries) within an interdependent
social formation. From this perspective, the decisions of
individual migrants to migrate and their decisions
concerning the uses of their skills and incomes upon
returning home can be explained and understood only by an
understanding of the broader social unit of which the

204
the individual is a part and its historical relationships
with other social units which utilize the migrant's social
unit as a source of labor power.
In the analysis of labor migration among peasants, we
would pay attention to the process by which peasant
survival strategies serve to feed and raise children and
thereby create a commodity (i.e., labor power), and how
that commodity is utilized within capitalist industries
(i.e., as wage labor). The surplus value is extracted by
capitalist industries and the wages from this process are
transferred back to the peasantry and used, not to create
surplus value, but to meet household subsistence
requirements and thereby create more labor power by
reproducing the work force. Finally, from this
perspective, the impact of return migration is not seen as
a process of improving the migrants' standards of living or
contributing to the development of the sending countries,
but rather a process of perpetuating or reorganizing the
historical relations between social units in ways which
assure a continued supply of labor to capitalist industry.
This study shows that, given the present structure and
organization of the alien labor program, the impact of
return migration is primarily one of reinforcing social
relations which assure that the Jamaican peasantry will
remain a willing, reliable, and docile labor force for U.S.
agribusiness. However, this study also shows that some of

205
the social relations reinforced by farm workers' earnings
actually give Jamaican peasants a measure of independence
from engaging in wage labor. I am referring here to the
specific contradiction between low wages made possible by
peasants providing for their own subsistence and social
security and the relative independence this gives peasants,
thus undermining their reliability as wage laborers in
Jamaica (cf. Painter, 1981). As discussed in chapter five,
they remain a reliable work force for U.S. apple and sugar
growers, but in Jamaica they continue to be unreliable as
long as wages on the island remain low. Their ability to
take and leave these Jamaican employment opportunities with
some measure of independence is the result of the very
social conditions which facilitated offering low wages in
the first place: that is, that peasant households provide
the means to maintain and reproduce themselves and take
care of their social security needs. Finally, we have seen
in this study that some of the longer-term farm workers
have been able to accumulate capital and begin or enhance
small businesses in Jamaica.
The contribution of this study for the revision of
theory lies in considering the data presented above to
determine what elements of peasant life affect the impact
of return labor migration. First, and most importantly,
this study has shown the importance of the relationships
between Jamaican peasant social structure and the ultimate

206
uses of farm workers' earnings. Aspects of peasant social
structure account in large part for the findings presented
throughout this work. They help explain why few
demographic, agricultural production, and socioecnoraic
differences exist between randomly selected populations of
farm workers and other peasant households. The
methodological importance of this is that neither the
individual nor a unit of analysis as large as a peasantry
or social class is the most enlightening unit of analysis
to use in studies of return migration. Rather, a
household, or in the Jamaican case a group of
interdependent households, is a more appropriate unit of
analysis. The household (peasant or otherwise) as a
primary unit of analysis in migration studies has recently
been emphasized by Wood (1981, 1982) as an alternative to
individual decision making studies and
historical-structural studies, an emphasis that has been
reiterated by Pessar (1982). The Jamaican case, however,
demonstrates that attention to the internal structure and
operation of the household alone is insufficient in
understanding peasant behavior. That is, Jamaican peasant
social structure can vary and influence behavior along
three lines: 1) within the household; 2) between
households; and 3) in the household's relations with the
state and capitalists.

207
Second, this study has shown that the economic
successes and failures of peasant households tend to be
intimately tied to the utilization of the social resources
of Jamaican society (e.g., credit institutions, political
connections, jobs contracts, etc.). As such, the
utilization of earnings by peasant labor migrants depends
in part upon the range of social resources available to
them. It is thus analytically useful to isolate the social
resources available to the peasantry and to determine the
ways in which peasants are able to take advantage of them.
The importance of analytically isolating social resources
and their use by the peasantry lies in the fact that the
specific nature of social resource utilization defines the
nature of entrepreneurship and the opportunities available
to the peasantry, and offers insights into the specific
ways in which peasants invest in economic activities in
their home countries. Many students of labor migration
have begun to reincorporate these patterns of social
resource utilization and entreprenueria1 activity into
their studies (cf. Long, 1977: 77-84). Portes and Walton,
for example, conceive of it as a process of
network-building and describe its results as follows:
Remote villages in the interior of Mexico and the Dominican
Republic survive because of the remittances, investments,
and eventual return of illegal workers in the United
States. Remote towns and villages in Peru survive because
of the economic initiatives of Lima-based migrants. The
similarity of both situations is not accidental for they

