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Wednesday, 22 May 2019 15:34
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The negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset on process of new rural areas construction in Vietnam today

(LLCT) - Although there have been remarkable results in the implementation of the National Target Program for New Rural Areas Construction, there remain a lot of limitations and weaknesses which are caused by the negative effect of small-scaled farmer mindset. Analyzing the negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset, both in awareness as well as in implementation of the new rural areas, will help Vietnam meet the building targets and overcome the negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset in building new rural areas in the coming period.

Keywords: small-scaled farmer mindset, new rural areas construction.

Building new rural areas is the long-term revolutionary cause of our Party and people in order to improve the material and spiritual life of rural people, and it is the most important task of the industrialization, modernization, and socialist building in the country. However, there are outdated thinking, customs, and habits as barriers to implementing the revolutionary task in general and building new rural areas in particular. Therefore, to clearly identify these barriers during the process of building new rural areas, it is extremely necessary for us to have solutions for overcoming the limitations in this process.

To implement the Resolution of the 7th Plenum of Party Central Committee (10th tenure) on agriculture, farmers, and rural areas, dated 4 June, 2010, the Prime Minister signed Decision No. 800/QD-TTg, approving the National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas in the 2010-2020 period. After more than 5 years of implementation, on 16 August, 2016, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 1600/QD-TTg, approving the National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas in the 2016-2020 period. The National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas is an overall program deployed in the rural areas of the nation to help develop the socio-economy, politics, security, and defense. The target of the Program is to build new-style rural areas with: improved modern socio-economic infrastructure, reasonable economic structures and production organization forms, associations between agriculture and quick development of industry and service, connections between rural development and planned urban areas, democratic and stable rural communities with firm cultural identities, protected ecological environments, assured security, and people’s increasingly improved material and spiritual life within a socialist orientation. Since its start, the new rural area building process has had many important achievements. The infrastructure of rural areas has changed dramatically, and the life of the rural people has been improved. The income of rural people increased by 1.8 times between 2010 and 2013, and the number of rural poor households by 2013 was only 12.6%, decreasing on average by 2% per year from 2008 onward. 30.1% of communes achieved set income criteria(1). However, the results of the new rural area construction program are not really sustainable, intensive, practical, or effective enough. One of the causes of this dysfunction is the small-scaled farmer mindset in the rural staff and people. Small-scaled farmer mindset is the thinking style of small-scaled farmers, which arises and directly reflects the traditionally small, spontaneous, fragmented, and self-sufficient agricultural production style. Small - scaled farmer mindset has negative manifestations, such as self-centeredness, self-interested thinking, inexperience, conservative thinking, reluctance to change, absolutization of community, underestimation of individuals, no expression of opinions, reliance on general views, randomness, unprincipledness, lack of discipline, higher regards for customs than laws, reliance on affection and social connections rather than justice, regionalist and localist thinking, passive and quiet thinking, short-sighted vision, and egalitarian thinking. These features are imperceptible barriers and obstacles amongst farms in the new rural areas, causing difficulties and shortcomings in the new rural area building process.

