Differentiation between income levels in poor areas of China

Ye (2002) defines a farmer initiative as the impetus that sufficiently and necessarily drives a farmer (or group of farmers) to formulate a realistic strategic plan, and to implement it in an attempt to create space for maneuver and to pursue change through changing social conditions. He lists the critical factors contributing to the process of various farmer initiatives in China as including trust, social networks, information derived from networks, past experiences, media and publications, calculations of cost-effectiveness, enlightenment from interaction with and influence of family members and the network of outsiders, information from the market, visits to successful cases, self-help and cooperation, reputation (respect, credibility), interests, beliefs, curiosity vis-à-vis the outside world, technology innovation, knowledge from publications and training, study visits, skills and technical capability, enlightenment from observation and favorable policies. Many of these are interrelated and some in fact can be grouped in broader categories, the broadest one being "social capital" as the mobilizer (Ye 2002).

More recently Tan Ying et al. (in prep.) posed the question whether and how the actual information needs of farmers are met given that new channels of information give lots of farmers in China new chances to choose the most suitable informa-

tion for their use. ttey used information from about 400 farmer families, distributed over 30 villages in the provinces Yunnan, Shaanxi, Anhui, Hebei and Shanxi, Central and Western China. According to different situations of different areas, the methods varied, tte research combined qualitative and quantitative analysis, including Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) surveys, questionnaire surveys (random and stratified sampling) and interviews.

A first experiment showed that four different income-levels of farmers treated the technological and related information differently and their levels of satisfaction were different too. Also, they appeared to receive the information largely through different channels. However, farms at the same income levels in different areas appear to have similar information needs. In addition, through the participative research it was understood that most farmers were not satisfied with the information that is provided by the mass media. From another experiment it followed that when the farmers had similar occupations (as planter, cultivator, businessman, village technician, village leader) their information requirements were close to each other. But different income type farmers used again different media channels to receive the information. Results of again another experiment implied that farmers with the same occupation often select similar information sources, while farmers from different jobs obviously make different choices, which were again income related.

ttis paper tries to make a sensible differentiation among rural people. Weather and climate information and their dissemination and use are here to be seen as part of technological information. No studies on these specific meteorological information needs and channels have been made. From the surveys qualitatively the following applies to the income differentiation in central and western China (Tan Ying et al. in prep.).

Very poor farmers, ttey have limited technological information demands and mainly obtain information from leaders, neighbors and relatives. Most are over 50 years old, illiterate, and only a few of them have studied in primary school. As to their family situation, many are solitary elderly people, widows/widowers or people in bad mental or bodily health, tteir main problem is lack of labor, ttey generally make only use of local resources and expect help from the government, ttey are largely indifferent to multifarious information from various media, don't listen to/watch/read functional broadcasts/TV programmes/newspaper items. When watching TV, they are mostly interested in entertainment programs such as tele-plays and films.

Low-income farmers. Most of them are planters and cultivators and have only had primary school, tte main information channels for this type of farmers are mass media, leaders, able friends and relatives, ttey usually accept information passively and seldom seek technological and enriching information actively, ttey can only understand a little popularized science and few new technologies on TV, and a bit older farmers can hardly understand them at all. ttey have very unremarkable technological information demands, but are interested in many other information services, such as regarding rural policies and regulations, applied scientific and cultural information with good knowledge contents, sales and supply information of agricultural products. However, without special assistance they cannot eas ily articulate what the specific information is that they need most. All programs on TV are wonderful to them.

Middle-income farmers. Most of these farmers are somewhat larger planters and cultivators/growers whose information demands are comparatively strong. Besides TV & radio and personal communication, they begin to pay more attention to newspapers, brochures and books related to agricultural production. What they need most, usually are practical operational and market information services such as on the utilization of new technologies, weather forecasts, rural policies and on sales as well as enriching information from able villagers and so on. However they cannot use them with sufficient efficiency, ttey can find technological information services they need with the assistance of technicians, village leaders and able villagers. Most cannot select useful information themselves or, getting unsatisfied results after applying some new knowledge, hesitate to accept and use such information services. However, the informatization process in some areas is rather faster and there computers are becoming available in some villages. Several most educated farmers begin to get interested in this "new thing" and want to obtain some technological information from the internet, ttis picture is confirmed from elsewhere (LEISA 2002).

Richer farmers. Most of these farmers are 35-45 years old and influential planters, growers and traders (self-employed workers, entrepreneurs), tte information channels for these farmers mainly are TV, the press, broadcasts and Internet, personal communication such as the marketplace, telephone, etc. Having studied in high school or taken adult education and new technological training after having been in agriculture already for some time, they are very sensitive to agricultural policies, market and farm product information with which they can create benefits quickly. Usually they can actively search various media, and spend more time on obtaining the latest information, ttey prefer to communicate with well-informed people (services, private information agencies). During the survey, it was found that most of these big planters, cultivators and businessmen benefited from the technological information. Several rich farmers even begin to use computers to sell their products.

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