«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
Traditional information sources still play an important role in technology extension. The adoption of new technology mainly depends on a neighbour’s demonstration and reading books and newspapers ((Gao and Li, 2006). It is necessary to set up a new extension mechanism that includes the farmers’ participation, new extension services, and an evaluation system of the extension workers (Hu et al., 2006). While new technologies are introduced by the government, farming households are doing research and try out innovations themselves. The innovative technologies they develop are more suited to their context and needs. An example is hybrid maize intercropped with local crops. Men and women introduce different innovations in agricultural practice, based on their own work experiences.
It is necessary to have more interaction and communication between extension workers and farming households, and to combine the government’s formal extension with the farming households’ networking and information exchange (Zhu, 2002). Biggs (1990) has compared two kinds of extension models, the ‘central source of innovation model’ and the ‘multiple sources of innovation model’, and has shown the significance of the multiple sources of innovation model. In the latter model, the farmer is one of the sources of innovation. The model places agricultural research and diffusion processes in a context where many factors play a role, e.g. historical, political, and economic factors. The above results show that dominating top-down technology extension strategies, a central
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source of innovation model, has met challenges in China. Therefore, it should be reconsidered. Applying a multiple source of innovation model to extension activities involves farmers in solving their problems. This research indicates that farmers are making innovations through their experiences and practices. The farmer should be considered a key actor in agricultural extension and innovation.
An alternative approach to traditional extension structures is that of the farmer field school (FFS), which is better adapted to the needs of farmers and in which the farmer are the facilitators (Cao, 2005). Farmer field schools started in Indonesia in 1989 and have now spread all over the world, including China (Braun et al., 2006). They were originally designed to introduce knowledge on integrated pest management to irrigated rice farmers in Asia (Quizon et al., 2001). The farmers were trained through experiential learning in FFS; it is a farmer-centered approach (Braun et al., 2006). It is common that some farmers adopt new technologies quickly and others more slowly. Meanwhile, different farmers have different learning styles and have different experiences, so the FFS gives opportunities to farmers to learn from each other and transfer technologies among themselves. The latter was already happening in the research area. The FFS educates rather than instructs and is suitable for farmers who with little, if any, formal schooling (like aged women). Its goal is to improve farmers’ knowledge and decision-making abilities, to increase their competence in dealing pests and crop management problems on their own (Rola et al., 2002). It aims at empowering farmers through training in skills and concepts. Its basic elements are the group, the field, the facilitator, the curriculum, and the programme leader (Gallagher, 2003). The FFS also provides opportunities for innovation through sharing experience among farmers (watermelon story). Hence, it can strengthen the community-based agricultural development. The FFS can be integrated with other participatory research. However, participatory approaches that treat households and communities as unitary and homogeneous are questionable (Cleaver, 1999). The extension workers should take into account the diversity of households when applying the FFS approach.
To summarize, this chapter discussed the government’s extension activities, the adoption of innovations by the farming households, and farming households’ own innovative practices. The results show that extension activities meet many problems because of a top-down approach (Sun, 2007). For example, the promotion of high-yielding varieties was not matched with the farming households’ diversified needs. In the study area in the mountainous province of Guizhou, farmers’ needs are more diversified because of the highly diversified ecological environment. Funding for farmer field schools is an option for agricultural extension, and success stories in China and other countries can serve as an example. In FFS, extension workers do extension by facilitating farmer-tofarmer training. Additionally, different groups should be targeted by different extension methods. The high incidence of migration makes younger and older cohorts have different attitudes to and skills in agricultural production. Women and men, younger people and older people should form different study groups.
Younger people and men could have more lectures, while older people and women could have more practical sharing. I want to emphasize here that older farmers are interested in learning technologies and have the capabilities to combine traditional
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technologies with modern technologies. The target groups should not only include the younger and higher educated cohorts, as in traditional extension. The important thing is how to involve older cohorts by using a method that is easily accepted by them and does not exclude them because of their lower level of education and old age. Especially the older women, the major agricultural producers, should be included. The training for extension workers should include communication and extension skills and not just technical knowledge and skills.
This research aimed at identifying the changes in the farming household, gender roles, and rural livelihoods after the introduction of the Household Responsibility System (HRS). It analyzed the relations between the changes in the household, gender roles, livelihood, and land use strategies, as well as their impacts on rural society, to understand the heterogeneous household land use practices in the context of diversified livelihood portfolios, and to provide policy recommendations for agricultural technology extension. This concluding chapter is based on the findings and discussions in the previous chapters. It contains three parts. In the first part, including three sections, I will formulate the conclusions regarding the answers to the ten research questions. In the second part, I will discuss some key issues emerging from the research that make visible the processes of social change since the implementation of the HRS. At the end of the chapter I will reflect on the methodological design of the study as a way of measuring social change.
