In recent years, Portugal’s agricultural sector gained significant economic importance. According to OECD data, in order to meet the growing need for manpower and the market’s low prices, the country is increasingly relying on undocumented migrant labour.
The city of Beja - as well as the Alentejo region at large - are the main agricultural regions where predominantly seasonal workers are working long hours for a low pay, often living in subhuman conditions. Labourers from Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe are, therefore, playing a pivotal role in keeping the country’s agricultural sector - let it be olives, grapes, red berries or almonds - afloat. Their precarious conditions are contrasted with the price pressure created by a globalised supply chain - and with intensive agricultural practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation: seasonal work has decreased, leaving a large number of workers without the already unstable income.
This project highlights the role of these essential workers who are frequently trapped outside the formal system, juxtaposing it with the intensified land use and the inadequate living and labour conditions present in the Alentejo region. It also underlines the complexity of the migrant experience.
Developed with the support of National Geographic Society and People in Need Slovakia.