Sat, Feb 05, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Chen honors agricultural experts for achievements

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, center, congratulates Hsu Jin-shi, right, during the first Presidential Agricultural Awards yesterday. Hsu won the Agricultural Service Award, and Hsieh Sung-ching, left, won the Agricultural Peace Award.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

In recognition of farmers' contributions to the nation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday honored two agricultural experts with the first ever Presidential Agricultural Award, and promised to galvanize the sector and market the nation's agricultural products overseas.

"The government has forged policies to strengthen our agriculture. We will establish an agricultural environment that is productive, fit for living and ecologically friendly. We will strive to reinforce crop species, upgrade our agricultural products and build brand images," Chen said in his address at the awards ceremony yesterday.

To keep pace with accelerated trade liberalization and globalization, Chen also said that the government will market high quality products internationally and develop an export-oriented agricultural economy.

"In line with this principal, we will set up a National Institute for Agriculture and the Ping Tung Agricultural Biotechnology Park. We will promote feature products like orchids, mangos, oolong tea, bream and others. Outlets for our featured agricultural products have also been set up in Tokyo, Osaka, and Hong Kong," Chen said.

During the ceremony the president -- who comes from a poor, rural area -- expressed sympathy and respect for the country's farmers.

"When our farmer friend Chiu Chui-chang (邱垂昌), first-prize winner for Chishan Rice (池上米), said that a farmer who tills the soil with all his heart will harvest the fruit of self-dignity, I was deeply moved," Chen said.

The president also said he was proud of the two award winners, Hsieh Sung-ching (謝順景) and Hsu Jin-shi (徐金錫).

The winner of the Agricultural Peace Award, Hsieh, 77, has spearheaded Taiwan's effort to help its diplomatic allies develop their agriculture sectors. During his decades-long odyssey of providing foreign aid to more than 30 countries, Hsieh and his agricultural technology transfer group have grown thousands of hectares of rice in remote areas of African countries.

In 1993, for example, Hsieh and his group found a water resource in the rocky, treeless desert of Bagra, Burkina Faso. By 1999, the Taiwanese team helped produce 40,000 tonnes of rice in the landlocked nation, fulfilling Taiwan's diplomatic promise to the country.

"Burkina Faso needs at least 70,000 tonnes of rice to feed its people. But before we came, the state only produced 30,000 tonnes by themselves. Now with our irrigation system and rice-planting techniques, the African State can sustain its own people and stand on its feet," Hsieh told the Taipei Times.

Taiwan's agricultural experience also helped its African friend Gambia to significantly increase production, according to Hsieh. Since 1996, the nation's agricultural technology transfer team has set up three vegetable farms in Gambia, which relies heavily on its peanut exports. With Taiwan's assistance, the small country has now begun to grow vegetables as well.

"We made friends with the locals. This is where we differ from all the foreign aid programs of other western nations," Hsieh said.

"I remember when President Chen came to visit the farm in Bajulingdin in Gambia in 2000. The people shouted, cheered and waved to President Chen. They now have even re-named the farm as A-bian Farm," he said.

Another agricultural expert, Hsu Jin-shi, 70, received the Agricultural Service Award for dedicating four decades to the irrigation system in Chianan Plain, Taiwan's largest plain and granary.

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