The Last Bamboo Harvesters
In the province of Guangdong, in the south of China, bamboo and water remain elements that are impossible to circumvent in the life of the rural dwellers. This dependency to the land contrasts with growing developments in Guangzhou which, the 10-million-inhabitant capital has benefited in the mist of serious land and crop devaluation that has plagued all over China. The present economic situation has created an exodus of men seeking better wages and a better life in the cities, leaving the women behind who often play the principal roles in the exploitation of the bamboo.
While the cane still remains one of the most used plants in Asia, a part of the Guangdong population still financially relies on the harvest of the Tonkin, a bamboo of an exceptional quality that has been in demand by some international investors. Once collected from the hills, the bamboo is carted out of the jungle to be routed through its rivers. Attached together as a raft, the plant floats in direction to small factories along the riverbanks.
In the 1988's, a campaign of de-collectivisation pushed the Chinese government to rent a large majority of the land to families for 30 to 50 years. The landowners who obtained this right are among the 80% of the peasants who undergo an over-taxation and are involved in fulgurating debt. The devaluation of their crops has put a high price on a single bamboo, forcing many to leave or to work for State bamboo plantation at a devaluated rate of 25 Yuan /day (2.50 Euros / day), far below the minima of the industrialized countries. Recruited with the help of vast propaganda from all over the country, they live under deplorable conditions, separated from their family for weeks while they cohabit in unhealthy barracks in the jungle.