Agricultural performance on marginal land in Eastern Inner Mongolia, China -- Development in the pre- and post-1978 reform periods
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Rapid economic development in the aftermath of the Chinese post-1978 reforms has resulted in a shrinking of grain grown area in the southern and eastern regions of the country which in turn is believed to have put the marginal northern regions under increased pressure. This paper examines key indicators of agricultural performance as well as cultivated land area development of the pre- and post-1978 reform periods focusing on the agro-pastoral Tongliao City Prefecture, eastern Inner Mongolia. The results are related to the village level development through a case study as well as to the provincial level. Average annual grain per capita production increased from about 400 kg in the late 1970s to more then 1000 kg in the late 1990s. This was achieved through a combination of intensification and reclamation of cropland, with the latter restricted to pastoral classified counties. Production variability, in particular for the low producing counties, has also increased possibly as an effect of the substitution of traditional mixed pattern of crops with HYV monocultures. Average living standards have improved but have been accompanied by widening income gaps. Poor farmers' livelihoods continue to be insecure, particularly during dry years. Concern is raised regarding the sustainability of the rapid agricultural development; an increased use of costly fertilisers constrains poorer farmer's economy and may lead to deteriorating water quality while increasing irrigation depletes water resources.