1. The negative effect of small-scaled farmer mindset on the awareness of new rural area construction

Decision No. 800/QD-TTG of the Prime Minister, dated 4 June 2010, approving the National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas in the 2010-2020 period, asserts: “Promoting the subjective role of the local residential community is principal, and the State plays the role in directing, issuing criteria, standards, policies, supportive  mechanisms, training for staff, and implementation guidance. Specific activities are democratically discussed by the hamlet and commune community to decide and implement”. Promoting the subjective role of rural people is the decisive factor to the success of new rural area building process. However, due to passive thinking, reliance on the group, and irresponsibility, many people remain aware of their role and the intellectual and material resources of the people are not mobilized as they should be. According to a survey by Bui Thi Van Anh, 21.2% of the interviewees fully agree with the remark that “building infrastructure (roads, traffic, infirmaries, schools, etc.) is the responsibility of the commune or higher authorities rather than theirs; 12.6% of them believe that this remark is basically right. For the remark “the responsibility to ensure the security of people’s life is totally in the hands of the commune authorities”, 38.8% of the people fully agree with this remark and 17.2% found it basically correct. For political system construction, 9.7% completely agree and 8.4% basically agree with the remark that this is the task of the government and that the people don’t know. Concerning the preservation of the living environment for the people and their families, up to 47.7% of the people fully agree and 14.1% of the people basically agree that this is a matter of the commune authorities(2). In many localities, on building the overall planning of new rural communes, such as planning for using land, manufacturing, and developing infrastructure, traffic, irrigation, residential areas, central areas, markets, and environmental areas (green trees, lakes, waste treatment centers, cemeteries), the grassroots staff underestimate the role of the people, collecting no suggestions from them on the issues to be resolved in building new rural areas. In addition, since the people are not positive and active in contributing ideas to the building process, they just play the role of an audience, leading to many plans unsuited to their demands and abilities and the characteristics of each given area. That people rarely use the hamlet cultural house and that no one uses the constructed markets demonstrate a large waste of resources. Concerning the expenses on building new rural areas, 12.3% of the interviewed people think that the State should fund the project completely, and 4.3% believe that the State and the local authorities should share the costs(3). Thus, 16.6% of the people believe that the cost for building a new-style rural area is funded by the State rather than by their contributions with support from the State, and so these people are much less likely to contribute resources to implementing new rural area building targets. Passive, reliant, dependent, and irresponsible thinking makes them unable to have adequate awareness of their role as the subject, thereby limiting the mobilization of resources for building new rural areas. Meanwhile, because of various contents and tasks in building new rural areas and limited resources of the State, people’s resources are very important for fulfilling the proposed targets.

The new rural area building targets are very comprehensive, covering all economic, political, cultural, and social aspects. However, the short-sighted and narrow thinking of small-farmers make them unable to fully understand these targets. For the surveyed object as officials, concerning the targets of the new-style rural area Program, the required targets associated with the tasks of developing the local socio-economy and socio-economic structures, material and spiritual life had high percentage (51.7%, 57.2%), but soft targets such as “public order,” “ecological environment”, and “cultural identity” have low percentages (12.3%, 10%, 9.7% respectively)(4). For the surveyed object as ordinary people, 73.6% of them think that the main targets are to develop the economy, improve population’s living standards, reduce poor households, while just 9-11% of the questioned people believe that the main targets are to develop socio-cultural or intellectual standards or to build a strong political system. The people have not had an overall view of the reciprocal effect of material, cultural, and spiritual life with the government system(5). When people and officials are not aware of the comprehensive nature of the National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas, they will only focus on performing economic tasks without paying proper attention to implementing the political and cultural targets as well. This makes it impossible for us to fulfill the proposed target of the Program and ensure the sustainable development in rural areas as desired. When the political and cultural targets are not properly taken into account, they will have a negative effect on the implementation of economic targets. Due to the negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset, people do not have the appropriate awareness of the targets, subjects, or content of building new rural areas, leading to incorrect thinking in practical activities, which directly affects the quality and effect of the new rural area building process.

2. The negative effect of small-scaled farmer mindset on implementing the new rural area building targets

In building new rural areas, the first and most important task is the planning - the basis for deploying practical activities later on. Therefore, planning must be effective overall, comprehensive, and with a long-term strategy fitting the development tendencies, modernity level, and characteristics of each region. However, due to the short-sighted and narrow vision in the small-scaled farmer mindset of the people and executive officials, the planning in some localities lacks strategic vision, puts emphasis on infrastructure planning while paying little attention to planning land use, residential areas, development of crafts, craft villages, or concentrated breeding areas; lacks sufficient architecture planning and does not preserve cultural identity, causing lack of comprehensiveness and stability in its quality. The planning for new rural area building still lacks comprehensiveness due to self-interest, individual, and localist thinking which makes the new rural area planning in communes inconsistent with the district planning, and the systems of traffic, irrigation, water supply and drainage, and environment protection are very inconsistent among communes.  Every commune does things in their own way, so electricity stations, water stations, waste treatment stations, rural markets, and cemeteries are available in all communes. As a result, the ineffectiveness of the markets and water supply stations after they are built causes tremendous waste of resources.

