At a time when certain cities and counties are expropriating agricultural land and rezoning it for industrial and commercial use under the banner of “promoting economic development,” Yunlin County — a center for traditional agriculture that has focused its policies on becoming the nation’s agricultural capital — is working hard to build a safe and sustainable agricultural environment.
The county wants to create an environment where farming is not considered by young people as an occupation of last resort. Despite a shortage of resources, the county holds a national agricultural fair to show people the beauty of Yunlin agriculture.
The county also wants to promote commitment to the protection of people, land and agricultural produce and to create optimism and confidence in the future of agriculture and farming villages. This is something everyone should praise.
The future is the extension of the past and the present. Humility and reflection grounded in experience can provide people with momentum to move forward.
The main exhibit at this year’s fair demonstrated how the pursuit of maximum yield, economic efficiency and marketability through the extensive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals has had a host of negative effects, including soil acidification, environmental pollution and food-safety issues.
The fair also highlighted the theme of environmental destruction resulting from deforestation and overdevelopment of forests, and it presented a vision for how people could pursue safety and sustainability in the way they treat the environment and agricultural produce.
It is important for people to acutualize their dreams.
Making a change is like farming. It takes time and requires people to take one step at a time, bend down, plant a seed and show respect and humility for nature. Change is also like a relay as it must be passed on through the generations. It cannot be accomplished in one day and it must not become a political game that lacks substance.
In the long term, people are only visitors on Earth, and the question of how to allow the land to support the next generation and their children is not only a matter for Yunlin County to consider, it is something that concerns everyone.
There is a saying: If you live in the mountains, you feed off the mountains and if you live by the sea, you feed off the sea.
In the past, southwestern Taiwan’s maritime resources, including Yunlin’s, were plentiful. Aquaculture, including clam, mullet and shrimp farming, was developed.
Later, due to economic development, human destruction and pollution allegedly generated by Formosa Plastics’ naphtha cracker in Mailiao, the fishing industry and fishing villages began to die. However, fishermen refused to give up and worked hard to keep their industry alive.
The question of how to restore fishery resources by nurturing the fishing industry, aquaculture and fish farming, and how to use tourism-oriented leisure fishing to spark development and prosperity for fishing villages will be important to examine when rebuilding agriculture in Yunlin County.
This vision for the future of the fishery industry was displayed in a secondary exhibition area rather than in one of the fair’s six main pavilions, where it might have received more exposure.
When looking at the six main pavilions at the agricultural fair, it seems like it might have been better to call it an agricultural and cultural fair.
This would clarify the misunderstanding that agriculture and technology are the primary link, ignoring the rich cultural aspect of agriculture.
Yunlin’s agricultural fair was the first of its kind in Taiwan. It differs from past urban fairs in that it displays the diversity of the agricultural industry and particular cultures in villages.
Not only does it give visitors a deeper understanding of Taiwanese agriculture, but it provides an opportunity to contemplate the relationship between humankind and the land. This is even more important at a time when the central government’s narrow perspective repeatedly causes it to sacrifice agriculture for industry. Although several aspects of the fair could be improved, it has allowed the public to experience afresh the beauty of Taiwanese agriculture and feel a closeness to the land.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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