Farmers in South Pyongan Province proactively engaging in “manure battle”

North Korean farmers load manure onto trucks in 2017. Image: Daily NK

The North Korean government has again ordered its citizens to engage in a “battle for manure.” While most are unhappy with the forced mobilization every year, some residents in South Pyongan Province are responding more positively toward participation in the “battle” this year.

“The ‘battle for manure’ is held every year and many people are enthusiastic about meeting their manure quotas,” said a source based near Kumsongho, in South Pyongan Province, on January 11.

“This area had a good harvest in general last year, but those areas that implemented the field management system (pojon damdangjae) had an even better harvest. The corn harvest two years ago was poor, but last year the yields were about 1.5-times higher than before. Barley harvests only yielded around 120 grains per pod in past years, but last year there were around 170.”

The harvest in areas where the field management system was implemented was so successful that local farmers are reportedly trying to collect as much manure as they can – even more than their set quotas – so that they can reap a larger harvest this year.

The field management system is an agricultural reform measure that shifted autonomy over agricultural products from the smallest units at cooperative farms to family units. A set proportion of the harvest is given to the state, while the rest can be kept by the farmers themselves.

“The land used by work units and by individuals are managed together, and private farmers work really hard so they tend to reap higher corn and rice yields. People from other regions I talked to about this were really envious,” a separate source in South Pyongan Province reported.

“A total of 30% of the yield is given to the state, while the remaining 70% is kept by the farmers, giving farmers that use the system a sustainable living. If the income earned by private farmers can be guaranteed, then farming won’t be as heavily impacted by droughts and typhoons.”

Kim Jong Un’s 2012 speech entitled “Establishing a New Economic Management System” sparked the implementation of the field management system. Although it is unclear how widespread the implementation of the system is nationwide, according to defectors, it appears to be expanding throughout the country.

“The authorities claim that if people are well-fed and comfortable, they will become ideologically weak and be less loyal toward the Party, which can lead to rising individualism,” said one defector interviewed by Daily NK. “So the field management system might only be implemented in a few select regions.”