The Sources of Poverty in Guizhou: Transforming Uncultivated Soil by Nurturing Souls

Opportunities for development in the Guizhou province involve educating and enabling people to understand how to cultivate their own human potential.  Providing rural farmers, fettered with traditional inequalities, with economic choices paves the way to a more prosperous economy.  With the advent of many new economic choices in Guizhou, an untapped source of economic potential will be freed – the human capital of women.

In rural societies, like many of those in Guizhou, “land is the basic material asset … [that] the household depends on for subsistence” (Jie Wu, et. al.), there are many traditions, however, prohibiting women from acquiring land.  In Chinese land-right policy, for example, there is a  “loophole in [the] system” that keeps divorced women from obtaining land, “the basic material asset” in a rural economy (Jie Wu, et. al.).  In Guizhou, along with policies which preclude individuals from owning land because of their gender, cultivated female capital is as rare as high yield corn harvests.  Efforts to cultivate rice, till land, and make “decisions about what to plant,” are traditionally “undertaken by men” (Jie Wu, et. al.).  Therefore, the rural societies of Guizhou only utilizes female capital when there isn’t enough male labor.  Physical imbalances often prevent women from acquiring the basic skills of marketplace involvement, which according to Charles Wheelan, are fundamental to any economy.

Seeing “poverty as a deprivation of basic capabilities, rather than merely as low income” (Sen 20) can clarify the circumstances in Guizhou. Gender inequalities aren’t only prevalent within the farming communities; they also exist at the state and provincial level.  According to the New York Times, Chinese “banks [are] encouraged … to lend overwhelmingly to state-owned enterprises that appear certain to repay loans.”  This form of discrimination “has left smaller business and private companies starved for credit” (Bradsher).  Also the banks’ preference to lend to public enterprises, there “is [also a clear] gender inequality regarding borrowing and lending decisions” (Jie Wu, et. al.).  Banks tend to lend, if they are approved to give loans to the private sector, “to the head of the household.”  This “starves” women even more for credit, especially when some rural households rely on borrowing money to buy land, send their children to school, or even to buy food (Jie Wu, et. al.).

The rocky geography of Guizhou prevents the province from becoming a preeminent location for agriculture.  The many days of rainfall prevent the food staple of China – rice – from being cultivated, because of the fluctuating water levels in the paddies (Wright).  It is too hard to actively regulate the water level.  97% of the land in the Guizhou province is marginal, thus, preventing any form of high marginal yields.  In addition, because of the lack of nutrients in the soil, corn farming is an unrewarding profession.  Despite being the second most abundant crop in the region, not enough corn is produced to maintain any type of livelihood (Guizhou Province Profile).

In Guizhou, the “water resources are limited” and “women, because of childbirth and contraception, often suffer more illnesses due to poor sanitation” (Jie Wu, et. al.).  Because of the rocky terrain, water seeps far down into the soil, out of reach for many rural farmers.  Despite new technologies in the cities, where pumps utilize water as a power source, it remains untouched in the rural highlands.  The lack of water in the Guizhou Province increases health risks, while decreasing marginal crop yields.

For many people residing in the countryside of China, a trek to the urban centers is a ticket to certain prosperity.  The highlanders, however, are not innate citizens of the cities, therefore, they don’t have to pay taxes. Many of these urban-goers strain the cities structurally.  Without a sufficient amount of tax revenue, the city is unable to pay for the needs of the larger society.  As a result, China has installed many regulations prohibiting rural-urban immigration.  These restrictions isolate economic prosperity to those born in the cities.

If development is the desired end, then enabling and educating the people “through a process that [allows the] freedom of actions and decisions” (Sen 17) are the means. In other words, economic opportunities, which are conceptions of freedom, are the essential groundwork for development.  Development is an agent-oriented process, where the agent is  “someone who acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of her own values and objectives” (Sen 19). Altogether, China must give the agents of developmental freedom the opportunities to produce a successful economy.  Development is out of the party’s hands.

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