Building new rural areas is a Program to develop rural areas comprehensively and sustainably in terms of economics, culture, and society in order to improve the livelihood of the people, enrich national cultural identity, enhance intellectual standards of the people rather than simply build basic infrastructure. However, both executive officials and people in many rural areas only view new rural area building as an investment program in infrastructure, so they have passive thinking, expecting the support from the State without seeing their important role. People are much interested in the benefits of the new rural area building Program without caring about their responsibility and obligations that are part of the Program itself. Due to the obsession with achievements or self-interest, self-caring thinking, some grassroots officials often inflate the planning of infrastructure in building new rural areas to seek personal benefits. This leads to situations where many new rural area building projects are mostly characterized by infrastructure building calculations, paying improper attention to developing production and culture or protecting the environment, turning the new rural communes into only basic construction projects. Meanwhile, to implement the new rural area building targets sustainably and really bring practical and needed changes to people’s lives, the most fundamental content and targets are to improve the income of rural people. This is a difficult criterion on its own, but the others can easily be achieved once economic goals are met. Building infrastructure in rural areas is done easily when the income of people increases and the internal strength of the community is consolidated. However, because the living standard of the rural people is basically low and they are forced to contribute too much without discussion and agreement, reaction and discontent often arises from them.

Desiring to construct a lot of projects for profit in building new-style rural areas, many communes have commissioned enterprises for construction, making debt popular in capital construction of the communes which have attained the criteria of new-style rural areas. According to the report of the National Target Program for Building New Rural Areas (2010 - 2015 period), the debt of the localities in capital construction is still great. 53 of 63 provinces and cities are in debt due to capital construction projects, with the amount of about 15,277 billion VND. Particularly, some localities are unable to pay, causing negative public reactions. The total amount of outstanding debts of the new rural standard communes as of 31 January 2016 is 7,157.7 billion VND (accounting for 46.9% of the total outstanding debts of the whole country); there are 1,147 standard communes (62.5%) with outstanding debts of about 6.24 billion VND per commune on average(6). Many communes are recognized as new rural areas, but they have a debt of billions of VND. When the question of “where to get money to repay the debts” is still unsolved, a great number of cultural houses and sports areas remain unused. Thus, the new rural area building targets in many communes are not reached, and people’s lives are not improved considerably.

In building new rural areas, the important but hard issues are to raise income and change the production modes of rural people towards large-scale modern production with association between goods production and consumption. In order to implement these targets, it is necessary to accumulate and concentrate land, and the people have to actively apply technology, improve techniques and skills, have large-scale business thinking, accept risk, etc. However, with the small-scaled farmer mindset, based on safety and avoidance of risk, although agricultural activities do not bring about high benefit, many of them, who have turned to non-agricultural jobs, still carry out agricultural production moderately on the assigned land to keep the land and pass it on in case of risk in their business. This leads to difficulties in the ability to accumulate and concentrate land for large-scale, highly effective agricultural production. In land accumulation and concentrations, in some localities, the hamlet, commune authorities, for their self-interest and localist thinking, consider individual benefits more important than collective benefits and hand over the good rice fields to their brothers and relatives and the bad ones to others, which cause negative reaction among the people. According to a survey by Le Thi Thanh Huong, 10.3% of farmers do not intend to run a big agricultural business, so they do not want to accumulate and concentrate land; 28.9% of people with “comfort is better than pride” thinking agree with the view that farmers should not run large-scale business for fear of risk(7). Small-scaled farmer mindset has the serious negative effect on transforming production modes in modernization direction so as to enhance the quality and effect of the produce. Lots of people who appreciate experience and are hesitant to change still carry out agricultural production in the old manner, and they are reluctant to apply new technology or techniques. Hence, it is difficult to meet the requirements of the market, improve the competitiveness and income of the farmers, and 24% of the questioned people still want to carry out agricultural production based on traditional experience rather than new scientific and technological methods(8). Therefore, many localities have continuously devised projects for developing production, organizing job training classes, transferring and training techniques for new plant and animal varieties with high economic efficiency, but for different reasons, a large number of rural workers underestimate the learning of the fundamental knowledge and believe experience is the “best teacher”. This has decreased the effectiveness of these Programs.

