Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Taiwanese official helps grow bright future for Nauru

WORKING MAGICThe chief of the agriculture technical mission said with geographical challenges in mind, it’s important to be able to ‘endure setbacks’

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

It takes a touch of magic to turn Nauru — the world’s smallest island nation known for its barren land — into a flourishing farming village, the chief of Taiwan’s agriculture technical mission in the South Pacific country said on Wednesday.

“All you see is a place where you have to work magic,” the 55-year-old Mo Kuo-chung (莫國中) said of the 21km2 country in an interview with the Central News Agency in Nauru, one of the stops on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) tour of six South Pacific allies.

Mo served in the Marshall Islands, Bahrain and Kiribati before arriving in Nauru in 2008, making him Taiwan’s most experienced technical mission chief in the South Pacific.

CHALLENGES

In his opinion, Nauru provides an unfavorable environment for agriculture for many reasons. First, the island is small and isolated with soil that is sandy and shallow, leaving it vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Rising sea levels is also causing the increased salination of the island’s land and water, Mo said.

Second, Nauru is geographically a long way from international markets, and the high transportation costs to other countries hamper exports of the country’s agricultural products, Mo said.

Under these circumstances, he said, the ability to “endure setbacks” is a key area of focus for members of the technical mission.

The team’s main task is to cultivate the soil and look for sources of fresh water, but it also has to deal with high temperatures — agricultural development’s biggest enemy.

MARKETING

The marketing of agricultural products on the island, however, is relatively simple.

Most of the products are intended for consumption within the family or among relatives and friends. Otherwise, they are sold directly by the producers, Mo said.

Because South Pacific tradition attaches great importance to the family and the church, obtaining the support of patriarchs and church members is also critical to facilitating the promotion of agriculture in the country, he said.

POSSIBILITIES

Mo said it should be possible to develop many by-products from Nauru’s abundant ocean resources and ubiquitous coconut trees.

The country could, for example, export lobster in cooperation with other countries, which would bring in much-needed revenue, he said.

Though he lives on an island that appears to have nothing, Mo is overflowing with a sense of achievement.

“There is no pursuit more worthwhile than seeing your hopes and hard work materialize and come to fruition, one step at a time,” he said.

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