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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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Women were thought to be easy to keep under control and were assumed to have collective spirit. Li (2005b) has found that female workers were less argumentative than adult males during the collective era. Village leaders were usually male and only a few villages had a female village leader. Yet, even when the village leader was a woman, she was only held responsible for managing the women in the village and did not get the chance to attend government meetings and visits. As in many other parts of Asia, women were often excluded from public

195Conclusions and Discussion

decision-making bodies that enforce and modify the rules governing the community (cf. Agarwal, 1997).

When returning from the field, the women still had to finish their domestic tasks, while the men could rest. There were no grain-processing machines, and there was no electricity or tap water. Sometimes, women had to stay up overnight to process rice and maize manually, and they had to queue to fetch water, especially in upland villages. The household heads were men. However, among the Buyi, there were many de facto female household heads in the collective era, which was a deviation from mainstream patriarchal culture. This can be explained by the frequent absence of men who joined the military in ancient times (Ge, 2003).

A similar pattern has been found among the Gurung in rural Nepal, where men traditionally joined the army and women became head of the household (Tiwari, 2007).

10.1.2 Land allocation and land use Question 2: How was the land allocated to and used by households?

With the implementation of the Household Responsibility System, in 1980 and 1981, land was allocated to individual households in the municipality of Kaizuo.

When the land was allocated, the policy regarding duration was unclear. Most households heard that the contract term was three to five years, and after that term, the contracted land would have to be returned to the collective. For that reason, most farming households did not pay much attention to the fairness of the allocation, and in most villages, the division of land went smoothly. A few households gave up their claim to part of the allocated land, so that the village leaders had to cultivate this abandoned land. Some households did not know exactly which land was allocated to them, because the men worked in other places and women were not regarded as legitimate participants in collective meetings.

Women were almost completely excluded from the allocation process. About half of the women were not aware of their landholdings or its location, especially regarding forestland. Later on, the land allocation policy was clearer and the contract term was increased to 30 years, but the land was not reallocated. Only at that time, some farming households began to complain about the inequalities in distribution.

The criteria and system of land allocation were the same for many villages.

The land was allocated based on household size. Every person got the same landholding if he/she is living in the village and without urban hukou. All collective All collective land was divided into three kinds of land in terms of land quality, good, average and poor - and two kinds of land based on distance, - far and near.

Thus, there were six types of land in total. Each household got land of each type and, as a result, had at least six pieces of land. Some bigger parcels were divided into small pieces to attain an equal allocation. Some households even got more than 15 pieces of land. The arable land was divided into small pieces, making it very difficult for the villagers to cultivate. They had to make small dividing paths, which caused many quarrels about borders. These quarrels usually took place among women. Due to household division, more households were formed after

196 Chapter 10

the implementation of the HRS. These households had to create field divisions between the lands of brothers, so the patches of land became even smaller, which made cultivation more difficult still. However, because of the increase in migration (especially long-term migration) during the 1990s, the labour force was no longer sufficient, so bad quality upland began to be abandoned.

10.1.3 Changes in farming households after the implementation of the HRS Question 3: What are the changes in farming households after the HRS, in terms of household structure, composition, size, sources of income and livelihood (including land use), and gender roles?

After the introduction of the HRS, there have been many changes in rural households, gender roles, and livelihood strategies. The household size has been decreasing, mainly because of declining fertility, in which both the land limitations and the encouragement of family planning by the government played a role (Vermeer, 2006). At the same time, some households were initially divided, but the married child and parents pooled resources and started living together again, because long-term migration requires parents to help younger couples in looking after their children and land. Younger people have been getting a better education since the HRS, due to the compulsory education campaign and changing values attached to education. Girls and boys have been equally well educated and are regarded as more equal in many respects. Most young people finish middle school, as is obligatory (see Chapter 8). Young people have more opportunities to meet each other and date without interference from their parents or other relatives.





Arranged marriages have become rare. Increasingly, young wives come from villages farther away. Household division, however, still occurs after the first baby is born, as in the collective era. However, new couples now get more financial support from their parents for the wedding and they receive more goods when the household is divided. For Buyi women, zuojia still exists, although the period during which women stay with their natal family after marriage is becoming shorter. Raising children and education are priorities for young couples. They migrate in order to earn money for their children’s education and leave their children with their grandparents. The need for help from parents is increasing and, although formally divided, the households of married children are not really independent. Increasingly, younger couples stay together with their parents and regard them as household members. The household size does not differ much across cohorts, but the younger cohorts have fewer children. They realize that the education of children costs more money and that the land has to be divided among themselves and their children. So, beside the government’s family planning policy, small landholdings allow for no more than one son as well (Vermeer, 2006).

