The terraced rice fields of Yuanyang are the world's largest, and cover over 1000M of vertical terrain that has been carved by the local Hani minority group. The area was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO, which prevents the landscape from being altered. April is the beginning of the rice planting season, when seedlings that have been covered against the cold in hoop-style plastic greenhouses are transplanted by hand to the terraces which have been plowed and prepared by water buffalo. This ancient landscape has started to change, and now 10-20% of the terraces are dry and uncultivated as young people are choosing more modern forms of work instead of eeking out a meager living of hard labor.
These village ladies were working for the Kunming Expo Tourist Company to prepare rice fields for planting below the lookout at Lauhuzui. Most of the land below the lookout has been leased by KETC, and the local ladies are paid Y60/day for planting, or Y110 for terrace maintenance. There are 30-40 women working in KETC's planting crew during planting time, and a tourist ticket for the overlook is Y100/person, and there are about 200 daily visitors to the overlook. KETC leases the land and pays for it to be farmed to ensure that the terraces are maintained in their original condition and used for rice. Other areas outside the core area of tourism have seen some 20% of their land left fallow or planted in dry-land crops like corn or soybeans.
Farmers in this area own about 4mu of land and make 1,500kg of rice from it. Fertilizer is applied at a rate of 150kg per mu. In the cities, women can make Y90 and men Y150, and I didn't see many young people working in the fields.
- ©2017 George Steinmetz
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