208
respond to essentially the same structural conditions.
These situations attest to an undercurrent of popular
economic initiative through which life is made possible
within the inequalities and constraints of peripheral
capitalism (1981: 64).
Anthropologists studying peasants, coming from traditons of
detailed field research at the microlevel, have long
emphasized the importance of both peasant social structure
and peasant entrepreneurial behavior. Hence the
ethnographies of peasant communities which exist today are
indispensable in an understanding of the conditions by
which peasant households both make possible and respond to
migration (e.g., Stein, 1961; Dougthy, 1968; Cancian, 1976;
Embree, 1954; Redfield, 1950; Lewis, 1951; Firth, 1946;
Foster, 1969; Magnarella, 1975). The importance of peasant
social structure and peasant entrepreneurial behavior
arises from the earliest anthropological treatments of
peasants as people who are intimately tied to and affected
by broader political and economic processes, especially at
the national level. Kroeber's (1948) early definition gave
central importance to the relationships between peasantries
and the markets, cities, legal systems, and public policies
of the nations in which peasants resided, calling them
part-cultures and part-societies of those nations. Wolf's
work on aspects of group relations in Mexico (1956) further
emphasized the need to conceive of and analyze peasants
with constant attention to their interactions with national
and, by extension, global political and economic concerns.

209
These intimate connections between peasants and broader
social units makes it necessary for peasants to develop
mechanisms within peasant social structure to aid one
another in dealing with broader social, cultural, ecnomic,
and political pressures (Wolf, 1966: 7-10, 48-59; Foster,
1967: 8-10). Yet these connections between peasants and
broader social units also expose peasants to production and
marketing opportunities, giving them the chance to utilize
their entrepreneurial skills. The present study
demonstrates that Jamaican peasants who travel to the U.S.
actively attempt to maintain strong social security links
with other peasants households, yet, if able, also attempt
to take advantage of the few economic opportunities which
exist in the Jamaican countryside.
Third, this study has shown that there is a tendency
for prolonged participation in the alien labor program to
coincide with increased social resource utilization,
capital formation and accumulation, and to sometimes lead
to short-term and long-term social relational changes among
the peasantry which involve combining a variety of social
relations of production. It is within the tendency of
peasants to combine a variety of social relations in their
household production processes that leads to socioeconomic
differentiation between peasant households, to the
subordination of some peasant households to the production
of others, and to structural change in the relationships

2 10
between segments of the peasantry and the state and
capitalists. This tendency to combine a variety of social
relations of production also provides the organizational
basis for economic diversification. The fact that peasant
households continue to maintain many of their cooperative
labor arrangements, sometimes superficially, while adding
new social relations to their productive strategies,
suggests that the changes occuring within the peasantry
involve reorganizations of peasant social relations. This
also suggests that peasants are perceptive of the tenuous
and often temporary nature of their success, maintaining
their abilities to fall back on social relations oriented
toward subsistence, reproduction, and social security in
times of economic crisis.
Finally, this study shows that there is a tendency
among the peasantry to diversify their economic activities,
with a steady income from wage labor, moving into
agricultural and nonagricu11ura 1 economic activities.
Other studies have noted similar economic activities among
migrants returning to peasant communities (Reichert, 1981;
Dinerman, 1978, 1981). This means that we cannot expect
migration among peasants to lead to increased agricultural
production, even when thos peasants do in fact utilize
their earnings for the formation and accumulation of
capital. Despite these findings, peasants have
traditionally been conceptualized as agriculturalists in

