Despite industrializing at an unprecedented
rate over the past three decades, China remains basically an
agrarian country in terms of the huge size of its farming
population and the country's vast rural areas.
China relies on agriculture to feed its 1.3
billion citizens, and over the years steady efforts have been made
by the Chinese Government to promote agricultural development and
raise the living standards of farmers.
An acute problem, however, has emerged for the
agricultural sector in recent years.
As the income gap between the country's
urbanites and their rural counterparts grows ever wider, more and
more young farmers have chosen to flow into cities to find better
lives and employment, leaving behind in their hometowns the
elderly, the physically weak and women to take care of the
farmland. With urban wages generally becoming the main source of
revenue for many rural households, farm work has become an
increasingly low priority for rural residents.
Continuing migration has led to a drastic
reduction of farm hands willing to work in the fields. This
"hollowing-out" of farm laborers is said to be one of the biggest
obstacles the country must overcome if it aims to build a modern
agricultural sector and drive up rural development.
To address the shortage of qualified farm
labor, concrete measures must now be taken by the authorities
concerned. These include stepping up social security and healthcare
networks in rural areas, providing preferential policies to farmers
such as giving out more farm subsidies, bank loans and offering
further tax cuts. Ultimately, the government must work to reduce
the income disparity between urban and rural areas.
Only when the living and working conditions in
the countryside improve will farming become an attractive
profession in the eyes of the younger generation.
China, however, not only needs more young
farmers to remain on the land, but also needs to train its farmers
in modern agricultural techniques and give them access to the best
technology and science available in the industry.
For thousands of years, agriculture in the
country depended almost entirely on the natural climate and
individual practical experience, with the vast majority of the
rural populace being traditionally illiterate. But in today's
world, farming is more and more hi-tech and knowledge-based.
Knowledge and technologies remain the key to building a vibrant
agricultural economy, and only education and training will allow
China to cultivate a crop of farmers who will spur a much-needed