In China, more and more young people from the countryside are heading into cities and search for jobs, leaving only their elderly and children. The countryside is becoming emptier in terms of effective labor force.
CCTV reporter Xia Ruixue talked to some farmers in Henan Province to find out the difficulties they face and what help they can get.
Ploughing his 1 hectare of farm land, 65-year-old Pan Yuhao sometimes feels a pang of loneliness. Pan's only son and daughter-in-law went to seek work in big cities in hopes of a better income, leaving him and his grandchildren in this central Chinese town called Jinhua.
During past busy farming seasons, he often wished for a helping hand.
"They come back home once a year. And it's usually just for a few days during the Spring Festival," Pan said.
Pan's situation is particularly prevalent throughout Henan Province, which has the largest provincial population and produces the largest output of grain. A walk through the villages, and it's mostly the young and old you see.
Farm lands are mostly tended by the elderly. Some are even left barren.
China's urbanization drive has posed challenges to the elderly in rural areas because with the continued migration of young people from the countryside to cities, most elderly people are left-behind and have to do the farm work themselves. But as the agriculture is becoming modernized today, they are facing less pressure than before.
Today, 58-year-old Lu Jianshan doesn't have to hand spray his crops with pesticides. As long as he's willing to pay, he can rent a drone to do this.
When it's time to harvest, he can also hire help and rent machinery.
"If you want to pay, they can do anything for you, from buying the seeds to harvesting. I don't always feel so short of hands now," Lu said.
"If I do it alone, it will take a month to harvest all the wheat. But the harvester can finish it in 3 hours. That's more efficient," Pan said.
But this is only temporary relief for the aging labor force in the countryside. To utilize the farmland efficiently, China has a bigger initiative. It wants to encourage farm cooperatives by accelerating rural land transfers, granting higher subsidies to large-scale landholders, and encourage people to establish bigger, specialized farming units.
"I am thinking about transferring my land to the locals who are capable of setting up farming cooperatives. I can earn more money this way," Pan said.
Reforms are badly needed to bring vitality to the agriculture sector. Many experts say that agricultural transformation needs to be accelerated to solve the problems caused by the aging rural labor force.