211
the social science literature and little attention has been
given to their nonagricultural economic activities. Most
often their nonagricultural economic activities have been
discussed as simply additional activities which occupy a
relatively minor role in the overall houshehold productive
strategy and which are subordinate to agriculture
(Chayanov, 1966: 101). Some recent studies, however, have
shown that economic diversification into agricultural and
nonagricultural fields tends to result from increased
capitalist penetration into peasant areas (Painter, 1981;
Cook, 1983).
In addition to having implications for theory, the
above findings also contain implications for questions of
development, and in particular how return migration among a
peasantry can be coordinated with development programs
which buildupon the expenditure behaviors or returning
migrants. First, this study has shown that the
participation of peasants in wage labor settings has the
potential of actually improving the conditions of life of
segments within the peasantry, but only if there are, at
the same time this participation is going on, alternate
support systems and opportunities for peasants which reduce
the need of the peasantry to first consider satisfying
subsistence, reproduction, and social security. That the
peasants will respond to these opportunities and support
systems is demonstrated in their tendency to utilize social

2 1 2
resources in their attempts to accumulate capital. Second,
the seasonal nature of peasant agricultural production,
coupled with the empirical findings that they will
diversify their economic activities and move into
nonagricultural productive spheres, suggests that these
opportunities should not be solely agricultural, which is
the current bias of development programming among peasants
today. Third, prolonged peasant participation in
capitalist wage labor, participation which allows peasants
to move between capitalist and peasant sectors on a
regular, seasonal basis, such as the alien labor program,
sometimes leads to increased socioeconomic differentiation
within the peasantry through the formation and accumulation
of capital, and the reorganization of peasant social
relations of production. The complexity of social
relations of production, furthermore, provides the
organizational basis for economic diversification.
The second and third predictions presented above point
to the importance of recognizing the crucial aspect of
frequent and regular movement between peasant and wage
labor settings. It is the seasonal nature of the alien
labor program which gives it is special and unique
dimension as an international labor migration program. As
the program functions today, its impact is primarily one of
reinforcing social relations which reproduce the work
force. However, there are indications that, were this

213
program expanded in a way which allowed a larger proportion
of the work force work for longer than five seasons, more
peasant households would have the chance to satisfy a large
portion of their maintenance and reproductive costs, and
economically expand their productive activities. An
expansion of the program in this fashion, however, would be
deve 1opmentally less useful if unaccompanied by legislation
and development programming in Jamaica which aided peasants
in their expansion strategies. The Seaga administration
has shown no signs of being predisposed toward such goals.
Nor is rural development programming oriented toward taking
advantage of and enhancing peasant strategies which include
expansion into nonagricultural enterprises. The
overwhelming agricultural bias of rural development
programming today, as evidenced by the predominance of
agronomists, agricultural economists and so on in USAID
rural development offices and as evidenced by the recent
rise of farming systems research (Hansen, et al., 1981;
Practicing Anthropology, 1983), can only result in a
continued state of underdevelopment among peasants in a
world where wealth is measured by an industrial, not an
agricultural, gauge. Agricultural development, instead of
rural development, will only further reduce peasantries
worldwide to the status of maintainers and reproducers and
further impede the abilities of peasants to accumulate
capital

2 14
The tendencies of Jamaican peasants to diversify their
economic activities into nonagricultura 1 areas, as well as
their tendencies toward consumer spending in the U.S.,
dferive in large part from the exposure of peasants to the
urban-industrial complex (Pearse, 1971) and their own
realization that status, wealth, and prestige are defined
by urban and not rural centers. As Foster has written:
The emotional dependence of the peasant on the city
presents an especially poignant case. Peasants throughout
history have admired the city, and have copied many of the
elements they have observed there. The city, with its
glitter and opportunity, holds a fascination, like a candle
for a moth. But at the same time, and for good cause,
peasants hate and fear cities and the city dwellers who
exercise control over them. (1967: 10)
It is no wonder that these peasants who migrate to the U.S.
spend so much of their money on clothes, shoes, tape decks,
watches and jewelry, or that those who witness their return
attach such importance and prestige to these things.
Without the ability to withhold substantial portions of
their earnings from consumption for investment purposes,
these Jamaican peasants are attempting to improve their
lives in more minor ways, yet ways which are condoned and
appreciated by their friends and kin. As 1 noted in an
earlier chapter, the appreciation of U.S. goods brought
back by the farm workers further fuels the desire among the
Jamaican peasantry to participate in the program, and
further assures a supply of Jamaican labor to the U.S. Nor

