• temporary migration;
  • agriculture;
  • development;
  • farming systems;
  • China


Across much of rural China, members of farm households spend parts of the year working in cities to generate additional income. This process of temporary labour migration has gathered pace in recent years as rural households capitalise on China's economic expansion and look to improve their own levels of well-being. Yet, to date, relatively little research has examined the impacts of temporary migration on the structure and performance of farming systems. Accordingly, this paper examines the ways in which temporary migration has resulted in significant changes to the nature of farming on the Loess Plateau in Gansu Province. It draws primarily on a survey of 175 households in three different agroclimatic zones. The analysis indicates that temporary migration is associated with quite complex changes in land use, agricultural production and farm enterprise productivity. Although households involved in temporary migration tend to have higher incomes than non-migration households, this appears to be at the expense of farm productivity. Indeed, higher levels of migration are closely associated with more extensive, low labour farming practices, suggesting a tendency towards disinvestment in agricultural enterprise. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.