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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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Their main crops were rice, rapeseed and maize. They raised pigs and cattle every year. It was Di’s task to arrange this. Pin did not participate in this task. He mainly did the ploughing, harvesting, and some tedious tasks. He did not arrange other trivial tasks, but just followed Di’s arrangement. He put most of his energy in circular work. He owned a cell phone and there was a landline at home. The

171Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

ploughing and harvesting became easier after they bought a ploughing machine and a harvesting machine. It was Pin who used these machines; Di had no interest in using them. When Di could not find a better business to make a profit from than raising pigs and cultivating land, she migrated for half a year in 2005, but it was difficult for her to go away because their children were still small. For this reason, two years ago, they rented five mu from the neighbours to cultivate rice, but they only got small profits from it. They also had to give 500 kg as rent fee. Their main crop income is from selling rice. They cultivated mushrooms with support from the municipal government and invested 1000 yuan in 2007. The government gave a 1500 yuan loan. They did not have enough knowledge to cultivate mushrooms. The weather was extremely bad and the temperature was really low in early 2008. The mushrooms did not grow well and they did not make any money.

Three children cost a lot of money. This household is the only household from this cohort in the village with three children. All other households have only one or two children. They did not plan to have a third child, but did so unexpectedly. The children are in grade one and grade two. They need money to buy notebooks and many other items. They are poor eaters and always ask for money to buy snacks.

The household was very unfortunate because Pin and their son fell off the roof of their house. It took them a lot of money to recover. They borrowed money from relatives and friends. At that time, in autumn 2001, their relatives and neighbours also helped to harvest the rice. Actually, Pin earned quite some money from circular work because of his skills. But the household’s expenditures were also very high, with three children and injuries to pay for. Because of this, the couple was forced to migrate again. They told me they planned to migrate after the Chinese Spring Festival in 2008 and would leave their children and land for their parents to take care of. They plan to build a new house when they have enough money. In April 2008, I was told that this couple had migrated again. The children were left with their grandparents and the land was rented to an aunt.

Case 2: Xia, 1990s cohort Xia (43 years old) and her husband Shao (45 years old) have two daughters, aged 17 and 15. One daughter is studying in middle school in another municipality, and the other daughter is studying in high school in the county. Shao has nine years of education, while Xia has only got two months of adult learning. She has limited reading skills. They were introduced by Xia’s elder sister, who got married in the same village earlier. Xia had a miserable childhood because her parents died when she was 15. She has six siblings and they had to make a living for themselves, which caused a close relationship between them. The couple got married in 1989 and had their first daughter in 1990. They were asked by the parents to establish their own independent household, because the parents were not used to the couple’s lifestyle and wanted to push them to work harder. The parents were also unhappy that they delivered two daughters. The household is one of two households in this village with only daughters. They only got one room, one sack of rice, and some bowls and chairs when they separated from the parents. They also got eight mu of paddy fields and two mu of upland. The parents pushed them to build a new house soon, but they could not afford that. They stayed in that one 172

Chapter 8

room for seven years. In 1999, their uncle allowed them to stay in his house for three years, because he was working in the county and nobody stayed behind in the house. They then began to save money to build a house. In 2000, Shao migrated to work at a construction site and earned more money every year. They built their house from his earnings and some money borrowed from the same uncle in 2001.

They moved into their new house before it was completely finished. In 2005, the construction was completed.

Shao migrated for seven years and usually came back once a year. For two years, however, he did not come back for the Spring Festival because his job required him to stay and look after the construction materials. Sometimes, Xia went to see him, because the migration place was in the same province, but she did so only for short periods. She had to take care of the children, crops, and animals.

From 2005 on, both daughters studied in different places. On the one hand, this made Xia feel better because it saved her time; on the other hand, she felt a lot of pressure because their two daughters needed more money. At the same time, Shao moved back home in February 2007, because the construction project was finished.

He was planning to migrate again, but first wanted to take some rest at home. In May 2007, Xia decided to migrate because it was difficult to support their two children. She also wanted to go off to relax because she really felt very tired from all the agricultural work she had done on her own for so many years. Xia moved away together with another woman and returned in November 2007. The women were introduced to work in an enamel factory in Guangdong province by a migrated neighbour. She did not know many Chinese characters and found it difficult to remember too many kinds of products. But she tried her best and her work in the factory was not bad. After half a year of work, she had learned some more characters. She migrated back because of her worries for her left-behind husband, her children, and the land. Both owned cell phones and could contact each other easily.

Xia made most decisions in agricultural production and also regarding the building of their new house, because she was home alone very often. She had difficulties in doing all the agricultural work, so she employed others to plough, but she did all the other tasks herself. When Shao was alone at home in the harvesting season of 2007, he had more difficulties. He even gave all the rice straws that Xia collected every year to feed a pig and cattle away to neighbours and friends. They did not have any pigs and cattle in 2007.

They mainly produced rice, rapeseed and maize. But they were planning to cultivate tobacco plants and invited technicians to give suggestions for the production of tobacco leave. They are one of the households with the largest landholding per capita (3.5 mu of paddy fields and 1 mu of upland) in Dabuyang village because they cultivate their uncle’s land as well. Still, in March 2008, they decided to migrate together in order to earn more money for household use, mainly for their children’s education. Their two daughters needed a lot of money, being in middle school and high school. Nevertheless, the couple was willing to send their daughters to better schools, even though this was more expensive and farther away. Their relatives helped them a lot with building the house and paying for their children’s education. Xia’s brother was working for the government and had a higher income, so he gave money to his two nieces.

173Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

Shao and his younger brother divided the responsibilities of their parents’ care. Shao is responsible for taking care of their father and his brother is taking care of their mother. Last year, his father got ill and passed away. Shao spent 10000 yuan to arrange for his funeral, which again pushed them to make more money. In March 2008, I found they had migrated; the house was locked when I went back to do my fieldwork. I heard that they rented out their paddy fields to a neighbour.

Case 3: Xue, 1980s cohort Xue is 45 years old and stayed at home with his wife Ma (45 years old). Both graduated from middle school. All of their three children had moved out at the time of the interview. Their eldest, 24-year-old daughter got married and was living in a nearby municipality. Sometimes, she came back with her eight-monthold daughter. Their second daughter was 22 years old and their youngest son was twenty years old. Both had migrated to Jiangshu province.

They got introduced by a relative and married in 1985. They had six mu of upland and two mu of paddy fields when they established their own household.

Xue was the second youngest son from his family and his older brothers already had their own household at that time. His youngest brother was a government official and did not need land anymore. They had enough land to cultivate and were living with their parents until they passed away several years ago.

Their main crops were maize, rice and rapeseed. They also grew peaches.

Seven years ago, their staple food was a mix of maize and rice. Yet, at the time of the interview, they had more money to buy rice and did no longer eat maize. They had six pigs and four cattle. All the rice and maize was used for their own consumption; they sold only 150 kg of rapeseed that year. They also cultivated some sunflower, soybean and potato. They had four mu of land reclaimed for forest and they got a 1000 yuan subsidy from the government. Their peaches were managed well during the three years that Xue did not do too much circular work.

In those years, they earned 1000 yuan per year by selling peaches. After that, their income from peaches diminished to only 200 yuan a year.

Their main income came from Xue’s circular work in a coal-mine. Their agricultural production was not profitable. He had been working in this mine for three years and came home every day. Nevertheless, he did not work the whole year round. On their land, he mainly did the sowing and harvesting. Other activities were managed by Ma and he just followed her arrangements. They built a new and nice house in 2004, which cost them 50,000 yuan. They borrowed 7000 yuan from the bank and relatives and had already paid off their debts. It is fortunate that they built earlier, when the costs were lower. Ma took care of the weeding and the daily management of the land and household. She could manage this on her own and would only ask Xue for help in the peak season. They also hired labourers for the busiest days. Their two migrated children sent a few remittances, but they did not use this money. They saved it for their children’s future use. Xue was a village leader for several years and he was regarded as a good leader by the villagers, but he gave this up for the more profitable circular work.

174 Chapter 8

Sometimes, the younger brother helped them by giving some seedlings and good crop varieties, and they were also willing to try new things. Their interest in trying had, however, decreased.

They were not busy and liked to help their daughter with taking care of their granddaughter. Their son-in-law had migrated and their daughter was living with the son-in-law’s parents, according to custom. She only came back every once in a while to ask her parents to take care of her daughter. Ma attended a recreational group in the village and enjoyed dancing and singing in her free time.

They owned a cell phone to stay in touch with their children.

Case 4: Lan, 1970s cohort Lan was 56 years old and her husband Zhang was 59. They got married in 1970, but she stayed in her parents’ house until 1974 because both are Buyi people and observed the zuojia custom. He was the only son in his household. Two sisters got married and were living in other villages. When they got married, they stayed with the parents and never separated the households. They had three sons and two daughters. Lan came from a nearby village and was introduced to her husband by her aunt.

They had 24 mu of paddy fields and six mu of upland. They got land for seven people during the land division in 1981. All children got married, except the youngest son. Since three sons and two daughters-in-law were not living at home, they did not divide the household until February 2007. The couple cultivated their land together because none of their children lives at home, even though the household was divided into three small households, one for each son. In addition, they were taking care of two grandsons as well. One grandson was eight and the other seven. Both were in primary school. The eldest son migrated in 1995 after he graduated from middle school. He came back in 1998, when he got married, but he soon moved out again. Later, when the grandson was older, the eldest son and his wife migrated and left the grandson with Lan and Zhang. The same happened with the second son. The youngest son also migrated once he graduated from high school; he knew nothing about agriculture.

Lan and Zhang built their new house in 2000. They gave two rooms to each son when they divided the household. Later, the eldest son built a new house, opposite theirs, with the money he had earned. The old couple’s own house is the old building, but they have to look after all the houses since all their three sons migrated.

Their main crops were rice, maize, rapeseed, potato, and chilli. They had extra rice to sell and the money was enough for them and their two grandsons. The other crops were for their own consumption. To relieve their burden, they spent 3000 yuan and bought a tractor-ploughing machine in the year of the interview.

Zhang was driving that machine. They had two pigs, four buffalos and some poultry. Lan usually arranged the agricultural production and looked after all these animals. Both collected fuel wood when they were free. They used fuel wood because it was cheaper and only used coal in cold winters. Zhang usually only followed the arrangements as Lan made them but he did the physically demanding tasks and took part in taking care of their grandsons. Lan sold the products on the

175Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

market, but Zhang carries them there. He did not do the selling, because he had no patience to wait such a long time and bargain with customers.

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