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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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Farming households have diversified resources and requirements for technological information. In Kenya, it was found that HIV-affected farming households have diverse needs for technologies, which are insufficiently considered by the extension agents (Nguthi, 2007). The government’s extension services cannot meet the diverse needs for technologies. Labour shortage is common for households and they need labour-saving technologies and support, e.g. herbicides and small agricultural machines. Younger cohort households need more technologies for cash crops, and they also need more cash input for scale development. Older cohort households prefer to plant different crops instead of only cash crops; hence, they need technologies for diversified crops. They do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides much, but it is increasingly hard to get 204

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manure because animal husbandry is decreasing. Older people have a lower education but are rich in experience, while younger cohorts have a higher educational level and can depend on written information. Upland households need more animal husbandry technologies, while households from paddy field areas need more technologies for cash crops. Female-headed households and older couples need more labour-saving technologies. Women and men have different kinds of knowledge about agricultural production, but home gardens are completely women’s domain.

10.3.2 Implications for agricultural extension Question 10: What are the implications of diversified land use and livelihood strategies for agricultural extension?

Migration brings about an increasing labour shortage and causes the phenomenon of agricultural feminization, which requires more appropriate technologies for women and elderly people, e.g. labour-saving technologies. Visits from extension workers are very important and should be organized to expose villagers to different technologies and skills, since for them “seeing is believing”. Villagers’ needs for diversified technologies imply that the top-down approach should be modified to include villagers’ ideas.

Although local, informal self-help groups have been organized, these do not deal with technological learning. It is necessary to organize communal cooperation to share experiences and learn technologies, to provide production materials, and to spread information among the villagers. Younger and older people should get different kinds of training because of their different learning styles and knowledge. Older people should not be forgotten because of their lower level of education, since they play a crucial role in agricultural production in current rural society. Older women are more attached to agriculture than other groups and should receive special attention. The Farmer Field School approach is an option, because this kind of knowledge transfer does not require formal education. This will only work, however, when the facilitators are sensitive to the information needs of elderly farmers, particularly women.

It is very important to set up a land transferral policy, to avoid land abandonment when people migrate. However, such a land transferral policy should take into account that land still serves as social insurance. Sustainable land management and sustainable agricultural development should be considered in extension; organic agriculture, for instance, can be integrated into this. Organic agriculture is more labour-intensive, however, which is a dilemma for its development in an era of massive migration.

10.4 General discussion Based on the findings above, the following sections will discuss some important issues that emerged in the research. These issues are fertility levels and family size, gender, livelihood (including migration and land use), and interrelationships of social change, livelihood change, land use change, and stratification.

205 Conclusions and Discussion 10.4.1 Dimensions of social change As discussed above, many changes occurred after the implementation of the HRS.

The research shows that fertility levels and the value of children, gender roles, and livelihood (land use and migration) have changed, which necessitates further reflection.

Fertility levels and family size In 1978, China started its economic transition from a closed, planned economy to a market economy. Almost simultaneously, many other policies, including the HRS, land policies, and the family planning policy were implemented as well. The family size has been decreasing since then, as also indicated by the differences between older and younger cohorts in this research (see Chapters 6 and 8). The implementation of the land allocation policy in Guizhou only allowed land to be redistributed when married children established their own households. However, this redistribution is done only at the level of the (parental) household; there never was a land reallocation at village level (Shao, 2000). There is no additional land, even if there are new household members. Therefore, the more siblings there are to share parents’ land, the smaller the average landholding is for the grown-up children. In the research area, the households of the 1980s cohorts have significantly smaller landholdings than those of the 1970s cohorts. This raises the question whether the HRS and the land allocation policy played a role in the decline of fertility among rural households.





In 1978, the Chinese family planning policy started. Although it was not very strictly applied to rural areas at that time, it still triggered the decline of fertility, from an average total fertility rate of 2.8 in 1979, to an average total fertility rate of 1.8 during the 1990s (Vermeer, 2006). Coale ((1973) has postulated that for fertility to decline, three conditions should apply. The first one is that fertility should be perceived as a matter of conscious choice and control. The second one is that a lower fertility is perceived as being more advantageous. The third one is that means of birth control are available. Caldwell (1982) has explained fertility decline by his theory of the reversal of wealth flows. The argument is that when more wealth flows from parents to children, – the costs of education, for example –, than wealth flows from children through their labour, the value of children will change in such a way that having less children becomes more advantageous (Coale’s second precondition). Of course, fertility control is not just a matter of economics; social factors influence it as well (Caldwell and Caldwell, 1997). McDonald (1993) has pointed to a number of factors to explain the fertility decline in Asia, such as the need for education and the decline of infant mortality, but has also argued that one explanatory model is not sufficient to explain diverse fertility decline phenomena.