10.1 The changes in farming households since the HRS Farming households have lived through many changes since the HRS, as compared to the collective era, in terms of marriage, household formation and structures, resources, land use, gender roles, and livelihoods. The following conclusions aim to answer the first three research questions for the first objective, which addresses the situation of rural households during the collective era and the changes that set in after the implementation of the HRS. The answers are mainly derived from the literature review, participant observation, interviews with (former) village leaders, and from focus group discussions (FGDs) with elderly people.
10.1.1 Characteristics of Chinese farming households in the collective period Question 1: What was the character of the Chinese farming household in the collective period?
Marriage and household formation Most couples got married by their parents’ arrangement. Normally, relatives, friends and neighbours introduced the wife and husband to be to each other. Most couples only met each other a few times before they got married. Young women were arranged to marry in nearby villages and were expected to look after their aged parents, usually living with their husband’s parents after their marriage. The new couple formed their independent household only after the birth of their first baby. There was no land to divide and the new couples almost got nothing from their parents to set up their independent household. They had to work for the
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collective to earn work points in order to get food. The parents usually lived with their youngest son. Buyi women usually stayed with their own parents until they gave birth to their first baby (a custom called zuojia, see Chapter 4). In the past, rural women often got married before they were twenty years old, although Buyi women would deliver their first baby several years later because of the zuojia custom, which postponed the formation of an independent household.
Resources During the collective era, there were not many differences between households in terms of physical, financial, social, and environmental resources. There were some differences because of a different amount of available labour and skills, but these were not very big. Village leaders, nevertheless, had more social resources.
People older than 18 were considered part of the labour force. They were all required to work on the collective land to get work points. Some younger children and aged people also worked to earn work points because these were needed to sustain the household, even though they would get fewer points than regular adults. People got food based on the work point allocation system – renqilaoshan (see Chapter 2). This means that households got food allocated, based on household size for 70 percent and based on work points for the remaining 30 percent.
Houses were small and were made of wood or soil with a grass roof. Most brothers shared a house even when they had separate households, because they did not have the money to build their own house. New houses would be built only after children had been born and the respective families sharing a house had become too large to live together in one house. Poor quality houses were described by some elderly villagers as “an open place in sunny days and a muddy place in rainy days”. Villagers helped each other with many activities, e.g. building houses, for which they did not receive any payment. The host would generally only feed the helpers. Help from parents, relatives, and neighbours was also common.
There were few products in the market and there was only one cooperative shop in the municipality of Kaizuo that sold daily necessities. Coupons were required if villagers wanted to buy goods there, but there were only a few coupons available because of the limited amount of available goods. There was no tap water and no cement road in the villages under study here. Most households had to rely on firewood as their main fuel and did not have access to electricity.
Villagers only had a home garden from which they obtained an income and products. All other income and products came from collective land and activities, and these belonged to the collective. They were divided based on the work point system. The village management committee was responsible for this division.
Village leaders used to arrange village production and activities. In order to do so, they had many official meetings about village management and production. Village leaders had a lot of decision-making power about production and were more exposed to the outside agricultural production than other villagers were.
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Land use and livelihood Farming households had no individual land to cultivate, apart from a small parcel of home garden. Cattle and pigs were managed by the collective as well, although some individual households were appointed to take care of them. Only a few households raised chickens because people did not have enough food for themselves, let alone to feed animals. The low benefits from collective land and the poor standard of living did not motivate villagers to work in the fields. Working hours were spent idle. Nevertheless, the villagers did try to find spare time to work in their home garden; they took better care of their home gardens than of collective land. In the collective period, agricultural yields were low; about half of the households in the study area had to borrow food from the collective that had to be returned the year after. Agricultural production was the main income resource.
The collective allocated sideline activities to only a few skilled villagers and contracted them for it. Those skilled people got higher work points and thus more food from the collective.
It was hard to buy daily necessities in the market at that time, and villagers usually cultivated different kinds of crops for their own consumption.
Beside the common crops (rice, maize, rapeseed, potato), other crops such as sweet potato, wheat, barley, and oat, were cultivated. Villagers were busy with agricultural production the whole year round and had no leisure time.
Agricultural technologies were introduced by government extension agencies. Village leaders received training in these new technologies from extension workers and the villagers would follow them. Villagers themselves hardly got any training in new technologies.
Gender issues Gender issues existed in the collective period. According to the work point allocation system, people got the same work points for the same task, while different tasks were rewarded with different amounts of work points. The highest amount of work points in agricultural production was allocated to ploughing, which was always done by men. As a result, women earned less work points. In general, women used to do the transplanting and weeding, with which they earned an average number of work points. Men used to do some weeding, but no transplanting. All activities rewarded with less work points, such as raising pigs and looking after cattle, were performed by women, children, elderly people, and handicapped people. Some craftsmen were sent out for sideline work, for which they got higher work points, but these were always men. In this way, even though the system was supposedly gender-neutral, in reality, big gender differences arose.