Retired fisherman Chen Chi-ming (陳枝明) won plaudits from the nations' Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) at a press conference yesterday after his hard work and persistence managed to influence a whole village into turning itself from a smelly and messy fishing village into a well-groomed garden of rare coastline plants.
Chen, of Tainan County's Chiku Township (
In addition, 18 communities in the nation were also recognized for their communal efforts to make their homes greener, the EPA said.
"If you saw Chen from afar, you would instinctively expect him to have the classic fishy smell because of how weathered and tanned his face looks from all those years of fishing,"
Section chief of the EPA's department of comprehensive planning Yen Hsu-ming (顏旭明) told reporters.
"However, when you get close up, you will notice that he is full of wisdom and passion -- it comes from his love for what is good for the village he grew up in and his relentless pursuit of conservation," Yen said.
Following his retirement several years ago, Chen, a self-taught gardener and soil expert, started research into how to neutralize soil and found that by grinding oyster shells and blending them into the soil, the calcium-rich powder can offset the sodium content in the soil, Yen said.
So far, Chen has successfully turned the community center in the village and four abandoned farms into greeneries, planting increasingly scarce coastline plants such as shrub lespedeza, Buddhist pines, velvetleaf soldier-bushes, Brazilian bayhops, sweet viburnums and scaevola beach naupakas, Yen said.
In addition, because of his efforts, his village no longer reeks of fish, Yen said.
"Because of the heavy development of Taiwan's coastline, the survival of beach plants is becoming more and more difficult -- I hope to make room for their conservation and recovery as well as improving the living space," Chen was quoted as saying.
But the key reason that Chen was given the award was because of his influence on other people, Yen said.
"When Chen first started his conservation efforts, his pursuit was seen as insanity in the village, where few cared about preserving nature," Yen said.