215
is it any wonder that, when the farm workers do have income
above what is necessary to maintain their households, they
attempt to invest in more urban, nonagricu 1 tura1 sectors of
the Jamaican economy.
Development among Jamaica's peasants cannot proceed
from ideological foundations of dogmatism nor from a
behavioral infrastructure of favoritism, protectionism,
vested interests, and political gain. The real world is
neither entirely capitalist nor entirely socialist nor is
it necessarily desirable for one or the other to prevail.
The potential of Jamaica's peasants will only be diluted or
undermined by attempting to force them into broad
historical processes which pay little attention to the
empirical complexities of their day-to-day social relations
and strategies. Development efforts must combine, as
peasants themselves attempt to combine, capitalist economic
opportunity with social programming designed to provide
social resources which aid peasants in their basic survival
requirements and aid them in their attempts to take
advantage of the economic opportunity which exists. Social
and economic differentiation is likely to occur under such
an approach, and the subordination of some households to
the production of others is likely to result as well.
Certainly extreme disparities in wealth and prestige are
desired only by those who benefit because of them, but to
envision an entirely equitable road to development is to

216
fall into the Utopian backwater which has been the easy
prey for capitalist criticisms of Marxism and socialism.
The task of development lies not in conceiving of
capitalism as an ogre and socialism as a shining star of
hope, but of empirically recognizing the promises of
peasantries and helping them see those promises fulfilled.

APPENDIX A
1982 PRODUCTION COSTS PER CWT OF IRISH POTATO (JAMAICAN
DOLLARS)
I. Seed
$42.00
II. Labor Costs
a) Planting and land preparation:
1.88 man-days
b) Weeding (family labor)
c) Harvesting (three harvests)
1 man-day per CWT per harvest
Total man-days of labor = 4.88
Average daily wage (includes meals) = $9.00
Total labor cost (9 x 4.88) = $43.92
Adjusted for family labor input (25% of labor) - $43.92 x
.75 = 32.94.
III. Pesticide
a) $7.00/pound. 1 lb. needed per CWT.
b) $1.50 needed per CWT to hire spray pump. Five
sprayings = $7.50.
IV. Fertilizer
$21.00
2 17

2 18
V. Transportation from seed store to field
$ 1 .00/CWT
Total = $111.44
Total cost per acre (14 CWT) = $1560.16.

APPENDIX B
TABLES DESIGNATING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FARM WORKERS
WHICH ARE TANGENTIAL TO THE TEXT
The information in these tables and those throughout
the text concerning the farm workers comes from four
sources: 1) the Jamaican subsample collected by Drs. McCoy
and Wood in South Florida in March, 1981 (N=206); 2) The
Two Meetings Watershed (N=45); 3) The U.S. Northeast and
South Florida where I collected data in the fall of 1982
(N=21); and 4) Other parishes in Jamaica where I collected
data primarily on long-term (four or more season) farm
workers during 1983 (N=9). Some of the tables give a
sample size of N=54, which include both the 45 from the Two
Meetings Watershed and the 9 from other parishes. Unless
otherwise indicated, throughout this appendix, sample size
will indicate the population from which the statistics are
derived.
2 19

220
Table B-l
Parish
Dis tribution
of Farm Workers
(N=54)
Parish
Absolute
f requency
percent of
total
Trelawney
1
1 .8
S t. Ann
5
9.3
Manches ter
21
38.8
Clarendon
18
33.3
St. Elizabeth
7
13.0
Westmoreland
1
1 .8
Portland
1
1.8
Nature
Table B-2
of Participation in Program
(N= 54 )
Nature of
participation
Absolute
frequency
percent of
total
Apples only
10
18.5
Sugar only
2 1
38.9
Apples and
sugar
23
42.6

