«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
1. The hybrid maize project In this municipality, traditional maize is intercropped with sunflowers and beans in one village. Farming households began to try growing hybrid maize in 1998, when the agricultural bureau promoted it. The government’s main reason to promote hybrid maize was its high yield. At the beginning, it was very difficult for the local people to accept it because of the intensive labour requirements during the seedlings’ raising period. The villagers did not have the necessary skills for raising these new seedlings, either. Ninety percent of the households only did a trial. They got higher yields in 2000 and were motivated to expand the cultivation area to about half of the land allocated for maize cultivation. In 2001, there was an increase of out-migration in the village and the villagers also found many shortcomings with the hybrid maize (see below). Now, hybrid maize only accounts for one fourth of the total maize cultivation in the village, even though 60 percent of the households still use it. Most households only allocate small parcels of land to hybrid maize, while only a few households allocate more land to hybrid maize cultivation.
2. The hybrid rapeseed extension In 1997, the CAB began to promote hybrid rapeseed in the municipality of Kaizuo.
In Guizhou province, rapeseed is a cash crop, mainly used for making edible oil.
The government put a lot of effort into promoting hybrid rapeseed, to help villagers to have another source of income. The government required the owners of the fields near the main road to use hybrid varieties and provided fertilizer and seeds for free for these fields. In the first year, households with fields located in the designated areas planted hybrid rapeseed. One year later, the villagers felt it was difficult to manage the hybrid rapeseed because of a labour shortage, serious pests, and other factors (see section 9.3.2). Three years later, only a few households were still planting hybrid seeds. Now, there is no hybrid rapeseed anymore in the whole municipality, while the rural households still cultivate their local varieties.
3. The orchard project Approximately 375 mu of orchards were established on villagers’ wasteland in 2003, for the purpose of helping villagers to increase their income. At the beginning, the villagers wanted to plant different kinds of fruit trees and talked to the CAPAO. The CAPAO could not find all the desired species in a short time. The planting period was only in winter and the bureau could not wait another year, because the orchard project was required to finish that year. The bureau designed the orchard and did not listen to the villagers’ ideas, even though the land belongs
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to the villagers. The villagers thus had no choice but to plant the pear and raspberry trees that the bureau provided, because they had already dug the planting holes and put in manure. With regard to the planting and implementation, the CAPAO could not provide all the necessary services to the villagers either, because it did not have the required technicians and expertise. The villagers have not mastered the technique of pruning. Now, some households get benefits from it and others do not (Sun, 2007; Yuan and Sun, 2006).
4. The virus-free potato project The agricultural bureau promoted virus-free potato to be planted on 20,000 mu of land in the whole county. In 2002, it started to give free seeds to the villagers to try.
The yield was supposed to be much higher than that of the local varieties.
However, the yields only proved to be a little higher than before, because the villagers were already used to exchanging seeds to avoid infection by viruses. They also buy different seeds every year, or every several years. Additionally, the virusfree potato is higher in water content, which means that it cannot be preserved for a longer time. The taste is not very good; neither the people nor the pigs like it.
After food security improved, the potato was mainly used as feed. Now, most farming households have adopted new feeding technologies that do not require potato as feed. Ultimately, the villagers did not accept the virus-free potato; only a few households still cultivate it.
5. The mushroom project In 2007, the municipality of Kaizuo began to promote the cultivation of mushrooms because the county government introduced an agricultural company to boost mushroom cultivation. The municipal leaders held several meetings and wanted to help the villagers to get richer by growing mushrooms. The local government assisted the mushroom-growing households by allowing them to get an interest-free loan of 2500 yuan and by giving them the guarantee that the company would buy the mushrooms at a rate of at least one yuan per kilo. The best mushrooms could fetch four yuan per kilo. Finally, 300 mu of land was planted with mushrooms in the municipality. After the planting, however, several problems arose. The company did not provide much technological assistance; the technician only came twice to give instructions for half an hour, and not all participating households had the chance to attend the meetings. Additionally, during that year the weather was extremely unfavourable for mushroom cultivation. As a result, the yield was not high and the quality of the mushrooms was not very good. When the company bought the mushrooms, it applied very strict criteria, which caused most mushrooms to be grouped into the cheapest class.
Many households could not make a profit and most households did not want to grow mushrooms anymore.
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9.3 Farming households’ adoption behaviour and initiatives Farming households have diversified needs for agricultural technologies (Zhu et al., 2002; Miao and Lu, 2006) have observed that farming households regard risk as an important factor in technology adoption. They also found that farming households have different resources leading to a diversified need of technology.
For farming households, agricultural production technologies tend to be more important than post-harvesting technologies (Zhang and Ying, 2007). Farming households also have different ways to access technologies.
9.3.1 Households’ technology adoption channels In the survey, ninety-one respondents (56.9%) knew that there were government projects in the past year. Only 40 respondents (25%) were involved in these projects, while only six (3.8%) knew the extension workers. Six respondents (3.8%) went to the extension station, but they went there for a chat or municipal meetings, not for getting information on agriculture. In all the FGDs, only a few villagers said that they knew one particular extension worker, but they did not know what his work is about. They only knew that the extension worker is a municipal official.
