Maonan Economy

       The Maonan are an agricultural group. They grow rice, corn, Chinese sorghum and wheat. They also grow peanuts, beans, sweat potatoes, radish, tomatoes, cucumbers, rape, sesame, sugar cane, jute, tobacco, tangerine, pomelo, longan and lichee, among other things. Fields are generally ploughed with animal power. As most of the arable lands are on slopes, they can only be ploughed with a kind of special 'foot plough' which resembles a regular plough but smaller in size. It is stepped on by the foot like a shovel being forced into the soil. The soil is thus 'ploughed' bit by bit from the bottom of the hill to the top. Stock raising is also an important source of income. Maonan beef is well known in the local market for its premium quality because the cattle are pen-fed using the grass from the unique environments. A significant number of the cattle are exported to Hong Kong and Macao. Besides, every household feeds three to five pigs (see picture, courtesy of Huanjiang County Annals 2002) and about two dozens chickens and ducks. Basketwork, stonecutting, pottery, pewter, etc. are other sources of income. People exchange goods and produce in the rural markets every other day.
       Water shortage has been a major problem in agricultural production. As the area is mostly rocky and hilly, virtually without rivers and streams, the production yield is very low. There is a water supply system in Xianan and nearby villages. Only limited potable water is available most of the year. But there are about three months in the winter season when the villagers must use the water stored in their concrete water tanks. Each household has built one such tank. Both the county and the Xianan township governments have been trying to attract external investments. But any form of production needs water. Since drinking water for factory workers cannot be guaranteed, attracting external investment from the coastal areas has been a big problem. As a result, the county remains one of the poorest in the province.

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