OTHER THEMES IN SW COLLECTION
culture and customs
employment and income
THEMES IN NE COLLECTION
culture and customs
introducing the china collections
community activities in the southwest collection
Many older narrators talk about the commune system of the past and the change (in 1978) to the "household responsibility system", mostly in favourable terms. More than one say they resented having to "carry" the lazier members of the collective, so they ended up working less hard as well, but now they are working for themselves, there is every incentive to be as productive as possible: "The [household] responsibility system is good. You labour as [much or as little as] you like, and you get richer if you work harder… What you do is yours. Everyone earns more. In the past, a group of people worked on the same piece of land. You dug on the piece of land and I would not labour more than you did. People didn't want to work hard" (China 25). However, her interviewer feels that losing the collective way of working has had a cost: "Interaction between farmers became less. Women seldom contacted each other..."
Nevertheless, quite a few other accounts suggest working together and exchanging labour remains a common practice. Even Nala (China 14), who is disabled and spends much of her time sewing for a living, gives and receives help in the fields. Indeed she learned new skills this way: "I'll help others to do farm work. That family helped me do the work earlier, so today I go to return labour… [The agricultural technician] didn't come and see us [about planting hybrid rice] because our land is far away. When I went for exchange labour, they taught and I learned immediately."
quotes about community activities
"We ask anyone for help. You help me and I help you, just like this. People will help if she or he is free. If they are not free, I'll do it by myself. The same goes for myself. When I'm free I'll go to help [others] even if they don't ask. I'll see whether my own work can be finished, I might leave them and go to help others."
Guangzhen, 45/F, Yi, China 24
"Today I have been to help people planting rice seedlings… This time I helped them; then later when there is water in my paddy, others will come to help me… One person is not able to finish cultivating a plot of land; several people doing together finish it quickly. Doing it in a group heightens your motivation, so we exchange our labour…"
Natuo, 80/F, Lahu, China 15
"Who still wants to live the life of the past? [Under] the collectivised commune system, some people worked slothfully, and the grain you worked hard for one year was not sufficient to eat… We had to dig up tree roots, cut edible wild plants and the stem of banana trees for food… Now, it's all up to you how hard you want to work and how much you want to eat. Grain is not in short supply… Now we have the household responsibility system… We ordinary people like it more."
Yeai, 52/F, Wa, China 9