«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
taking care of the children. A younger wife from Dabuyang village said during the interview: “I read recreational magazines while my husband reads technological materials.
My main responsibility is taking care of my 4-year-old son; my husband does not blame me for not taking good care of the field. We hope that our son can have a good future, because my husband can earn enough money for giving our son a better education than the education we had”. For men, it is different. A 53-year-old man in Dabuyang village always tries to find a way to make manure transportation and spreading easier, because that is his task. He uses a new way to spread manure in the field after he has transported it by tractor. A 52-year-old man in Dongkou village mentions that he found a good way to plow the corner of the field. A 45-year-old woman had good ideas on how to grow more and good cucumbers and tomatoes. She is doing the experimentation herself, because vegetable production is a woman’s task and men do not think about it.
Figure 9.2: Technology channels for different household types (data from survey, 2008)
9.3.4 Villagers’ experimentation and innovation Farmers also experiment themselves, as they mentioned in several FGDs: “We compare varieties of rice and maize every year, we compare the density of different seedlings. We know which one is better and we do not just follow the government’s extension technologies.” They did density experiments on rice and found that it is better to plant hybrid rice sparsely. They do not follow the instructions on the rice seeds’ packages, but use the results of their own experiments.
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9.3.5 Cases In line with the important extension initiatives in the municipality (as discussed in section 9.2), we will now describe five cases. Information about the cases was obtained from township officials and villagers, through observation by the researcher and from interviews. These cases are used to illustrate the household’s status in adopting agricultural technologies, which indicates the factors influencing the technology adoption and the adjustment to the household situation. Some cases are government-initiated, while others are farmer’s initiatives. Farmers’ initiatives and innovations in adopting technologies are further discussed below.
Case 1: hybrid maize As mentioned before, the hybrid maize extension is not very successful in Dongkou village, although maize is the main crop in this village. This village is a remote one and there is no public transportation. Unmarried young people are mostly engaged in migration (mostly long-term migration) and are not at home.
Twenty people commute to work in the coal-mine. All households except one have pigs, and maize is used mainly for feeding them. Villagers do not fully accept this hybrid maize and adopt it according to each household’s particular situation.
During a life history interview, a 47-year-old woman said: “I have three working people at home but my son participates in few agricultural activities. We do not have enough time to grow hybrid maize on all the land even though it has high yields, because it is required to raise the seedlings separately and that takes time. The hybrid seeds are also very expensive. We cannot afford it because of my large landholding. We also want to spread the risks by growing hybrid maize on half of the land and planting local varieties on the other half. It is not allowed to intercrop with other crops according to the extension instruction, but we have a tradition to intercrop with sunflower and beans, which is a good way for spreading the risk as well. We change maize varieties every year because the seed shops change the varieties every year. We do not know the name of the varieties because I am illiterate. The pigs like to eat the local varieties and we need different quantities and qualities of maize every year, because we do not raise the same number of pigs”. A female villager who has graduated from high school said: “I know the names of the varieties because I can read the instruction. I plant more varieties in order to pay for my expenses at different times, especially to pay the education fee for my son studying in professional school. The hybrid maize can be harvested earlier so I plant some to get cash at that time, but I do not want to plant more because of a labour shortage”. A 26-year-old wife in the 2000s cohort FGDs keeps to the idea to plant hybrid maize on half of the land because of its high yields; she has enough money to buy the seeds from her husband’s earnings. A male interviewee said that he does not like to plant too much, because he does not like to do the weeding that hybrid maize requires.
Case 2: hybrid rapeseed Hybrid rapeseed production is very labour-intensive, especially during the transplanting period. This conflicts with the traditionally busy period in November and December. During these months, the households are busy with sowing winter crops. The harvest time of these hybrid varieties also conflicts with sowing the 187 Agricultural technology extension and adoption main crops, maize, and rice. The local varieties do not need transplanting and have no conflict with the sowing of main crops. The great labour shortage soon made the villagers give up this technology. A former village leader in Guntang village said during the interview: “We could not plant the hybrid rapeseed because we could not make time for it. We have to grow our main crops first, because it is the most important for us. It is suitable for those households with less land. Most households in our village have too much land to cultivate because of the labour shortage”. Another factor is that oil from local rapeseed varieties is tastier, according to local habit.
Case 3: watermelon I was invited by the Dongkau villagers to eat watermelon and they told me the watermelon story. Of course, I had heard about it, but at first I did not realize its importance to the villagers. When they harvest watermelon, the villagers are so happy to invite people to eat watermelon or take the fruit as a gift for relatives and friends. In 1994, two farmers from Anhui province came to rent land to cultivate watermelon in the villages of Xiaozhai and Dongkou in the municipality of Kaizuo.
The two persons also rented a villager’s house to live in during the growth period of the watermelon. At the beginning, the local people only provided labourers and observed the cultivation process. During the process, however, they learned to cultivate watermelon and mastered the technology. In 1997, the two men from Anhui left, but local villagers began to cultivate watermelon themselves because there were few households who cultivated watermelon in this area and the profits were high. Watermelon cultivation is now one of their main sources of income.
