Meet Zhang Shaolan, from Heinigou. She has a family of 5 people, including Zhang Shaolan ,her husband and three children . Her daughter,the first and only college student in the village, has been in the third year in the university. She also has twin sons, in high school, who live at their school and therefore only come back once a week. When they back, they will help Ms. Zhang do some farm work. There is an old Chinese saying “a woman will be stronger in all aspects as she has been a mother” , perhaps for Ms Zhang, the source of strength are from these three children.
The family relies on agriculture. On the mere 6 Mu of farm land they owned, they raised their whole family including supporting the education of three children at school. Ms Zhang is the main body on the farm land as her husband often needs to go out for working and will come back to help her until the coming of busy season. And also her daughter and sons will come back only on holidays. In order to raise the family, Ms Zhang needs to work very hard. Even if it has been the slack season in November when we interviewed her, Ms Zhang got up quiet early as usual to feed livestock including pigs, cows, and chicken; visit the land to check the growing of wheat which is used for feeding livestock. Sometimes, she will climb to the mountain back her house to collect tree leaves, in order to collect dry leaves for livestock to keep warm in forthcoming winter. The dump mixed together with tree leaves will be used for composting fertilizer preparing for the forthcoming planting season.
When spring comes, Ms. Zhang will plant tobacco, corn, potato, Chinese cabbage, carrots and other kinds of vegetables on this small land. Among all these crops, tobacco seems be able to bring higher income to the family so that she could pay intuition fee for three children. So she planted tobacco on most of her lands. The rest around 1 Mu will be planted corn, and various vegetables to meet the family’s own consumption in their daily life. Interestingly, in order to increase the productivity of the land, Ms. Zhang plants some beans between tobacco, and explored rotating cropping and intercropping systems passed down generation by generation, such as intercrop corn and sun flower seeds; growing pea when the tobacco is preparing for harvesting, so that after harvesting tobacco, she will prepare to harvest peas again. So on this small piece of land, she is always harvesting throughout the year no matter it’s in winter or spring.
With the help of Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center (PEAC) in the past few years, Ms. Zhang has gradually transformed from traditional farming with high consumption of chemical pesticides as well as fertilizers, to ecological agriculture. While exploring ecological agriculture, she tried more crop rotation and intercropping farming measures to prevent the outbreak of pests and diseases. On the other side, she actively participates in Organic Farmers’ Market launched by PEAC. The Market will be held every last Saturday in the capital city of Yunnan Province, Kunming City. On every last Saturday, Ms. Zhang will bring her ecological vegetables, wild vegetables, wild mushroom, dry beans, wheat powder, and children eggs to the market. She is so excited every time when the Market is coming. Because the coming of market means that she will have extra income to support the family then. She told us that she has been more and more confident in ecological agriculture. She knows the use of agriculture chemicals will pose potential risks to human beings and environment. She hopes her action change could make a little bit contribution to human health and environment protection. Furthermore, she advocates other farmers to follow her initiatives in the near future.
Ms. Zhang is a typical representative of all Miao Women at the village. She did not receive any education, but during the conversation, it was clear that Zhang is proud of her daughter attending college. In this Miao village some girls get married quite early, but Ms. Zhang insisted that her daughter attend college. She needs to be busy with raising the children and take care of her husband, but she has a big dream on the land. She works very hard farming and has dedicated her life to the land. Ms. Zhang said, “I hope our life will be better and our three children will be able to finish their studies.”
Let’s give her best wishes then!