22 1
Table B-3
Number of Years of Participation (N=54)
Number
of years
Absolute
f requency
Percent of
total
1
13
24
2
4
7.4
3
5
9.2
4
6
11.1
5
7
12.9
6
7
12.9
7
2
3.7
8
2
3.7
9
2
3.7
11
1
1 .8
15
1
1.8
17
4
7.4
Percent of Population
Table B-4
Farming Some Land in 1980 (N=206)
Absolute frequency
Percent of Total
188
91

APPENDIX C
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
The major lessons of the Jamaican case and their
implications for policy can be summarized as follows:
1) The United States government, though the active
annual intervention of the Employment and Training
Administration of the Department of Labor, supports the
sugar and apple companies by providing them with a captive,
docile, ready, and willing labor force, which neither
places additional burden on U.S. taxpayers by utilizing
social security and welfare systems nor contributes to the
maintenance of these systems through taxation. From the
perspectives of all parties involved (except those of U.S.
domestic labor), the alien labor program's impact on U.S.
society and economy is beneficial. The primary
beneficiaries are the U.S. agribusinesses which utilize BWI
labor, but the merchants in the host communities also
benefit from the consumer behavior of the workers.
Although various groups representing labor (including the
USDOL) have repeatedly argued that a domestic labor force
exists for the sugar and apple harvests, their contentions
222

223
continue to be undermined by sugar and apple industry
reports that the domestic labor force is inadequate due to
their ability to move on to subjectively better occupations
and hence their unreliability to work the entire season.
That the program continues to function, as well as to
include increasing numbers of BWI laborers, testifies to
the judicial support of the sugar and apple producers.
Given the tradition of government interference which
characterizes this program, coupled with the obvious
benefit of the program to Ü.S. agribusinesses, there exists
some basis for discussion between the governments of the
sending and receiving countries, industry, and labor.
Whether or not an improvement in the program which would
specifically benefit the sending countries in a
developmental sense is truly desired by the parties
involved, I cannot say. However, if such an outcome is
deemed desirable, then certainly one means of improving the
program would be the renewal of contracts on a five-year
basis as opposed on an annual basis, assuring that a larger
portion of the work force worked four seasons or more.
This would also introduce a measure of job security into
the program and hence a more secure basis for planning for
the workers, since they would be assured this income for
five consecutive years (barring accidents). Although this
would partially undermine the control the U.S.
agribusinesses now have over the workers, it would not

224
undermine productivity, since high productivity is directly
related to high earnings and hence desired by workers as
well as industry. As a compromise, to help insure that the
sugar companies maintain some control over determining hard
workers (however subjectively or objectively defined) from
lazy ones, the worker's initial year in the program could
be considered his trial year. Then, with the second year
of participation, if the worker were requested to return,
the five-season contracts could begin.
2) The governments of the sending countries continue
to support the alien labor program in the recruitment
process, providing a pool of laborers from which U.S.
recruiters draw their labor. These governments therefore
possess some ability to select for specific behavioral and
social characteristics among these workers which covary
with various economic behaviors. Depending on the goals of
the sending society, this ability constitutes the potential
to partially determine the complexion of the labor force in
ways which can be linked to development programming at
home. Given the present complexion of the labor force, the
program could be successfully coordinated with housing
schemes which would aid workers in their attempts to meet
long-term household consumption demands and provide more
workers with the means to shift from consumer spending to
investment spending in their first few years of

225
participation. Beyond this, the recommendations which can
be made might well be construed as a conscious attempt to
make the program's participants an elite group of laborers.
However, the conscious selection of men who have histories
of utilizing social resources such as credit, lawyers,
development programming, and all available marketing
centers (or even the attempted social resource utilization)
would result in a greater portion of the four or more
season workers diverting overseas funds to the formation
and accumulation of capital. The state of record keeping,
in Jamaica at least, is sophisticated enough so that
determining social resource utilization or attempted social
resource utilization would not be difficult on a local
level. Also, if the minimum age of participation were
raised from twenty-one to thirty, the labor pool would
contain more men who had already satisfied many of the
household consumption needs associated with a growing
family (partial house construction, early childhood medical
expenses, clothing costs, etc.), as well as more men
experienced in social resource utilization, and hence
increase the incidence of the ability to shift from
consumer spending to investment spending.
These suggestions, I again point out, are only
presented here as examples of the potential the selection
process has in determining the ultimate impact of the
program on the sending countries.

