Long Xiufen in Heinigou village in Yunnan Province is one of three farmers who are showing us how they make a living from 2000m² of arable land in South China. Each of them owns roughly 1 Mu, which is 666m². Just like most people in the Heinigou village the family identifies with the ethnic group of Miao, one of the 55 official minority groups recognized by the government of China.
Long Xiufen provides for her family of four. As a result of current policies, she has to stay in the village and make a living from her farm land. Earlier this year, her son found a girlfriend and recently got engaged. The wedding will already be held before the Chinese New Year, which makes her very happy. Once her son will be married, the family house will not be big enough for the expanded family though. Therefore, Long Xiufen began to build a new house. On the countryside, building a house is not as expensive as in the cities, and many farmers design and build their own houses. Sometimes, they will accept a little help from their friends with the construction. Long Xiufen has saved money for many years and just completed the house frame-work.
The tobacco harvest is Long Xiufen’s main source of income. She plants the crops from March to August. Planting tobacco is rather complicated. After the seeding, the tobacco needs to be transplanted twice, with the first transplantation being to nutrition bags. When the tobacco is eight to ten centimeters tall, it can be transplanted on a rainy day. After transplanting, the tobacco needs mulching film, irrigation, and weeding. Long Xiufen told us that July and August are the months when she is tired the most while harvesting the tobacco. In these months, Long Xiufen usually has to start picking the tobacco in the field before dawn, taking one or two pieces of each tobacco tree at a time. Due to the tobacco’s juice, it can be a rather sticky picking process. She says, after the picking her whole hand is dark from the tobacco juice and it is difficult to wash it away. At around 3:00 pm, Long Xiufen finishes picking and takes the tobacco home to have lunch. After the break, Long Xiufen starts the tobacco weaving process until one or two am in the morning. If she does not get to finish the weaving process at the same day of picking the tobacco, it may not be used anymore on the following day. Therefore she never goes to bed before having finished the tobacco weaving.
The tobacco can be sold at a good price in comparison to other crops. Due to several big rains this year in Yunnan Province, the tobacco trees lost a lot of leaves and had her income drop. Long Xiufen practices crop rotation on her field to prevent plant diseases and pests. She says, since she also grows corn and wheat in rotation with tobacco, her loss is smaller than that of the other farming families of the village.
Moreover, she is an active participant of the monthly farmers‘ market in the city of Kunming, which she has been attending for more than three years now. Selling her organic vegetables at the market increases her income by five to six hundred RMB each time. The farmers‘ market also is a great chance to directly get to know her costumers from the city. Their interest in her ecologically grow food has also given Long Xiufen more confidence in her style of farming which does not make use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Her son currently works in the county traffic police office. Her 16 year old daughter recently quit school to help her mother with the housework. The two children help to reduce the burden of farm work a lot, Long Xiufen says. Her husband also helps on the farm, but he needs to travel for work. Long Xiufen heard that the government offers subsidies for building livestock circles. Therefore, she plans to build a few livestock circles soon. Her son and her future daughter-in-law will help raise more cattle, which will improve their lives, so hopes Long Xiufen.
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This is a follow-up product of our participation in the EU-China NGO Twinning Program of Stiftung Asienhaus.