The decisive element to the success of the new rural area building Program is to promote the role, proactiveness, and activeness of the rural people who take part in the process. However, because of reliant, passive, irresponsible, and group dependent thinking, many people are not really active in studying and thinking to make creative contributions to deploying the new rural area building project effectively. Also, due to self-interest, self-caring thinking with short-sighted and narrow vision, the readiness of many people to take part in building new rural areas depends on the kind of project and recognition of the practical benefit that it would bring about every day. Most of them are ready to contribute their money and efforts to building practical projects, directly serving daily life such as building commune traffic infrastructure (89% willing), school and schooling facilities (95.7% willing), infirmaries (91.4%), irrigation system for production (91%), and waste treatment facilities (90.7%)(9). Nevertheless, many people want to contribute to projects whose benefits are not really connected to the current life of the people, especially things that are rather unclear (or are only useful in the far future, such as fund-raising for community-benefiting activities, libraries, or electronic library), or that share benefits with other localities (adjacent areas) such as inter-commune traffic lines. Meanwhile, building new rural areas is a comprehensive, long-term Program with various working content, not only looking towards the direct, specific benefits but also the common, long-term ones for the community. This also has a negative influence on the implementation process of the targets and the criteria of building new rural areas.

In building new rural areas, there are cultural, social, and environmental criteria requiring the responsibility of the people; however, it is hard to achieve the criteria requiring awareness, self-consciousness and responsibility of people because of self-interest or self-caring thinking of most rural people. For example, included in the new rural area building criteria is the group of environmental norms with the goal of keeping the environment green, clean, and beautiful. Nevertheless, due to self-interest thinking, some families are indifferent to the surroundings outside their house, and are inactive in protecting the general environment. Although many people understand the necessity of having a clean living environment and concentrated garbage dumps for fear of epidemics, in daily life they still leave pigs, chickens, and ducks which die of diseases on the canals or drainage systems, polluting the living environment and spreading diseases. It is difficult to reach an agreement on where a concentrated garbage dumb should be located, and no residential group will agree to build such a dump near their homes. If the commune leaders want to move the dump, the people will protest for fear of pollution.

3. Some directions to limit the negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset in building new rural areas

Building new rural areas is a long-term revolutionary cause with important and practical significance for the masses; however, this process can only develop sustainably in the right direction and meet set goals when the negative manifestations of small-scaled farmer mindset in the people and officials in charge of building new rural areas are overcome. Here are some directions for limiting the negative effects of small-scaled farmer mindset in the new rural area building process.

Firstly, boost industrialization and modernization of agriculture in rural areas, transform production modes in the direction of large-scale concentration, and associate production with markets as one of the basic directions to gradually eliminate the foundation for the existence of small-scaled farmer mindset as well as fulfilling the economic criteria in building new rural areas. Thus, boosting the implementation of the new rural building Program, especially the economic contents, also contributes to overcoming the negative manifestations of small-scaled farmer mindset.

Secondly, enhance communication and education works, improve people’s awareness of the significance and nature of this Program, including their positive role and the harm of small-scaled farmer mindset in building new rural areas. Particularly, focus on spreading examples of good people and deeds, promoting associations with proper rewards in terms of spirit and material growth for outstanding exemplary people, especially positive and highly responsible individuals in building new rural areas.

Thirdly, improve the legal system and policy mechanisms such as mechanisms to manage capital mobilized from people’s contribution, democratic regulations at grassroots level in building new rural areas to create a close and effective law system to overcome the negative manifestations of small-scaled farmer mindset in building new rural areas such as corruption, localist thinking, etc., especially in the grassroots staff.

Fourthly, improve personnel work in rural areas, promoting the pioneering and exemplary role of grassroots officials to develop a pool of staff who are highly responsible and devoted to the people and general work, thereby overcoming the negative manifestations of small-scaled farmer mindset in building new rural areas.

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Endnotes:

(1) Vu Van Ninh: Three Years of Implementing National Target Program for Building New-style Rural Areas In Retrospect: Results and Some Experiences, Communist Review – Special Subject, Edition 94, October 2014.

(2) Bui Thi Van Anh: Traditional Thinking Characteristics of the Northern Delta People and Their Effects on the New-style Rural Area Building Process, Psychological Magazine, November 2014.

(3), (5), (7), (8), (9) Le Thi Thanh Huong: Some Psychological Elements of Farmers Affecting New-style Rural Area Building Process, Social Sciences Publishing House 2015, p.78, 71 , 138, 138, 103.

(4) Quoted from Pham Di: Awareness of Leaders, Managers of National Target Program for Building New-style Rural Areas (survey in some Southern Central Coastal Provinces), Journal of Political Theories, October 2015.

(6) Wastefulness in Building New-style Rural Area Building, Many Provinces in Debt http://thanhtra.com.vn.

MA. Ha Thi Thuy Duong

Academy of Politics Region IV

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