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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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Post-parental stage Now that I have paid back all the loans, my life is very comfortable. I always have enough rice. Our money comes from more resources now, not just from rice. The only thing I worry about a lot is that my son has no child, even though he has already been married for several years. I have only one son and he has to continue

96 Chapter 6

the family name. But they were unable to have a baby, even though they consulted doctors many times. This is the biggest problem I have now. The villagers do not talk about it, but I feel my life is not as it should be. My youngest daughter and her husband migrated and left their son for me to look after. I do not know whether they will stay with me in the future. My daughter is still in my hukoubu; she has not registered in her husband’s hometown. My youngest daughter and her husband usually come back here for the festival and holidays. I count them as my household members.

I got subsidies from the government the past two years. I got a subsidy of 70 yuan. I was also exempted from paying a 230 yuan tax. I was asked by the villagers to organize two touristic trips, which we never would have thought of doing in the past. Our main income is from rice, fruit trees, pigs and long-term migration. I cultivate rice and rapeseed in the paddy field and maize, sweet potato, chilli, sunflower, pumpkin, bean, and potato in the upland area. Maize, potato and sweet potato vines are used as feed. Other crops are mostly for our own consumption. I want more training in agricultural technologies. I am responsible for managing the money. Every market day, I buy my husband a pack of cigarettes.

He never thinks about the household consumption and never borrows money. I am responsible for the agricultural production, such as buying seeds, arranging ploughing time, and marketing. He just follows my lead. We often go to the market together, because he carries the rice sack that I then sell it in the market. I am also taking care of my youngest daughter’s child. It is joyful to have my grandchild living here, even though we are very tired in the busy season from taking care of him and from conducting our agricultural activities.

My husband has a big family with four siblings in this village, and we help each other a lot. Our houses are adjacent and we share everything. But five years ago, one brother built a house near the main road, since there was no space on the old spot anymore. People build much bigger houses now. I also have a big natal family, with two brothers and two sisters. I am renting my niece’s land to cultivate these two years, because she is migrating. Women in our village are better at managing the household and like to sit together to discuss agricultural production.

Men only know how to drink during every meal and follow women’s suggestions.

Several women tried to experiment with finding the optimal density of rice and strawberry plants. They now often come to my room to knit traditional clothes, since they have more money and the traditional clothes are becoming more fashionable, though I do not know why.

6.4.5 Life story 5 Name: Yan = EGO Age: 46 Cohort: 1990s Other household members: a husband, two sons Household headship: de jure male-headed and de facto female-headed household Village: Dongkou

–  –  –

Figure 6.6: The genealogy of Yan Yan’s introduction I have one daughter and two sons.

I graduated from high school. I have five mu of upland and one mu of paddy fields. My oldest daughter got married in the same village and she delivered a baby girl half a year ago.

Formation stage I got married in 1982, when I was twenty years old. I came from another county far from here. My husband and I met through my father’s friend. My father was a worker and his friend introduced me to his relative, my current husband. I delivered my daughter in 1984, the oldest son in 1986, and the youngest son in

1989. The children and I had no land share. My father-in-law was a former village leader and felt strongly about keeping the household together. He did not allow us to establish our own household, so we were part of a big household. All the decisions were made by him. He did not allow the children to do dangerous work, such as mining. He also would not easily accept modern technologies. My parentsin-law got land for four people: my husband, my brother-in-law, and my parentsin-law. Later on, our extended household had 12 members, because my brother-inlaw got married in 1984 and soon had three babies. There was not enough land to feed us all and our house was really bad, mixed slate and wood only. In 1987, my parents began to accept new technologies and we began to cultivate watermelon.

In 1988, we earned four hundred yuan by selling watermelon and the situation improved a little. Our income from watermelon accounted for 30 percent of our total income in the first five years we planted it. My father-in-law had a hard time managing the big household, but he still did not allow us to establish our own household.

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Maturing stage In 1998, my husband, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and I discussed splitting up the extended household with my parents-in-law, because we stayed really poor without independent arrangements. They agreed to divide the big household because they had no energy to manage it, now that they were older than 75. As a result, we established our independent household by getting one mu of paddy fields and five mu of upland. My father-in-law lived with us, while my mother-inlaw lived with my brother-in-law. In that year, my father-in-law died. After his death, we made our own decisions about agricultural production, using hybrid rice and maize, which my father-in-law had not allowed. I could make my own decisions after the household division and felt freer. We tried different new technologies.

In 1998, I was elected as the female village head. After 1998, my husband began circular migration to work in the coal mines, which provided another source of income. That year, our house was damaged by strong winds and we had to repair it, which made my life harder during that period. We bought cheap bricks from a relative living in the municipal center and repaired the house in which we are currently staying. It took us 2000 yuan. In 2001, my daughter migrated and life became easier.

Matured stage In 2003, we began to run a stone quarry on the village’s land, by annually paying 1000 yuan to the village. It was very small, but every year, we got a profit of several thousand yuan. In 2006, we borrowed thirty thousand yuan from the bank to expand the quarry. One of my sisters-in-law got married in a nearby village and we borrowed money from her as well. My siblings are all government officials; they lent me ten thousand yuan. Until now, I have been paying back the loans, even if I have not made enough profit. I also got support from neighbours in running the stone quarry. Two neighbours gave their land to me and charged only a small amount. We helped each other to earn money and we can share the benefits. It is not easy to run the quarry and our electricity was cut down two days ago. The electricity station thought that I connected the electricity illegally, but that is not true. I may be fined if I want to continue to use the electricity. I will go to the electricity station next week to clarify the matter. I am so busy with the quarry that I have had no time to weed chili and other crops.

