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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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From the couples who married in the early 1990s, the husbands migrated when the children were two or three years old. Once the children are in middle school and high school, costs increase, so the couples had to find ways to increase their income. Some couples migrated together (Chapter 7). If they did stay at home to

154 Chapter 8

look after their children and land, they engaged in agriculture. Yet, most were looking for opportunities to move away. Those who got married in the later 1990s usually had already migrated before they got married. Most couples migrated again after their children were older than one, leaving these children at home with their grandparents. A few households also began transportation businesses to earn money, while some started to work as vendors.

In the 2000s cohort, almost everybody migrated before marriage. They have no interest in agriculture and most do not have much knowledge about agricultural management. Some husbands work circularly, because this enables them to look after their land and children. Most stay at home temporarily and plan to migrate when it is possible. One wife with a five-months-old baby in Dongkou village said: “Now, I have no choice and have to stay at home to take care of the child. But I will migrate as soon as my son can walk and I will leave him behind with my parents and parents-in-law”. Some couples are working in transportation or vending, or they run a small shop. Some households migrate when their children are big enough to be left at home with their grandparents. Only a few households bring their children along.

8.3.2 Land use and cropping pattern changes As discussed in Chapter 4, in Kaizuo, land was allocated to the households to manage in 1980-1981. During the land distribution period, the policy and information were not very clear. At first notice, the contract term was only three years, after which the land would have to be given back to the collective, so people did not pay much attention to the fairness of its distribution. Some people did not even want to get more because they did not have enough labourers and were insufficiently motivated to manage the land.

The major crops in Kaizuo are rice, maize and rapeseed. The other crops include sunflower, chilli, potato, sweet potato, peach, plum, strawberry, watermelon and tobacco. Land use has been changing since the implementation of the HRS. In the collective era, more land was left uncultivated. At the beginning of the HRS, more households reclaimed land and occupied it as their own. Later, due to the increasing out-migration, a labour shortage prevented cultivation of all the land. Some lands (mainly upland) were abandoned, despite its good quality.

Abandoning low-quality land is common altogether. Almost no household would abandon rice paddy field because rice is the staple food, but abandoning upland is increasing. Cropping patterns are also undergoing change. There were more local varieties in the collective and early HRS periods. Now, less young people remain in the area and the consumption of grain and agricultural products is decreasing.

As one grain processor in Dabuyang said, “I get less income than I got before because more households sell their raw agricultural products and do not come to process them for their own consumption. It was more than ten yuan per day in the past, but now, I can only get seven or eight yuan”. The villagers mainly cultivate local crops, such as millet, sorghum, and oat for their own consumption. Since consumption is decreasing, more varieties are facing the danger of going extinct.

During the collective area, when their children were young, the households from the 1970s cohort planted more local varieties. They managed their

155Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

home gardens very well, even though the amount of land was usually small. After the HRS, the most important thing was to solve food shortages, so they began to use hybrid crops and put more organic fertilizer on the field for higher yields.

During the 1990s, most rice crops were hybrid varieties, and more hybrid maize varieties were used as well. Nowadays, the households from this cohort no longer have a food security problem. Nevertheless, they still plant more local varieties because they like to have more diversified crops to feed their families. They do not want to buy crops in the market. They also cultivate cash crops and fruit trees, but preferably not on a large scale and always with risk avoidance in mind. The households in this cohort are the most inclined to renting land because they have no other ways to make money. Some households in this cohort rent out land because of a labour shortage. Especially during the peak season, they are very busy. In FGDs 1C, 1D, 2C, 2D, people mentioned that it is normal for the farmers to lose several kilos of weight after planting season and harvesting season because of the intensive work.

The couples from the 1980s cohort manage both agriculture and circular work. Most often, the husbands will go out for circular work and come back for agricultural production in the busy season. Some households rent land. Compared with the households in the 1970s cohort, the couples have more energy because they are younger. Few households rent out land. Their children usually migrate and can already feed themselves. There is not too much pressure to earn money other than to prepare for their children’s weddings. Only a few households (mainly households of the late 1980s cohort) still have to pay their children’s education fee. The cohorts of the 1970s and 1980s used to plant potato and sweet potato to feed the animals, since the traditional pig feed technology required cooking the feed. Due to the new pig feeding technology, cooking potatoes and sweet potatoes is required less often. From the 1990s onward, the government has implemented the agricultural development project, while the CBNRM project (Chapter 4) has stimulated the extension of hybrid rice, maize, and fruit trees cultivation. The 1980s cohort, like the 1970s cohort, met food security problems when their children were younger, in the 1980s and early 1990s. They therefore tried to plant higher-yielding crops, but also got the idea to plant more diversified crops for their children’s consumption.





Households from the 1990s cohort usually have experience with migration, especially long-term migration; they have thus been exposed to the world outside their own area of origin. When they return to the area, they plan to raise animals and cultivate land on a large scale and with mono-crops, but their input is too low. For this reason, few households own land and animals on a larger scale. They still balance their income from cultivation and long-term migration, and prefer to migrate long-term again. Some households rent land and a few households rent out land if they are at home. More people rent out land or give it to their parents to manage if they migrate. Some households in this cohort also planted potato and sweet potato in the early 1990s, to raise animals. They had some experience with agriculture because they helped their parents when they were young.

