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1.8 Research Questions:

Main research question:

To what extent may natural farming be seen as a means of cultural and biodiversity preservation among aboriginal groups?

In addition to the main research question, there are four subsections of research questions detailed below:

Figure 5: Subsections of main research question

The first subsection of research questions looks into the historical aspect of natural farming, aims to understand Shilei’s agricultural transition process, and also understand how any challenges the farmer’s faced were overcome. The focus of this subsection is to gain a background understanding of agriculture in Shilei, and to understand the farmer’s motives for transition to natural farming.

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The second subsection of research questions looks at comparing the processes of natural and conventional farming. The knowledge gained from this comparison is later used in Chapter 4’s analysis to draw conclusions on whether or not natural farming promotes any unique processes of biodiversity or cultural diversity conservation not present in

conventional farming.

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The third subsection of research questions aims to assess the cultural diversity of the area and how natural farming intersects with this cultural diversity. The questions in this section are based on the key elements of cultural diversity defined in the literature review and framework.

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The fourth subsection of research questions asks what the potential relations between culture and biodiversity is. This is a general analysis question which takes the

information gained from the previous sections in order to draw conclusion about the relationship between culture and biodiversity on the farm and the role natural farming may play in maintaining and promoting these two elements.

1.9 Methodology and Methods

The primary methods used in this study were an in depth literature review, participatory observation, and in depth interviews. The literature review is important especially for understanding the historical background of the case site and the transition between different farming eras. As this is an ethnographical study, the participatory observation and in depth interviews were important for gaining an understanding of the complex cultural meaning embedded in natural farming, which could not be accomplished through literature review alone.

Table 1-1 Research Methods Research questions Information


Information analysis

Source of information What was the transition


Literature Review Content analysis Background Research through books, journals, etc.

What are the processes of natural /conventional farming

How many varieties of plant species, insect species, etc.?

What are the relations between the different

Content analysis Background Research books, journals, etc.

Speaking with leaders and current workers on the Shilei natural farm

How is the labor force organized?

observation/Literature Review

Interview/participatory observation

What is the significance of family/community to natural farming?

What is the significance of language to natural farming?

What is the significance of spirituality to natural farming?

What is the significance of other types of

Content analysis Participatory observation at the Shilei natural farm

What is the relation between culture and

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Description of Participatory study

I visited the natural farm in Shilei for participatory observation during the months of February and April. During this time the author had the opportunity to converse and work with all members of the farm and attend the local church service. Attending the church service is significant to this research, not only because it is an important part of the farmer’s weekly routine, but also because it gives a window into how tight knit the church community is. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to sit in on several classes taught by Watan Taru. People from inside and outside the community come to Shilei to learn about natural farming from Watan Taru and Taru Behuy. Local farmers from Shilei and neighboring communities in Jianshi come to learn more in depth concepts, such as market place constructs and try and solve current issues community members.

For people traveling from outside the community, classes are held on basic aspects of the farm, such as preparation of fertilizer. While many of these visitors are Taiwanese, in some cases visitors come from outside Taiwan to learn about natural farming in Shilei. This was the case during the INIEF (International Network of Indigenous Ecological Farmers) workshop held in March 2016, where indigenous ecological farmers traveled from across the Asia Pacific region to share experiences and learn about different farming styles among Taiwanese indigenous farmers. During this time the author had the opportunity to meet and speak with indigenous ecological farmers from across the Asia Pacific region and visit a number of different organic and natural farms in the Jianshi Township area.

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Figure 6 Author During Participatory Study

Shilei Farm INIEF Workshop

History of Agriculture in Shilei Outline

This section details the history of different agricultural styles in Shilei from the pre-colonial agricultural era through the present day natural farming era. More

specifically this section will describe pre-colonial farming, Japanese colonial farming, conventional farming, organic farming, and natural farming in Shilei. It is important to explore the history of agriculture in the Shilei area and the transitions the farmers have experienced in order to better understand the historical and cultural connotations behind modern farming methods.

