Table of Contents:
- Farmer suicide and the road to agricultural ruin
- Lonely reach
- There is sometimes a bitter overlap between farming and suicide, and agriculture statistics bear blunt testimony.
Risk is a fickle partner and sometimes a farmer is only as secure as his last crop. When losses mount, it’s often not only finances that take a hit — emotional ruin hovers close. As markets bottom out and the consequences of risk come calling, there is sometimes a bitter sliver of overlap between farming and suicide — and agriculture statistics from across the globe bear blunt testimony.
But not all such losses are directly related to rough markets or a lean economy; sometimes the circumstances of ruin are far more primal — and even simpler to trace.
Despair breeds despair, and for producer Ai Guandong, the slide began after the birth of his first child — daughter No. 1. Guandong, a 45-year-old farmer in China’s Hebei Proince, was hoping for a son to help manage his tiny operation, but was caught in the cogs of China’s draconian one-child policy. The one-child policy is mandated from Beijing and pregnancy after the first child can bring harsh fines, forced abortion, or sterilization. However, farmers have an exemption and can have a second child if the firstborn child is a daughter.
For more, see US agriculture readies for China’s baby boom
In 2003, Guandong and his wife had a second child — daughter No. 2, and communist party officials soon arrived on their doorstep seeking payment. Exemption or not, Guandong was fined $1,100; a massive sum for a farmer barely above subsistence. Shortly after, the Guandongs broke Chinese law with the birth of a third child — daughter No. 3. This time, communist officials demanded nearly $10,000 in penalties.
The Guandongs were paying the fines in small increments, but never getting receipts or proof of payment. Desperate for a son, they had a fourth child — daughter No. 4. (With little surprise, sex-selective abortions are frequent in China, resulting in the highest boy-girl ratio on the planet: 118 boys for every 100 girls.)
In 2009, a fifth child was born — son No. 1. Yet, the fines remained in place, strapping the family and finally breaking down Guangdong in 2013.
In December of 2013, communist henchmen reached once again for more money. From the Global Times: “… the village party chief, Ai Liankun, and village head, Hao Guangun, led three other officials to visit the family to collect fines, and they ended up taking away more than 3.5 tons of corn, which represented the entire savings of the family.”
They had taken away Guandong’s basic human rights; then his money; and last his corn crop. The next day Guandong, maybe in a rage against the machine act, went to the party chief’s house and committed suicide by drinking pesticide and dying shortly after in a hospital. The pressure is gone for Guandong — only to be compounded on his wife and carried by five children for the rest of their lives.