When Typhoon Morakot battered southern parts of the nation in 2009, it may have severely damaged the homeland of the Tsou Aborigines who live on Alishan (阿里山), but it failed to extinguish their great spirit.
Members of the group, one of 14 official Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, gradually picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and decided last year to launch their own “organic” farm produce brand called Daso ci Cou — literally “the strong Tsou people.”
The brand, which has become a hit in Chiayi City, promises that all produce carrying its label is grown without the use of pesticides and that everything sold in traditional markets is picked fresh that same morning.
The organic produce guarantee was met with plenty of skepticism at first, with shoppers shying away from the brand, said Kuan Pei-chu, a former accountant who has taken up farming since marrying a Tsou farmer from Alishan.
However, after trying out Tsou produce, many quickly became repeat customers, Kuan said.
Some even prepare breakfast for the vendors, knowing that they often have no time to eat in the morning because of the rush to get their produce to market in time, Kuan said.
She said that life was difficult after Typhoon Morakot destroyed their camellia gardens and farmland, but her family refused to give in to hardship and decided to embrace organic farming.
Yang Pei-chen, another Tsou farmer from Sinmei Township (新美), said the tribe plans to extend its organic farming line to handmade soap, in an effort to diversify the tribe’s sources of income.
A number of Daso ci Cou organic products, such as pearl barley, tea leaves, camellia oil, and cane sugar, have become popular among residents of Chia-yi City, Yang said.