Individual innovation leaves collective farms in the dust

Choi Song Min  |  2015-06-08 15:00
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Despite vowing to make this year one of abundant harvests as North Korea marks its 70th anniversary of the Workers Party foundation, the country is facing stumbling blocks in living up to that promise. Full mobilization calls of workers and soldiers for agricultural assistance have failed to draw out greater work capacity from purported volunteers, but sources report a very different picture when it comes to plots allocated to individuals.

On collective farms, where all residents have been fully mobilized, rice planting, and sowing of corn and potatoes are in full swing, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 4th. But those who have been mobilized are working half-halfheartedly, and there are no measures in place against threats of drought, so other than rice paddies, most crops are drying out. 

Sources in two other provinces of North Korea reported the same trends, but for their safety Daily NK may not release their locations.

She added that as those adhering to the states full-mobilization order are far from diligent about their work and just trying to get by. Young students are reportedly working from the wee hours to transport buckets of water to the rice paddies but the overall efforts are far from sufficient to overcome the dry spell wreaking havoc on the crops. 

Most volunteers play games or sit in the shade, having a few drinks, when the farm managers are not around, said the source. This behavior earns the ire of managers, who threaten to pull meal provisions for workers or refusing to accept volunteers altogether as a result.

However, this is all in stark contrast to individual plots, the source reported. On these individual plots, people are using plastic covers and protecting their crops from drought--a popular method employed by most with these swathes of land, she said. In each furrow on private plots, people have put down plastic with holes in them, which facilitates moisture preservation and reduces the need for weeding. 

People are connecting plastic strips that are roughly 40cm in width to place down in the furrows. Holes are made every 35cm and seeds are planted within. The plastic not only helps contain moisture in the ground but also raises the ground temperature. This, in turn, improves the growth of vegetables and corn, according to the source. 

While collective farm output lags under Juche farming," where problems like equipment shortages are endemic, individual plots teem with activity, thriving on innovative methods devised by its tenders. At the end of the day, farming is more effective when theres a landowner, and people generally believe now that collective farms arent going to yield a good harvest, she concluded.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

 
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