2.1 Pre Colonial Agriculture

Prior to Japanese colonization the Atayal people practiced swidden agriculture.

Each community had their own conceptions of traditional agriculture, and for Shilei this traditional agricultural knowledge is referred to as Qmazayah. Qmazayah is much deeper than just the farming field itself. Qmazayah may also reference fishing grounds, hunting grounds and also includes the relationship among people, the land, Utux, and Gaga (Lo 2016, 40). According to traditional agricultural knowledge, there is a triangular

relationship among Utux, land, and the people, and as this section further evaluates the processes of traditional farming, this complex relationship will be further assessed.

Traditional agriculture did not use chemical pesticides, instead, the people relied on the land’s own nutrient resources and followed the norms of Gaga to ensure a good harvest. Therefore, according to Nbin Hola in Lo2’s PhD thesis, traditional agriculture may be considered a natural method of farming. “Qmazayah is our [traditional]

agriculture, it does not use chemical pesticides, [and] importantly uses the land’s nutrition to grow crops… farm progress is all in accordance with Gaga, and one must follow community norms” (Lo 2016, 48 Translation by the author).

Additionally, connections and working together as a mutual family unit were important concepts during this time (Lo 2016, 42, 48). All of the land within a

2 Lo En Chia ( , Watan Taru) is one of the farmers in Shilei

community was connected through a large network, and everyone from the same family linage was in charge of cultivating their own share of land. There was “not only [a] need to work [together] as a collective with family, there was also a need for abundant ecological knowledge in order for land preparation to go smoothly” (Lo 2016, 56 Translation by the author). Elders were placed in charge of choosing which land to cultivate for their community. They chose this land based off of land they had envisioned through dreams (Spi), and their local land knowledge (Rhyal). According to this land knowledge (Rhyal) there are three main factors to determine a suitable spot for

cultivating crops. The first method is based on color, where darker colored soil is usually more fertile. The second way is based on moisture, where damp soil is more suitable for growing crops and dry soil is not considered to be fertile. The final way is based on terrain, where loose soil is considered to be the most suitable terrain for growing crops.

After determining a place to grow crops, it was time to sow the seeds. Some of the crops grown during this time include: millet, taro, corn, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash (

) white gourd, green bean, pearl onion, fresh ginger, chili pepper, and daikon radish. Before sowing seeds there was often a ceremony to ensure a good harvest for the following season. This type of ceremony includes putting a small piece of millet cake in to the field before sowing, which is thought to allow crops to grow well (Lo 2016, 64).

After the seeds have been sowed the farmers must manage the fields through activities such as weeding, pest control, and fertilizing the fields when needed. Weeding was quite labor intensive, because unlike the fields in modern times, fields in during traditional agriculture were quite large and all of the weeding was done by hand. Without the use of chemical pesticides during this time, fields were susceptible to damage from insects and rodents, such as mice, squirrel, and brown country rats (Lo 2016, 71).

(However, it should be noted that Lo mentions that pest preventatives are rarely needed when growing indigenous crops, due to the fact that native species are less susceptible to pests in the area). Certain plants were grown, such as almond trees, to deter insect pests from damaging crops, and larger rodents and birds were trapped by using bird and mouse traps. Moreover, when farmers felt the field lacked in nutrition they would add either ash from burned trees or fallen leaves. If the field still failed to provide a good harvest after

adding this fertilizer, they would usually take it as a sign to move to a new location (Lo 2016, 70-71).

2.2 Japanese Colonial Farming

The Japanese colonized Taiwan from 1895-1945, however it was not until the 1930s that Japanese style paddy rice farming was implemented in Shilei, rice farming continued in some areas until the 1990s (Lo 2016, 84). Japanese colonists viewed much of indigenous traditional culture, such as swidden agriculture and forest hunting

practices, as uncivilized. Japanese colonists entered the mountains with the intention of promoting what they viewed as more modern practices in indigenous areas and as a result, many cultural and farming practices were lost during this time (Lo 2016, 88).

