Taiwan's agricultural-technological mission to the Marshall Islands has helped improve the Marshalls' techniques since 1999 in growing fruits and vegetables, and raising pigs, according to the Taiwanese ambassador to the South Pacific island nation.
Over the past five years, Taiwan has not only helped strengthen the economic status of the people of the Marshall Islands, it has also helped accelerate the modernization of its society since the two countries established formal diplomatic relations on Nov. 20, 1998, said Chen Lien-gene (
The Taiwan agro-tech mission, established in Majuro in 1999, has helped the people of the Marshalls plant vegetables and grow fruits on the island country's barren land of reclaimed coral reefs -- a task deemed impossible before the Taiwan experts arrived.
According to Chen, growing vegetables and fruits locally is important for the people of the Marshalls because imported produce is extremely expensive and because the people need a good supply for health reasons.
Many people living in the Marshalls suffer life-style diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and gout. The lack of sufficient quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables is a contributing factor to these ailments, Chen said.
The Taiwan agro-tech mission has also helped the Marshalls residents to raise pigs -- one of the major sources of meat for the locals and a husbandry representing wealth and luck, according to Cheng Ming-chin, director of the Taiwan agro-tech mission in the Marshall Islands.
Infant mortality rates on the Marshalls is high, said Cheng, and families have begun a tradition whereby they purchase a piglet on the day that a baby is born so that they can celebrate the infant's first birthday by feasting on the young pig.
Raising pigs, however, is not easy since they are not cheap and buying feed is expensive because all of it has to be imported.
To help the locals solve these problems, the Taiwan agro-tech mission has researched and developed a local mix for pig feed. The newly developed pig feed -- composed of 70 percent coconut meat, 20 percent vegetables and fruit waste, and 10 percent imported pig feed -- has remarkably reduced the cost of pig-raising and has benefited the consumers of meat as well as the families with newborn babies, Cheng said.
In addition to vegetables, fruits and swine, the Taiwan agro-tech mission is also planning to improve the Marshall Islands' fish-breeding skills to help the locals generate more fortune from the water, Cheng added.
Taiwan's agro-tech mission has been so visible in trying to improve the livelihood of the Marshalls people that President Kessai Note, who is serving his second term, has twice thanked the Taiwan agro-tech mission in his "state of the nation" addresses. He has said that because of their assistance, the Marshall Islands is now a better place to live and the people are richer and happier, according to Ambassador Chen.
Compared with the neighboring island nation of Kiribati, Chen said, the Marshall Islands is much richer and more diverse in terms of foods and eating habits. Before World War II, the Marshalls people relied on taro and breadfruit as their staple diet.
During World War II, the Japanese brought their rice-growing culture to the Marshall Islands and after the war, the Americans fostered at taste for meat.