There are about 43 households (50%) that cultivate watermelon in these two villages, yielding an average income per household of about 2000 yuan. During an interview in Dongkou village a man from the 1980s cohort said: “I learned a lot from the two men because we saw what they did and I was able to grow watermelon after they left. Now, I even do experiments myself. I try to dig the sowing hole bigger and put in more organic fertilizer because we have enough manure, which those two men did not have. Our watermelon has a good taste and the consumers like to buy it, once they know it is our product”.
Case 4: the virus-free potato project Most households have already stopped cultivating the virus-free potato. Only a few people like its light taste and some use it to feed their pigs. The households that cultivate potato are those old cohort households that grow it for their grandchildren to eat and for their pigs, because some still use traditional animal feeding technology, in which potatoes are cooked for pig feed. People do not care about potatoes very much, as they are unimportant for villagers’ daily needs.
Virus-free potato seeds are difficult and expensive to purchase in the local market.
The government promoted the virus-free potato production because it is a project supported by the higher government. After the project, there is no sustainable support regarding the technology and materials. The households that use local varieties do not need to buy the seeds or they can buy seeds easily in the local market. In the past years, some traders have brought other varieties to sell in the
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village, which are convenient for the villagers to buy. Those traders bring along different varieties every year, which allows villagers to use different varieties to get higher yields, too. As most people in the mixed FGDs in Dongkou village mentioned: “It is really convenient that the traders come to sell in the village and that we do not need to look for the seeds in other places. The varieties they take are also better than the local varieties with higher yields, so most of us buy seeds from the traders. We do not need too much seeds because we only cultivate a little. We do not know where to buy virusfree seeds, so we gave up this introduced variety. We are using other varieties after we experimented with them. We find they are good, even though there is no support from the government. However, we can buy the seeds and we already have some experience. We really need virus-free technologies, but the technology services are really poor; most of us have no chance to get any training and cannot master the cultivation technologies. We could not find the virus-free seeds and could not experiment with them, either”.
Case 5: Mushroom story This new technology is quite impossible to master by the villagers if the technology service is weak, because until now, no villager has mastered the cultivation technologies for this mushroom. Fen, a 56-year-old woman, said in her key informant interview in Dabuyang village: “We followed their instruction very well, but there is no growth I can see. I go there every day with my worries about the growth, but I could not find anyone to ask. The company staff is not here after distributing the seeds. We talk among ourselves in the village but nobody knows how to do it. I invested 4000 yuan, but only earned an income of 1500 yuan. I will not do it again even if they try to persuade me. I am sure there is nobody who gets a positive net income from it. We are all disappointed. We spent a lot of time on it because we were told that we can get higher profits. Now, there is no profit at all”.
9.4 Discussion As discussed above, we can see that although the government is investing in extension activities, most villagers do not know the government extension workers. Farming households mainly get their information from neighbours, relatives, and friends, while they only get limited information from the government. The extension service is still insufficient. Farming households get information from shops and the shopkeeper is playing the role of agricultural extension worker. The villagers also do experiments themselves and try to adjust the technologies to their own situations.
The government aims at large-scale and standardized extension services to increase yields. However, there are many mismatches between the government extension services and the villagers’ needs (Sun, 2007). A high yield is not the only criterion for farming households to adopt the technology that the extension services promote. Their demands of technologies are more diversified, and for this reason, the dominating, high-yielding technologies are not always acceptable to them (Miao and Lu, 2006). There are many factors, e.g. labour constraints, age, gender, marketing options, traditional cropping systems, livelihood strategies, and risk avoidance, that influence farming households when they consider adopting
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new technologies. Similar findings can be found in other research: age, education, experiences, the available labour, income, landholding, information channels, marketing, technology extension mechanisms, and local culture are important in the farming household’s decision making on the use of new technologies (Dong et al., 2007; Meng et al., 2005; Wu, 2007; Zhao, 2006).
In the research area, migration is very popular. The diversified livelihood strategies divert labour to non-farm activities. Young people and male villagers migrate, which causes women, especially aged women, to work in the field, indicating a general shortage of labour. Because of this, labour-saving technologies are very important for farming households. The promotion of small agricultural machines, for example, can help the villagers to solve labour-shortage problems.
Younger cohorts are more involved in non-farm activities. They do not value agricultural production and are trying their best to earn money from non-farm activities for their daily maintenance and their children’s education. As Zheng (2004) has mentioned, the younger migrants know the importance of a good education and would like to invest more in their children’s development.
Meanwhile, younger cohorts have a higher education and make more use of reading materials, but older cohorts use visual materials or practices more. Women get less help from extension workers than men, even though they are the main producers for many crops. Adomi (2003) has also observed that, in Nigeria, female farmers have more problems in getting information than male farmers. (Nguthi,
2007) has observed that, in Kenya, the farmer’s diversity in assets and activities should shape agricultural technology policy. Accordingly, farming households’ needs for different varieties should provide the basis for the work of plant breeders (Guan et al., 2007). This would also increase the efficiency of the technology transfer (Dong et al., 2007).