In order to promote rice farming, (and also possibly due to misunderstanding of traditional indigenous agricultural practice) the Japanese claimed there were many problems associated with swidden agriculture (Chen 1998, 3). For example, colonists claimed swidden agriculture was the cause of deforestation, erosion, and flooding in the area. However, Chen points out that the forest was viewed as both an important spiritual and material resource for the Atayal people. The forest provided material building material, a place for gathering certain plants such as mushrooms, and was the source of hunting game (Chen 1998, 3-4).

With the introduction of paddy rice farming, rice quickly rose to the number one crop grown in Taiwan. Yet, rice is not a traditional staple crop for indigenous people. The transition to growing rice created both cultural and economic problems for Taiwan’s mountain indigenous people. Increased rice farming disrupted the Utux, which is closely linked to the growing of millet (Lo 2016, 94). Unlike millet, rice was not inducted as an important part of culture. As more rice was grown the amount of millet and other traditional crops decreased. For the Japanese colonists it was vital that the Taiwanese produce as much rice as possible, because the Japanese needed Taiwanese rice imports to supplement their food supply back home.

Besides disrupting indigenous culture, such as the Utux and Gaga there were multiple economic and environmental problems associated with planting rice in the high mountain climate. In Lo’s PhD thesis Shilei community member Suqiy Hayum describes

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how “…the elevation was so high rice could only be harvested once a year, in August. If there was a typhoon that year they would have to work at neighboring farms, otherwise they would have nothing to eat” (translated and paraphrased from Lo 2016, 90). Chen further describes how sloped terrain, cold mountain water, along with sandy-gravely terrain made it more difficult to cultivate rice when compared to Taiwan’s plains areas.

Furthermore, the indigenous people were not as well connected to the main market and not as easily able to receive new tools or fertilizers as plains people. As a result of these factors, the mountain indigenous peoples faced lower harvest rates than those in plains areas (Chen 1998, 2).

Around the 1980s the paddy rice fields started to disappear. Some small stores began to appear making it more convenient and cheaper to buy produce. At the same time, the government began to encourage farmers to stop growing rice and start growing more varieties of crops. Remnants of the terraced fields may be seen, which served as a base for growing cash crops in later years (Lo 2016, 91).

Japanese colonist’s introduction of paddy rice farming brought a host of new changes for Taiwanese indigenous groups. Although this period was not the first time Taiwan had been colonized, it was a comparatively heavy-handed approach, especially in mountainous indigenous areas, which had been left mostly untouched by previous

colonizers. Without the influence of imported technologies and agricultural processes Taiwanese indigenous people solely relied on local knowledge for survival. However, when Japanese colonists entered indigenous territories, they rejected old knowledge patterns moving to establish their own agricultural and political knowledge systems.

Unlike the culturally and geographically specific traditional agriculture, paddy rice farming imported techniques, not only from outside mountain areas, but also from outside Taiwan itself. Oftentimes these techniques were unsuitable for the geographic mountain climate. Moreover, Japanese colonists introduced new knowledge concepts, such as capitalism and land privatization. However, mountain indigenous people still played a relatively small part in the greater capitalist market system, mainly due to their isolation from main roads.

Conventional farming took place in Shilei from 1978-1988. Although farming had always been an important mode of life, it was not until conventional farming that the focus of agriculture shifted towards economic viability (Lo 2016, 103). Lo describes Taru Behuy as being one of the first Atayal people in Shi Lei to engage successfully in

conventional agriculture. He describes how growing green peppers changed his

livelihood and allowed for a huge increase in profit (Lo 2016, 111). After Taru Behuy’s success more community members began to follow his lead and start conventional farming practices (Lo 2016, 112).

