[First paragraph] In the debate about improving the livelihoods of rural communities in Uganda, the technocratic, political and economic elites, both domestic and foreign, urge the ‘commercialisation of the peasants’. They say that people need to produce more, and of better quality, to be more entrepreneurial and that they need better access to markets. While markets loom large in the neoliberal dogma of those who do the urging, the market they are thinking of is an abstract ideal. Donors, NGOs and government officials rarely talk about the realities of the market arena in present-day Uganda. Our research into rural markets in eastern Uganda reveals that malpractice was often a significant element of these markets. Extensive interviews in Kampala and in the districts of Mbale, Bududa, Manafwa and Sironko suggest that face-to-face rural trade practices have been characterised by higher levels of malpractice and a change in their form since the onset of the largely externally imposed economic reforms (liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation) of the late 1980s and 1990s
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