Can the wealth flow theory explain the fertility rate decline in China? After the implementation of the HRS, land was allocated to each household. Because each married son would get a land share from his parents, the average landholding became increasingly smaller. The more children, especially sons, a household has, the smaller the share of each child or each son will be. This discourages having 206

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many children. At the same time, the value of children changes because of migration (especially long-term migration) and government campaigns that emphasize the importance of education. While in rural areas people can have more than one child and education was not so important, rural-urban migration exposes villagers to the urban model of the one-child family and the value attached to children’s education (Schultz and Zeng, 1999). The younger cohorts engage in labour migration (mainly long-term migration) before marriage. They value their children’s education highly because of the difficulties they themselves have experienced for their lack of education. Another important factor is that younger cohorts have more freedom and power to make choices about fertility, because their parents’ power is decreasing. Children are no longer expected to give much in return to their parents, so the value of children is decreasing.

Even before the family planning policy was implemented in the late 1970s, the fertility rate had decreased rapidly because the government began to advocate having fewer children during the 1970s. The fertility rate was 2.8 in 1979, but in 1959 it was above six (Vermeer, 2006). At the beginning of the collective era in 1958, a larger household size meant that more work points were given to the household, which encouraged people to have more children. The fertility rate decreased very quickly during the 1970s, which can be explained by the government’s campaign on family planning from the early 1970s onward. Another possible reason is that villagers already met difficulties if they had many children because of the problems with food security in the 1960s, which more work points could not solve.

According to Li (2004), the family planning policy has a negative impact on women and their families, because the preference for sons still exists. This research does not show that. In the interviews, people mentioned that many households have both a son and a daughter, but that nowadays, younger couples who have two daughters are happy, too. Since young women’s empowerment has increased, especially vis-à-vis their mother-in-law, they have more say in the decision making on fertility, which lowers the fertility rates.

Gender In Chapter 6, I have described many female-headed households and I have found women to be active in many ways. Traditional Chinese society is a patriarchal society, but within subcultures and among ethnic minorities, female-oriented ideologies can be found. In this study, Buyi women in many cases are household heads. A possible reason is that, in former times, men have always joined the army in Buyi society. They went to war in the past, and women were left behind to manage the household (Ge, 2003). This provided women with opportunities to become strong enough to head the household. This ideology has been passed on through time. Tiwari (2007) has also found that women from the Gurung minority used their agency in the Hindu-dominated society of Nepal to achieve a lower fertility. Gurung men usually joined the army, giving women the opportunity to head the household and make important decisions. Nowadays, they have the autonomy to decide to divorce and leave their husband. I found women of the Dong, another ethnic minority in the province, to have a female-oriented ideology as well. Each Dong woman joins different kinds of groups for women’s activities at 207 Conclusions and Discussion different stages in her life course. There is one Dong village where women have had indigenous knowledge about birth control for hundreds of years, passing it on from mothers to daughters. The women play a key role in birth control and benefit from it. In this village, women and men are equally entitled to land and land is reallocated every five years. Judd (1989) has stated that, in rural China, women should not be seen as just victims of patriarchy, but as agents in the everyday practice of kinship. In our research area, women were traditionally arranged to marry in nearby villages so that they could maintain strong relationships with their natal family (niangjia), which empowered them to be active agents.

After the HRS was implemented, more men than women migrated, which made women de facto household heads, reinforcing the influence of a femaleoriented ideology in an otherwise patriarchal society. In this research, I did not find that female-headed households are more poverty-prone than male-headed households (cf. Chant, 1997). However, this is because, in a context of migration, women become only de facto household heads, while their husbands are absent but support the household financially. This situation is different from that of a de jure female household head, like a widow, who has to fend for her own. When the men are absent to earn money by migrant labour, women are working in agriculture and do all the decision making relating to the farm (cf. Chen, 1996). According to Liu (2008a), in rural China, female headship of households empowers women and benefits children, as indicated by the fact that children in female-headed households grow taller than those in male-headed households.

Nowadays, traditional ideas are abandoned in rural areas, too, and men and women are perceived as equal (Yang, 2005). Economic conditions influence the division of labour within households (Chen, 2004). The division of labour between men and women is changing, although less so for the elderly. Married women usually stay at home after marriage to look after the land, the children and elderly, even if they did migrate before. The ACWF (1991) has also found that middle-aged and younger wives work on the farms and take care of the house and children at the same time. They choose this household livelihood strategy, even though especially younger wives still expect to migrate at a later stage. For younger unmarried people, migration mainly serves their own personal development, and they keep most of the money they earn for themselves. Married people migrate to strengthen the household economy and enhance the well-being of the family.

Household members have both individual strategies and joint strategies ((Niehof and Price, 2001). However, in the research area, it is perceived as fair that men migrate and women engage in agricultural production, thereby both contributing to the well-being of the family (Zuo, 2004).

Women’s role is increasingly visible in rural society; they are the key agents there. Women, especially older women, are more attached to agricultural production and natural resource management. For this reason, extension services should consider this. Since men have many opportunities to engage in other economic activities elsewhere, women’s role in rural communities becomes crucial.

They are the ones that should be targeted and not be forgotten in rural development plans.

208 Chapter 10



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