226
3) Finally, Jamaican peasant behavior suggests that
their principal economic concerns consist of providing
housing, satisfying household consumption demands through
diversified agricultural activities, and expanding their
productive capacities by moving into nonagricultural as
well as agricultural sectors of the Jamaican economy. The
potential exists for these behaviors to be fueled by the
participation of peasants in wage labor settings. However,
it is important to note here that, given the specific
internal dynamics of the peasantry, the participation of
peasants in wage labor settings can most efficiently
proceed if the capitalist industries which hire them
recognize their need to attend to their own economic
activities. That is, they need to move frequently and
regularly between the wage labor settings and their peasant
economic activities. Realizing this is important in
nations such as Jamaica, where a significant portion of the
labor force is drawn directly from the peasantry or is
connected to the peasantry through kinship and friendship
ties. Nations such as Jamaica usually have large surpluses
of labor which can be tapped as a key resource and source
of human energy in the context of labor-intensive economic
activities. However, as Richard Barnet had said,
misunderstanding the character of the labor force can lead,

227
and has led, to industries opting for capital-intensive
production techniques:
Employing a native labor force involves the uncertainties
and complications of human relationships, which well-oiled
machines, science fiction to the contrary, rarely present.
Thus it may be commonplace for members of a family to share
a job, a most untidy practice bound to be disconcerting for
modern managers. A corporation can find itself drawn into
the net of complex family social arrangements. ... If the
paycheck goes to support an array of unemployed cousins and
uncles and some catastrophe strikes one or more of them,
the corporation may be presented with the choice of
extending charity or confirming the popular view that,
being too foreign, too antiseptic, and too singleminded, it
is even more exploitative than the old local landlord.
(Barnet, 1981: 260-61)
Any policy decisions which utilize the finding of this
research require, above all else, commitment by an active
public sector and the cooperation and willing participation
of private local and foreign investors. Whether such
commitment exists or is capable of maintaining an active
public sector depends not only on those in power in
Jamaica, or in other Caribbean Basin nations with problems
similar to Jamaica's, but also on those in the governments
of developed countries whose policies, aid packages, loans,
duties, markets, and regulations influence the direction of
development In Jamaica. Clearly, the current
administrations in the United States and Jamaica show no
tendency to support such policy decisions.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
David Griffith was born in Cherokee, Iowa, in 1951 and
raised in Cedar Rapids, the son of a struggling, upper
middle class dentist. Never a very precocious child, he
was advised by a high school guidance counsellor to join
the U.S. armed forces rather than continue his education.
As the Vietnam War was raging at this time, Dave questioned
the wisdom of this advice and went on to college, attending
the University of Northern Colorado, the University of
Iowa, from which he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in
anthropology, the University of Montana, and finally the
University of Florida. He was for three years a student in
the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and in the creative writing
program at the University of Montana. He is married, with
two daughters, and will soon be joining the staff of the
Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources, East Carolina
University, Greenville, North Carolina.
242

I certify that
opinion it conforms
presentation and is
a dissertation for
I certify that
opinion it conforms
presentation and is
a dissertation for
I certify that
opinion it conforms
presentation and is
a dissertation for
I certify that
opinion it conforms
presentation and is
a dissertation for
I have read this study and that in my
to acceptable standards of scholarly
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
AnthoaV R. Oliver-Smith, Chairman
Associate Professor of
Anthropology
I have read this study and that in my
to acceptable standards of scholarly
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Paul L. uough
Professor of /£nt
I have read this study and that in my
to acceptable standards of scholarly
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
(\ cwi \
Paul J . arál La
Professor of Anttrropology
I have read this study and that in my
to acceptable standards of scholarly
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Te rranee/L. McCoy /
Associate Professor of
Latin American Studies

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Ch arles ÍH Wood
Associate Professor of
Sociology
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
the Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School, and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dean for Graduate Studies
and Research
De c emb e r, 19 8 3

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