Figure 9.1: The main channels for acquiring technology (data from survey, 2008)
Farming households mainly get information on agricultural technologies from neighbours, relatives, TV and radio. Only a few households get information from extension workers (Figure 9.1). They also get information from other sources, such as the shops that sell agricultural materials, journals, and the practices of other
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people. One woman in the FGD 1C said: “I do not know which seeds are good and how to use them. When I see what the others (neighbours, friends, relatives) buy, I then buy that, too. Sometimes, I just want to get suggestions from the shopkeeper”. There are some farming households that engage in experimentation themselves, although not in a strictly scientific way. Only one household mentioned having obtained information from a migrant who worked in agriculture in the area of migration. Six households told us that they do not need extension services because they plan to migrate and do not have much confidence in the extension workers, either. In the mixed FGD in Dongkou village, the following was said: “Municipal technology extension workers rarely come. If the extension workers do not come, how can we go and ask them? Each time, they only invite one person to attend training. We do not go to the station to ask for extension help. We know that even if we go, they will not take our ideas into consideration.
The staff also changes very quickly in the station. We knew one former staff member and do not know any of the new staff members”. In the mixed FGDs in both Dabuyang and Dongkou it was said several times that people saw good technologies on TV but did not know how to get more contact information. If there would be contact information, they would like to learn about it and see it on site. However, it would be too expensive for them to pay a visit to that site.
The extension workers stated the following in the interviews and small group discussions: “The extension office does not have enough staff and is requested to help the municipal government with other activities, so the delivery activities are very rare.
If we have large-scale activities (which is rarely the case), the training is still small-scale.
Sometimes, the seeds company and the seedling provider give some training, but the agricultural extension is actually almost invisible. We also have no money to implement the activities. We normally do what the municipal government asks us to do, which is not related to agricultural extension. Some villagers know we are officials, but they do not know we are agricultural extension workers”.
9.3.2 Cohort and technology access The villagers rarely go to the agricultural station. It seems that younger households go more often and know extension workers better than the older ones do. The older cohorts have experience in agriculture and have doubts about the expertise
of the extension workers. As some villagers mentioned in the FGD in Dabuyang:
“The extension workers have their knowledge from books, but not from practice. We have a lot of practical experience and we know the land very well”. In the youngest cohort, there is less interest in agricultural extension, because migration provides an alternative to agriculture.
Different cohorts get information on technologies differently. The 1970s cohort mainly gets the information on technologies from neighbours. The 1980s cohort, however, also gets it from migrants, while the 2000s cohort also gets it from the extension service. In the 2000s cohort, there is one household head who has a good relationship with the extension workers, because he graduated from agricultural school and is interested in talking with the extension workers about technologies and crop varieties. There is one household in the 1980s cohort that gets information from the migrated husband, who worked in agriculture in
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another province and used the knowledge he acquired when he returned. The 1970s cohort likes to get the technology through self-practice and the younger ones like to read. A man from the 1970s cohort said in the FGD 1B: “I know how to make a paddy field well enough so that it contains more water. Every year, the first time you prepare the field and you irrigate is very important. If you irrigate well the first time, then the field can contain enough water the whole year round. But the younger cohorts do not put any effort into learning agricultural technologies by practice”. The younger cohorts put more effort in non-farming activities, but they still have their own ways of acquiring technologies if they are working in agriculture. A 26-year-old wife in Guntang village said in the interview: “My husband often reads agricultural technology materials and I sometimes do that as well. We want to try some new technologies. But it is not easy to persuade my parents-in-law to accept new technologies”.
In the FGDs with people from the 1970s and 1980s cohorts, farmers also mentioned that they have learned their technologies mainly from their parents, when they were young. The 2000s cohort FGD shows that many younger husbands and wives did not have any knowledge about agriculture because they migrated after graduation from school. However, they began to learn after getting married, when they started to engage in agriculture at home. They said that the agricultural technologies were not difficult to learn and they are not concerned as much about agricultural income as their parents are. They use agriculture for meeting their basic daily needs and can use the cash to buy products they themselves do not produce.
9.3.3 Gender issues in agricultural technology extension Usually, both men and women attend the government projects jointly. Only from four households (2.5%), the men attend the projects, and from seven households (4.4%) only the women. Female-headed households less often know an extension worker and also get less help, but there is no significant difference. Adomi (2003) has indicated that in Nigeria too, female farmers have more problems getting information. The gender of the household head has a significant bearing on the main channel for accessing technology. The order of sources through which maleheaded households get access to technologies is neighbours, others, relatives, TV or radio, migrants, and the extension office, but for female-headed household it is neighbours, others, TV or radio, and relatives. Women like to learn more from TV or radio, because it is easy for them to understand (Figure 9.2). Neighbours are always very important for sharing technologies because they meet almost every day. Villagers, especially women, get together to discuss agricultural technologies when they are chatting and share experiences and compare household varieties, yields, and cultivation methods. The women have few possibilities to learn from relatives, since their relatives live far away or they do not have a good relationship with their in-laws. For these reasons, they do not go to ask for information on technologies from these relatives. One wife told me in an interview in Dabuyang village: “I do not talk with my brother-in-law and his wife because they got more dowry than I got. But my husband still talks to them”.
More women than men are illiterate. Even if the younger women can read, they like to read recreational magazines, not technical ones. Their focus is on
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