The University of Arizona

'It's very not fair': Maize, money, and moral economies in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania

Natasha Alice Watts


Over the past decade there has been increased emphasis on agricultural development in Africa to meet a nexus of challenges including global food security, national and local economic growth and employment creation, energy security, and the search for new profit frontiers. This is occurring at a time of decreasing public funding for agricultural development, and a deeper focus on the potentially speculative and predatory nature of financial models in the wake of the financial crisis in the late 2000s. One outcome has been the development of innovative financing mechanisms. An example is social impact investing (SII), which aims to generate financial returns and positive social impacts for intended beneficiaries. In this article, I examine an SII programme in the Tanzanian agricultural sector. I unpack what happens when its vision of 'ethical capitalism' is implemented in the context of farmer livelihoods and moral economies, especially at a time of environmental disruption. In doing so, I argue for the continuing relevance of studying moral economies within political ecology.

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