Income sources are becoming more diverse. The main income source is no longer agriculture. More cash is coming in from migration, animal husbandry, and other resources. In the past, households with government officials or small shops were richer. Nowadays, having migrant household members can make households relatively rich. Agricultural feminization started between the late 1980s and early 1990s. At first, only young and unmarried people migrated. Later on, married men

197Conclusions and Discussion

joined them. As of recent, increasing numbers of young couples migrate together and the elderly, women, and children are left at home. Long-term migration is very common for the younger generations, while circular migration is common for middle-aged people. Only elderly people fully depend on their land. Villagers run small shops, work in mines (both coalmines and quarries), own transportation businesses, work in trading, or sell wild vegetables and medicinal herbs. People have surplus agricultural products to sell because they have high yields and fewer mouths to feed at home. Agricultural products can now also be used for fodder.

Increasingly, traders come to buy non-timber forest products. The value of these resources has increased, especially for women, elderly people, and children, because they are at home and are interested in harvesting these products. At the beginning of the implementation of the HRS, there were food security problems, but these have lessened.

Landholdings were transferred to other villagers because, in many households, migration (especially long-term migration) caused a labour shortage. Land was mainly given or rented out to close relatives and neighbours in the same village or nearby villages. Young couples have begun to abandon land because people are less interested in agricultural production and migrate more often, especially in recent years. At the same time, households of older cohorts abandon land as well, due to the shortage of labourers. More cash crops are introduced and cultivated, such as fruit trees, mushroom, and watermelon.

The government has been campaigning to promote the ideological equality between men and women. Additionally, the increasing number of migrants contributes to the spread of egalitarian ideas from urban to rural areas.

Young wives are happier than elderly women are, because they are treated as equals by their husband. However, younger wives also have a larger role in agricultural production, because their husband has migrated or only comes back for the busy season. These women work the fields alone or ask help from their parents-in-law. Increasing numbers of younger women can plough, which formerly only the men did, and are de facto household heads. If the husband is around, the couple shares more activities. As a result, the division of labour is not as clear-cut as it used to be. Young men, for instance, now more often transplant as well. However, for the 1980s cohort, the gendered division of labour is rather rigid.

Some men migrate circularly, so their wives have to manage on their own during the non-busy season. In this cohort, the husband rarely does any transplanting. In another province, the province of Yunnan, different from the trend in the research area among the younger cohorts, during the 1990s the gendered division of labour remained very much the same (Bossen, 2002).

Aged couples usually work together, but their division of labour is clearer than that of younger couples. There are only a few households of which the wife migrates and leaves her husband behind to work the fields. Newly wed couples take more time to take care of their children and the wife does less work in agriculture. Younger couples believe children should be well nourished and get a good education, so it is becoming more common for husbands to migrate and hire people to work the fields, or to ask for parents’ help, while the wives take care of the children.

198 Chapter 10

An interesting finding is that the daughter-in-law has become more powerful than the mother-in-law, which is a reversal of the situation in the past.

This was also found by Chen (2004). In the past, the mother-in-law would request the household division, while the young couples just waited for the parents-inlaw’s decision (IFAD, 1995). Nowadays, the daughter-in-law is the one who takes the initiative. These younger women can also make more decisions at home, even if their mother-in-law works harder than they do. Chen (2004) gives as a possible reason that the daughter-in-law engages in more cash-oriented agriculture, while the mother-in-law does more unpaid household work. In our research villages, it may be true that the daughter-in-law earns more than the mother-in-law does, but it is mostly in non-agricultural production. Another possible explanation may therefore be that younger couples have more opportunities to go away, while most young wives gained migration experience before they got married. The younger women are no longer confined to their home to do domestic work. If the motherin-law is too critical, the daughter-in-law has the possibility to go away to work and escape her mother-in-law’s control.

10.2 Interrelated changes in household, gender roles, land use andlivelihoods

Changes in rural households, gender roles, and livelihood strategies are complicated. Such changes are influenced by the Household Responsibility System and many other policies and factors. The relations between changes in households, gender roles, livelihood, and land use strategies since the HRS are dynamic. They have both positive and negative effects on rural society. This section aims to answer the five research questions subsumed under the second research objective.

The results discussed are derived mainly from the household survey, the focus group discussions with both men and women from the four cohorts, and from case studies.

10.2.1 Household types and decision making on land use Question 4: How do different household types influence the decision making on land use?

According to the survey and FGDs, most rural households regard themselves as middle-level households. Only a few households belong to the rich or poor households. The poor households are not good at managing agricultural production and daily life and/or suffer under a shortage of labour. The rich households are those who have surplus labour, which can be used for migration and earning money. Some rich households begin to return to the area to conduct business, so they can take care of the household and earn money at the same time.

Households that fully depend on their land for their livelihood have had no opportunity to become richer.

199Conclusions and Discussion

For most rich households, agriculture is not their main source of income.

They see their land as social security on which they can fall back in the future, if necessary. Most middle-level households diversify their land use and cultivate more cash crops. The poorest households are not good at land management and only cultivate a few crops. No household wants to give up its land completely, even if it has few landholdings. Households with few landholdings plan to work outside the area until they can no longer earn money by migration. Nobody wants to make his or her long-term migration permanent. All migrants plan to come back eventually, and take up agricultural production again. Presently, however, they need to earn money to build houses, to pay for their children’s education, and for their household consumption.



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