How discontinuities become continuities : the dynamics of participatory development in rural China

Wang Yihuan

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    ABSTRACT This research focuses on an understanding of the multiple forms in which small farmers families attempted to resolve their livelihood problems and develop viable farming strategies. The study was essentially explorative; therefore, the findings attempted to be valuable in documenting the "social construction" of farming practice and local community networks and in offering a view, "from below", of present and future agricultural scenarios. Following literature of Robert DeWalt (1979); John Bennett (1982), Norman Long and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg (1994), the research uses the notions of "adaptive strategies" and "farming styles", combining a concern for land use and the management of other types of "capital": natural, economic, human and social resources (Scoones, 1998), with an emphasis on how existing economic mileux shape farm-livelihood decision making. Running throughout the research, the thesis tries to generate additional knowledge on the issue of cropping patterns and sustainable rural livelihoods based on agriculture (Chambers et al, 1989), from the point of view of farmers' perceptions on resource management. The fieldwork was divided into two phases. The first part lasted 30 months with the aim to know in deep the main rural livelihoods of a small settlement called Agrimaga in the central atlantic region of Costa Rica. The study included two inventory studies of 29 farms and the data gathered was analysed to see if it revealed any distinctive patterns in the use of productive resources and farming practices. At the same time, the surveys provided a useful baseline for selecting several study cases which covered a range of contrasting situations and reflecting different resource levels and farming types. Based in the fact that maize and cassava were the main crops, an additional analysis of their agricultural practices was made in order to know the degree of agrodiversity among those farmers. From the fieldwork carried out in Agrimaga, several hypothetical premises were generated aiming at providing an additional understanding of land use and livelihood scenarios from the perspective of local actors and social relations. The second part of the research was the application of a large social survey to 203 farmers from 23 communities, located in the same central area of the atlantic region, with the purpose of testing the hypothetical premises generated in Agrimaga. Despite the differences in resource endowments of the farmers sample, the gathered information verified the basic agricultural patterns found in Agrimaga. By means a path analysis, it was proved that variation in crop production is directly connected to differences in capital use ( agro-chemicals, in particular, fertilizer) and labour. The degree of commercialization and the percentage of fertile soil ("tierra negra") had no direct effect on crop production variations but through a higher cropping intensity. In turn, livestock production could only be attributed to differences in animal rate and pasture area. The same statistical device was used for analysing the income variations among farmers. The diagram obtained showed that off-farm, cropping and livestock activities were the main sources of familiar income but they were negatively correlated. This finding validate the independence among the three productive activities and might lead to confirm the hypothetical premise that rural livelihoods strategies in the central atlantic region are quite specialised: a) off-farm work; b) intensive agriculture and c) extensive livestock. Based on the later evidence a farmer typology was made according to the major share of the households' income ( more than 50% criterium). The findings showed that more than 80% of the farmers could be classified into three types: (i) "jornaleros" (day-labourer); (ii) cropping farmer and (iii) stock farmer. In the case of the "cropping farmer", the 87 percent of family income (per unit of labour) comes from intensive agriculture; for the stock farmer and the "jornalero" (day-labourer), the importance of such sources of income was 84 and 83 percent, respectively. Despite the farmer types distinguished are relatively homogeneous in access to resources and production objectives, many wage labourers have cattle and grow crops; some crop farmers are also involved in off-farm labour and some livestock farmers are also commercially involved in crop production. Regarding the later, he (she) is usually an absent producer and delegates this activity onto lesser employees because he (she) devotes their time to more lucrative or short term business. The mentioned typology was contrasted with farmers' own classification and the results showed that more than 80% of the farmers who classified themselves as day labours, are also classified as such by the income composition criterion; also for the cropping farmers, the match was 60%. Finally, the research attempt to shed additional light on the issue of agricultural planning and the viability and development of manageable rural livelihood strategies for small farmers in the context of the era of economic globalization.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Wageningen University
    • Long, N.E., Promotor
    Award date30 Sept 2003
    Place of PublicationWageningen
    Print ISBNs9789058088680
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2003


    • rural development
    • development studies
    • rural sociology
    • development projects
    • participation
    • rural communities
    • conflict
    • intervention
    • china
    • hebei


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