Aboriginal communities in Hualien County’s Fengbin Township (豐濱) are reviving their farmlands near the sea as part of the Forestry Bureau’s “Forest-Mountain-Borough-Sea” initiative, bureau officials told a news conference in Hualien yesterday.
The initiative was first proposed by Lee Kuang-chung (李光中), an associate professor at National Dong Hwa University’s College of Environmental Studies, who found the township’s Sinshe Village (新社) a perfect place for eco-agricultural experiments.
Lee’s proposal borrows from the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity and the “Global Workshop on the Satoyama Initiative” that was held by UNESCO in Paris in January 2010, which aims to promote the sustainability of biodiversity and human livelihoods.
Acting on advice from Lee, the Hualien District Agricultural Research and Extension Station, the Forestry Bureau and the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau established a platform in October last year to promote the “Forest-Mountain-Borough-Sea” initiative.
The Kebalan and Amis Dipit communities are among the village residents, with about 300 people living in the terraces between the Coastal Range and the Pacific Ocean, Lee said.
The 600-hectare terrace area is an intact water catchment area, Lee said.
Growing produce on terraces is challenging because large machines cannot be used on the narrow strips of land, bureau Conservation Division Director Hsia Jung-sheng (夏榮生) said.
Lin Yu-fei (林玉妃), 45, returned to her Kebalan community to grow rice after working at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital for more than 20 years.
“After my mother passed away five years ago, our family farmland fell into disuse. To maintain my mother’s spirit, our family decided to restore the farm,” she said.
The family did not originally plan on growing produce because their farm’s irrigation system was ruined years ago, but a friend who works at the Hualien District Agricultural Research and Extension Station said her land was beautiful and would be good for growing organic rice, she said.
Soil and Water Conservation Bureau officials helped her to repair the irrigation pipes, she said.
Now there are “eight fools” growing rice, yellow and black beans and buckwheat in the Kebalan community, Lin said.
With the help of officials, 80-year-old Wang Ming-yuan (王明源) of the Amis Dipit community has also started to grow organic rice.
His farm has grabbed visitors’ attention because of an unusual scarecrow that is made of bamboo and recycled iron and resembles a set of percussion instruments.
The scarecrow was made by Teng Tun-fang (鄧敦方), a young woman from Taipei who has fallen in love with the area and has been helping with community work.
Asked whether the Amis Dipit community has benefited from the “Forest-Mountain-Borough-Sea” initiative, Teng said there are upsides and downsides.
The initiative brings in more resources and visitors, she said, but serving visitors can be a burden to communities, especially during summer vacations. The government should not just promote short-term tourism, but should help Aboriginal communities cultivate sustainable industries, she said.
Asked if the initiative would help farmers become financially independent, Lee said that that young people have difficulty supporting their families by selling agricultural produce and many have to leave for cities to work.
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