Sun, May 20, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Student devises pumpkin rescue

ROTTEN LUCK:The heavy rain that led to landslides which severed the Suhua freeway means that farmers’ produce will rot in the fields — unless someone helps out

Staff writer, with CNA

Hualien residents pack pumpkins yesterday as they prepare to travel to Taipei to participate in the demonstration against President Ma Ying-jeou.

Photo: Yang Yi-chung, Taipei Times

A group of young people has devised a novel way to help farmers in Hualien after days of rain closed the road which farmers in the area rely on for transporting their produce to Taipei.

The group initiated a “one person, one pumpkin to help farmers” campaign, which invited people traveling by train from Hualien to Taipei to each carry a pumpkin with them as luggage.

Volunteer couriers traveling from Hualien to Taipei before May 23, after which normal road traffic is expected to be resumed, can pick the pumpkins up in the lobby of Hualien Railway Station and drop them off at a collection point at Taipei Main Station, the group said.

Chen Ta-pao (陳大保), a student at National Dong Hwa University who initiated the campaign, said that since torrential rains have affected the Suhua freeway, a major road linking Suao in Yilan County with Hualien City, trucks collecting and distributing farm produce can no longer travel directly north to Taipei, but instead have to travel south to Pingtung and then north up the west coast to Taipei — a journey that is considerably longer and one which demands additional transport costs.

“Some farmers have been forced to let their produce rot in the fields,” Chen said.

Pumpkins were chosen by the group as they are easy to carry and do not rot quickly.

If a pumpkin weighs 1.5kg on average, Chen figured that 6 tonnes of the vegetable could be brought to Taipei by 10 train-loads of passengers, which “would be a big help for the farmers,” he said.

Asked if he was worried that some people would simply take the pumpkins home, Chen laughed and said that “there would be nothing we could do about it.”

However, he added that many people are keen to lend a hand and he predicted that a large number of pumpkins would be delivered.

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