I was walking with a buyer (buyer is a farmer who acts as a part time agent for the company, buying cotton on the company's behalf) for the cotton company I'm working with, a very entrepreneurial and intelligent man. We walked past one of his farmer’s cotton fields that was being harvested. It was being picked late and the quality was compromised as a result. I asked him what quality grade he would give it “Grade A. I can’t give him any less because he’s my brother in law”.
We continued walking and saw his personal cotton field also being picked. There were two women picking the cotton and on the ground lay 3 empty, brand new picking bags. Beside the picking bags was a large pile of picked cotton sitting on the dirt. This was really compromising the cotton quality. He went and shouted at the women for not using the picking sacks (they wanted to take them home to use and window shades) and I asked if he would deduct their pay “No, I can’t they are my sisters”
This is an example of trading economic capital for social capital, another way Zambians “buy insurance” and stability in their unstable and dangerous lives. By trading money for favour with friends and family, they are providing some security in their lives. If they die, go bankrupt, lose their job, then there is an external force, a social network that can help cushion the blow to them and their immediate family.