In the 2000s cohort, most households rent out land or give it to parents to manage when they migrate. If the couples of this cohort stay at home, the wife

156 Chapter 8

manages the land, while the husband only helps in the busy season. The rest of the time, he will be involved in circular work or in running a business. Some husbands migrate and thus cannot help their wife on the land. The households in this cohort in general do not plant diversified crops, not even for their children to eat. They get the more diverse products from their parents or buy them in the market. They have more money to buy products because of their income from migration and circular work. Their priority is to look after their children as best they can. This cohort wants to assure a better education and care for their children. One young wife with

a four-year-old son in Dabuyang village said:

“I am lazy and stay at home and always forget the paddy field. My parents-in-law are more involved with the field than I am. My main task is to take care of my son and the land because my husband has a job in transportation and can only help in the busy time. But I like to watch TV and play mahjong and don’t care about the land very much. My husband earns enough money to cover our costs and the land also produces enough products for us, even though I do not spend more time on it”.

This cohort also had some knowledge of agricultural production, however limited, at the time they formed their own households, because they did help their parents a lot when they were at school age. After their marriage, they depend on their parents for land management. This cohort does not pay attention to diversified crops and prefers to buy in the market, or to get products from their parents.

All cohorts mentioned in the FGDs that local plant varieties are diminishing and newly introduced crops are of increasing importance.

8.4 Food security As discussed above, there was a food security problem in the collective era and in the early years after the implementation of the HRS. Different cohorts have different perceptions of food security. In the collective era, households from the 1970s worked in the field every day, but still could not feed their households. They borrowed food from the collective, while some even collected wild vegetables and crops as staple food. The households could feed themselves after several years of the HRS. However, their staple food did not solely consist of rice21. They had to eat rice mixed with maize, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. In the late 1980s and 1990s, a few households could not yet afford to eat only rice as their staple food, and still had to mix it with maize, especially in upland villages. Since the recent decade, the food security problems are completely solved. The government provides the poorest households with grain. The government’s support increased from 50 kilogrammes annually to hundreds of kilogrammes annually. The gap between rich and poor is decreasing. In the past, some people did not even have enough food. Now, there are more opportunities for people to earn money and higheryielding crops were introduced. The criteria for rich and poor are different for the In Kaizuo, eating rice as staple food is looked upon as a sign of having a good life and 21 eating maize is seen as a sign of being poor.

–  –  –

different periods. Households were categorized according to their cattle, pigs, and labourers in the past. House quality and possession of a truck are the main indicators at present.

In the 1990s cohort, almost no households met food security problems after their household formation. The 2000s cohort’s households have no food security problems. They worry about new problems with food, such as their children eating less rice but more snacks with low nutritional value, such as potato chips, instant noodles and candy. The male group discussion’s participants in Dongkou village (FGDs 1 B and 2 B) mention that the number of fat people is increasing in the villages because of overeating. Unsafe food, the product of the increasing environmental pollution, caused by the increase in the use of chemical pesticides, is another problem.

The local people also collect wild vegetables and fruits to sell in the market or to sell to the vendors. A mixed group discussion in Dongkou village and Dabuyang village shows that the older cohorts collect these to make more money.

The younger cohorts rather see it as a leisure activity. They have money to buy fruits, meat, and products from the market. Some children participate in the activity, too, to earn money for candy and toys.

8.5 Gender As discussed in previous chapters, gender roles regarding livelihood, the division of labour, and decision-making are different for different cohorts and life stages.

The following section will continue the discussion, focussing mainly on the changes in gender roles.

8.5.1 Gender and livelihood change Table 8.3 and Table 8.4 elaborate on the livelihood portfolios of men and women.

They engage in different livelihood activities during different stages in the life course, and these activities change over time. These data mainly come from our group discussions with elderly male and female groups. Some also come from participant observation.

Table 8.3 shows that the current common livelihood activities for men are farming, raising pigs, raising cattle, growing fruit trees, construction, mining, and migration.

Table 8.3 and Table 8.4 show that construction, carpentry, mining, grain processing, digging coal, raising cattle, and migration are more common for men.

Raising swine, harvesting wild vegetables and medicinal herbs, making tofu, and local agricultural employment are more common for women. Home garden management is definitely women’s domain. Most livelihood activities involve both men and women, but they may carry out different tasks. For example, in running a small shop, women are mainly responsible for the buying and selling, while men carry the heavy goods from wholesale markets/shops. In construction, men are responsible for brick building and women for carrying sand and cement. In this situation, men carry out the skilled tasks, while women carry out physically demanding and unskilled tasks. Both men’s and women’s livelihoods are changing. It was interesting to notice that making wine used to be a common task 158

Chapter 8

for women, but as soon as it became a commodity, it also became a common activity for men to engage in. Older women from the 1970s and 1980s cohorts are still undertaking various agricultural activities, but younger women from the 1990s and 2000s cohorts favour migration over agriculture.

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