In 2007, my daughter got married in our village and I spent seven thousand yuan on the wedding. Unfortunately, my older son had a car accident that same year, which cost me six thousand yuan. Now, he is recovering but he is unable to migrate. He only does agricultural production at home. I decided to raise two hundred chickens at the quarry site that he can take care of. It is an isolated spot, which will prevent the chickens from getting cholera, a very serious disease that affects the chicken business here. At the same time, he can take care of the quarry. We plan to build a new house this year and hold a wedding ceremony for him next year. In 2007, my youngest son migrated as well. I tried different ways of making a profit, but all my income was invested in the quarry. I expect the quarry to give me more profit.

99Women’s life stories and social change

These days, we raise more pigs to sell, because the use of new feeding technologies has made it easier. Now, there is no need for me to collect fuel wood every day to cook pig feed. We had more crop varieties in the past, such as millet and sorghum. Nowadays, these have disappeared because they are difficult to process when cultivated on a small scale. People have become lazier, too. I am planning to cultivate cucumber and beans for commercial purposes, but I will need to learn the cultivation technologies first. We still plant watermelon. We are very busy in the harvesting period because we have to look after the watermelons every night, while we have to sell them in the market in the daytime. This lasts one month. If we produce more, the businessmen will come to us. Since we began to run the quarry, we have been unable to spend enough time on the watermelons and the yield is decreasing. But I have to give more time to the quarry, because that is what we have invested in.

I am a sociable person and have many friends coming here to engage in mining and other business. I have always tried my best to help them, even before I was selected as female village leader. All my siblings are government officials because my village was a suburban village; they got a higher education and found jobs. My siblings helped me a lot when the children’s education had to be paid.

6.4.6 Life story 6 Name: Xiao = EGO Age: 40 Cohort: 1980s Other household members: a husband, one son, and one daughter Household headship: dual-headed household Village: Dongkou Figure 6.7: The genealogy of Xiao

–  –  –

Xiao’s introduction I never went to school because my parents moved to this village from another county when I was seven years old. They left me behind in our former village and did not send me to school. They also had no motivation to send girls to school. I have one daughter and one son. My husband has no siblings in this village. All his sisters got married elsewhere, and his only brother has an official job in another county. This is why we have more land than other households have. In the past, we were able to grow extra maize to sell and use the money to buy rice when the others could not. I do not cultivate hybrid maize, either, because I have more than enough land to cultivate low yield but tasty local maize.

Formation stage In 1987, I got married when I was nineteen years old. My husband and I lived in the same village. This is the case with several couples here. The other villagers find it strange that we have so many intra-village marriages. They say: “It seems that the village has so much gold and silver that you like to marry here and do not want to move outside the village”. One of my sisters also got married in the same village. I knew my husband very well before marriage. I feel proud that we like our village, even though it is not a rich village. I only got one thousand yuan as a dowry to buy clothes when I got married. When I just got married, my husband’s four younger sisters and one younger brother were still at home and we all lived together.

In 1988, I delivered my first child, a son. In September 1989, we separated from my parents-in-law. We got four mu of paddy fields and ten mu of land higher up. I also got one buffalo, twenty kilos of maize, and one piglet. We did not get any kitchen utensils. Traditionally, we were required to cook ourselves once we established our own household. So my husband cut the trees and sold them in the market the next day to buy kitchen utensils. We began to cook ourselves. In October, we harvested and we had enough food for the whole year. We were lucky that the buffalo had a baby the next year. We sold the calf and got a higher income.

Our household life improved after we sold the calf. Later, we began to raise piglets.

After we sold the pigs, we got more cash and the household economy was gradually improving. We used to raise five to six piglets at that time.

In the early phase of my marriage, the crop yield per unit was not very high because we could not buy fertilizer and hybrid seeds. I reclaimed an upland area in 1989 and 1990, because we needed to plant more crops to feed us. During the slack season, when we were reclaiming the land, we carried the baby on our backs. In the early 1990s, we also tried to use this land to cultivate watermelon to earn cash. In 1990, I delivered my daughter. I began to raise chickens, which provided sufficient income to buy cooking oil. Whenever I needed oil, I sold a chicken. I had to fetch water, cook, make wine, and raise animals. We did not want to feed the pigs with the raw maize, but used it to make wine first, and then we used the maize residue to feed the pigs. It is more economical that way.

101Women’s life stories and social change

Maturing stage In 1995, my son went to school. Once the child went to school, we had to think about earning money to pay for the costs of his education. The income from watermelon helped a lot in paying for the children’s education. I sold watermelon in summer and kept the money for the children’s tuition fee in autumn. Otherwise, we would have had difficulties to pay the tuition fee because rural households do not earn much in September, before the autumn harvesting time.

In 1997, I began to cultivate tobacco but stopped three years later, although the government promoted it. It was not easy for us to produce tobacco of a quality that met the tobacco company’s criteria and we did not earn a lot of money from it.

The tobacco company often classified the quality of our tobacco as low. In 1998, we also borrowed 1000 yuan from the bank to buy coal, to dry the tobacco leaves. It was difficult to get the loan and we had to show many documents to prove we would be able to pay it back. Because the government promoted the tobacco production, we got the opportunity to get the loan. Otherwise, we would not have gotten it.

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