Chapter 4. Analysis
4.1 Conventional versus Natural farming
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Chapter 4 Analysis Outline
Chapter 4 looks at the triangular relationship between land, spirituality, and human relations in both conventional and natural farming in order to determine the extent that each farming method conserves biodiversity and cultural diversity. Section 4.1 begins with a comparison of conventional farming with natural farming, which is necessary to determine the extent that natural farming may conserve biodiversity and cultural diversity. In section 4.2 the chapter moves on to analyze the relations between culture and biodiversity. In section 4.3 the chapter gives possible conservation alternatives for the community and government based on what has been learned through this analysis.
4.1 Conventional versus Natural Farming
4.1.1 Species biodiversity: (species, habitat, species relations)
When comparing natural and conventional farming, there is a stark difference in species diversity. This diversity is not only apparent in the number of species grown directly in the fields, but also in the plants and animals able to thrive in and around the fields without the use of chemical pesticides. During conventional agriculture, farmers in Shilei only concentrated on growing two cash crops, cabbage and green pepper. Farmers bought all of their materials, including seeds, tools, pesticides and fertilizer from outside shops. Every farm’s practice was nearly identical and not adjusted based on the climate patterns of the region. On the contrary removal of chemical pesticides has heavily increased both plant and animal diversity on the Shilei natural farm. At the present Shilei farmers grow over 27 different cash crops, and the farm additionally boasts over 100 plant species in and around the fields.
Perhaps one of the largest contributors to the farm’s biodiversity is the natural fertilizer. Unlike conventional farming, there are a plethora of sources for the natural farm’s fertilizer materials, allowing farmers to know exactly what is going into their fertilizer. A number of the materials, such as ginger or bamboo shoots are grown in or around the farm, and others, such as Taxol or Yellow Cyprus, come from the nearby
forest. Use of materials from the forest also increase biodiversity, because farmers must be conscious of not only the particular material they are gathering, but of all the
surrounding materials and the health of the forest. In this sense the farm is not strictly referring to the fields growing cash crops, but also the native plants surrounding the farm, the forest harboring fertilizer materials, and the streams carrying water to the farm. It may further be assessed that there is some type of symbiotic relationship between the farm fields and surrounding shrubbery and the forest environment. The forest
environment provides some of the fertilizer materials for the crops, and in return the process of gathering materials from the forests provides a health assessment for the forest and also does not produce any toxic run off into surrounding rivers.
4.1.2 Social relations/Labor force division
In “Agrarian Land use Change and Construction of the Commons: a Case of Indigenous Agriculture Development in Taiwan’s Mountain Areas,” Lin and Tsai
articulate that since the introduction of Japanese rice agriculture, the division of the labor force has shifted further away from being non-privatized and community based and more towards smaller family based units (Lin and Tsai 2011, 9). Lin and Tsai express how conventional agriculture lacks the specific rules and norms seen in earlier forms of agriculture, and “only use(s) kinship or family relationships as a network of households to hold [their] resources together” (Lin and Tsai 2011, 8). As a result of this Lin and Tsai conclude that rules and norms to “regulate resource usage is not as strong as in the past.”
Therefore, issues such as resource sustainability and “managing complex commons” will become problematic in the future (Lin and Tsai 2011, 10).
Lin and Tsai’s analysis, however, only looks at agricultural progression through conventional farming and does not divulge into changes made during organic or natural farming. At first, natural farming does not seem to be any more community based than conventional farming, as farmland is still sectored into privatized family groups.
Although, natural farming may be less community based than traditional agriculture, the Shilei natural farm employs some key components that encourage a more community based system. First, it is important to note the difference in buying and selling produce on the market. Conventional agriculture relied on the Farmer’s Cooperative to sell their
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produce on the market. The operations of the Farmer’s cooperative were disconnected from the farmer’s actual lives, and often caused them to lose out on important profits. In contrast, the Shilei natural farm relies on three main methods of selling: using
connections, selling to restaurants, and selling through an NGO. The process of selling produce through and NGO differs from the Farmer’s Cooperative, for several reasons.
One key aspect is that Watan Taru acts as the middleman for selling produce. This is important, because it allows the farm to have more control over regulating profits and also because the work of the NGO is being done by and for indigenous people.
A second element that should be addressed is how Watan Taru and Taru Behuy have developed a large network of farmers outside of their family relations. The farmers at Shilei often invite people both inside and outside of the Shilei community to learn about Natural farming. Moreover, Watan Taru teaches small classes to different Atayal community members. The class is not given in a typical lecture based format, rather, Watan Taru starts off class with a musical prayer using his guitar. The classmates present their ideas and opinions on a reading assigned to them previously, and then the class diverge into a discussion pertaining to problems and difficulties each community is facing in their own farms and how this could be applicable to them. The class portrays the networks being formed among farmers from different communities. The members discuss farming successes and failures and work together to form goals and solutions, as opposed to each family unit working out their farming problems individually.
Besides the work Taru Behuy and Watan Taru do teaching others does not begin to touch upon the network created through the church. It is clear that faith plays a vital role in natural farming for the Shilei farmers. However, how does this faith compare with the situation during conventional farming? At first glance, when comparing faith during conventional and natural farming, one may find more similarities than differences.
During the time of conventional farming, a majority of farmers had already converted to Christianity. However, this thesis contends that there is a difference in the way
Christianity was practiced in the two systems. The first piece of evidence in this
difference in faith comes from a chart in Lo’s PhD thesis displaying the time allocated every day for various tasks:
Table 4-1 Comparison of Schedules During Shilei’s Different Farming Periods
Organic Farming Natural Farming
3:00-5:00 am ---- ---- Pray, read scripture,
worship 5:00-6:00 am Breakfast, farm
11:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch, midday rest Lunch, midday rest Lunch, midday rest
1:00 -5:00 pm Farm work Farm work Farm work
5:00-7:00pm Dinner, rest Dinner, rest Dinner, rest
7:00-10:00pm ---- Exterminate pests
Pray, read scripture, worship
(Translated from Lo 2016, 234).
According to table 4-1, it can be analyzed that, even at a fundamental level, spiritual practice is taken with higher regards during natural farming. Table 4-1 also depicts how farmers now place some type of connection with farming and worship as opposed to seeing the two as separate entities. The farmers were still Christian during conventional times, however there was little connection with this faith and farming practices. Furthermore, in a broader sense of the term spirituality, natural farmers place emphasis on their connection to the land, as seen during the participatory study. A connection to the land is necessary in this type of environment, because natural farming is more unpredictable when compared with conventional farming. Through conventional farming farmers are able to ‘control nature’ by eliminating pests and weeds with
pesticides. Yet, to some extent this may be seen as a superficial control of nature, as it is eliminating important links to ecosystem health.
Table 4-2 gives a visual example of the key differences between conventional and natural farming. It can be analyzed from this table that natural farming as practiced in Shilei is beneficial for species diversity, land use, and indigenous people in the market system.
Table 4-2 Conventional Versus Natural Farming
Conventional Farming Natural Farming Species Diversity Only two cash crops—
green pepper and cabbage
Over 27 cash crops and 100 different species of plants growing around the farm Land Use Monocropping system Crop rotation system,
follows the natural climate and weather patterns
Market Dominated by the middle
man and farmers have little control over the price
Indigenous NGO, Watan Taru acts as the middle man