During the time of conventional farming, people became more focused on crops as a commodity. It was necessary to work with the Farmer’s Cooperative ( ) in order to sell produce. The farmer’s cooperative was an important step, because it allowed people to have the opportunity to sell produce on the larger market scale. Yet, people had to go through a complicated procedure in order to sell cabbage and green peppers, the main cash crops of the time, on the market. However, these cash crops yielded a large profit for the farmers, so many felt it was worth the trouble. The conventional farming system also required farmers to hire outside labor, especially during the harvest time, however it should be noted that this outside labor was all indigenous and mainly kept within the same community. According to Taru Behuy’s experience “it was necessary to invite women from across the community to come to his farm during the harvest season”

(Lo 2016, 126 Translation by the author).

Amuy Pasang states that the profit he gained from working together with the Farmer’s Cooperative was low and rather than sell produce together with the cooperative he chose to sell directly to his connections, such as his boss (Lo 2016, 127). Low profits gained from the cooperative was not a problem unique for Amuy Pasang, but something many faced. However, not everyone was lucky enough to have connections to sell produce to, or simply selling produce to connections was did not warrant a large enough profit for people’s living. Yet, it was nearly impossible for farmers to enter the larger market without joining the Farmer’s Cooperative. Plus, the Farmer’s Cooperative had strict regulations on their marketing procedures, which prevented single persons from selling produce on the market. In order to enter the market, persons should join as a

member of the farmer’s cooperative and only after gaining a serial number could they participate in selling produce on the market (Lo 2016, 128).

By this time, growing produce had slowly transformed to an important means of livelihood for many mountain indigenous people (Lo 2016, 128). After the people were given a means to connect to the market, conventional agriculture was able to bring in a lot of profit to indigenous communities. The methods conventional farming used, such as heavy machinery and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, further diverged from traditional agricultural practices (Lo 2016, 114). For example, weeding is greatly different when comparing conventional and traditional methods. As explained in section 2.1, weeds were first controlled when the segments of land were burned to create new fields.

However manual weeding was still necessary to maintain upkeep of the fields, and this manual weeding was a laborious task. In contrast, weeding technology and pesticides used in conventional agriculture were able to greatly reduce this burden and help with the productivity of farming (Lo 2016, 116). Additionally, traditional practice only employed the use of a simple hoe for tilling the soil, while conventional practice introduced a host of new machinery, further increasing the productivity of farming (Lo 2016, 117). People also began to rely heavily on stores for all of their farming materials, including fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. While this was an added convenience for farmers it impacted culture and biodiversity, by reducing indigenous ecological knowledge on aspects such as seed saving (Lo 2016, 120).

Many farmers view and continue to view chemical pesticides and fertilizers as a kind of panacea, because these methods have allowed them to alleviate many of their agricultural problems and have allowed them to gain large farming profits. In Lo’s PhD thesis Amuy Pasang describes using chemical fertilizers as “practical” when compared with natural farming methods, stating that faith has (Lo 2016, 129). However, as

problems, mainly health and environmental, became more apparent some farmers felt that conventional farming methods created a disconnect between their farming practices and spirituality. This disconnect spurred a number of farmers to transition to organic

agriculture and later to natural farming.

Approaches used during Japanese rice colonization and implementation of conventional farming have several similarities. Similar to Japanese colonists during the

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paddy rice farming period, the KMT during the martial law period3 was in control of Taiwanese agricultural systems. This control may be seen when the KMT directed Taiwanese people to switch to conventional farming. Also similar to paddy rice farming, conventional farming imports a broad range of techniques from outside indigenous communities, and is not made to incorporate local knowledge and techniques. What makes the conventional farming approach stand out from paddy rice farming is the fact the capitalist market system played an important role for indigenous farmers. Roads were improved to allow farmers an easier access to the market, and for the first time the main focus of agriculture for indigenous farmers was shifted towards monetary viability.

2.4 Transition to Natural Farming

Taru Behuy, along with the other Shilei farmers, spent a number of years doing conventional farming. He states that pesticides were effective in making him a successful

Taru Behuy, along with the other Shilei farmers, spent a number of years doing conventional farming. He states that pesticides were effective in making him a successful

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