立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


4 The Farmers’ Academy

Some recent events that negatively impacted livelihoods in the case area but are potentially leading to an increased preparedness, autonomy and resilience of local industry and institutions are the 1999 Earthquake and 2004 Typhoon Aere (Lin, E., 2009; Yen and Chen, 2012). These complex disasters have spurred the promotion of organic farming, community development, the Dreamweaving group and the Farmers’


The 1999 earthquake, which struck on Sept 21 and is referred to as the 921-earthquake, caused numerous landslides in the study area and destabilized the mountain structure. Lin, E. (2009) argues that the destruction of the 921-earthquake presented an opportunity for indigenous people because it prompted what she refers to as an “institutional or cultural turn” in both national and local government policy away from more “modern” economic development principles to comparably “post-modern” development principles. Instead of encouraging people living in

mountainous, remote areas to move to urban areas for wage labour, funding was set aside for community reconstruction, education, conservation of traditional cultures and ecology, eco-tourism projects and other forms of policy that seem to emphasize themes of social justice, rural development and what Lin, E. (2009) refers to as “non-engineering recovery” from landslide issues (p.11). She further argues that this policy shift initiated an “empowering process” for indigenous groups leading to investments in human and social capital and prompting the shift to organic farming. Lin, E found that many tribes (Qalang) had set up various types of development organizations that promoted various forms of economic development but with a focus on environmental and cultural principles and that smaller settlements would participate in those of their neighbouring groups (p. 12). While Lin, E. focuses on the institutional, top-down change in approach to development and resource management issues in the area, this research recognizes the importance and influence of this shift but is more interested in the bottom-up, local changes in priorities.

Another disaster in the area, and the one that locals name as a contributing factor in their shift to long-term development goals, was Typhoon Aere, which struck Taiwan on August 23rd 2004. Its maximum winds were about 48m/s with heavy precipitation (1,262mm in 24 hours in a Yuifong rainfall station) and serious floods, landslides, mudflows and debris flows. While 14 people died and 15 were injured in

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


Taiwan, fortunately none in the study area. However, many of the buildings in

Yuifong and Shihluan village administration areas were damaged, and many people’s livelihoods were destroyed (Lin, E., 2009, p. 11). Typhoon Aere wreaked great destruction in the vulnerable areas of Hsinchu County, forcing the evacuation and extended displacement of residents from the back mountain area. Those who eventually tried to return were met with increased challenges due to destruction of roads, crops and farmland, a labour-shortage, and lack of support for reconstruction.

For the first year the government and non-governmental institutions supported the community’s efforts at reconstruction but as this assistance dried up, rebuilding halted (Taru, W., 2013). This destruction motivated some young members of the

communities to found the Dream Weaving Foundation and then Farmers’ Academy and begin promoting organic farming.

According to Watan Taru, Yapit Dali, daughter of Pastor Tali and who has been very active in her community, began the process of analyzing and proposing solutions that resulted in the Farmers’ Academy. She and her colleagues realized that issues of sustainability, livelihoods and community industry should be front and foremost in any plans for reconstruction and economic development. They argued that since outside actors would instigate projects and then leave the community without ensuring their effective implementation, sustainable change must come from and have legitimacy and momentum within the community itself. Thus, capacity building of community members became their primary objective for long-term, pragmatic success. She argues that environmental, economic and political hazards abound for indigenous mountain dwellers in Taiwan; thus, education, skills and values are the most resilient investment in which the community can engage (Dali, Y., 2013)

The founding members were part of the Dreamweaving Foundation, which is,

“like a platform, the name combines the word dream, which is very important in Atayal culture with the word for Internet. So it is integrating traditional and modern concepts” (Taru, W., 2013). The primary objective of the Dreamweaving Foundation is collaborative capacity building. Watan goes on to point out that, “we learned a lesson from river protection after the typhoon—anything can happen so education is most important. Don’t catch the fish immediately; first learn how to create fishing ground. Education is a slow process of accumulation and heritage.”

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


Initially organic farming promotion and network-building came under the umbrella of the Dreamweaving foundation, but eventually they realized that it was so challenging and promising that it warranted its own dedicated organization. They decided that a group devoted just to promoting organic farming and agricultural cooperation was necessary. The Farmers’ Academy was the result of this thinking. It was founded by 5 young men and women who saw that conventional development practices were causing more destruction than benefit in their communities (Table 1 breaks down the founding settlements and members of the FA while Figure 5 maps out the location and Qyunam affiliation of the various settlements). Some of the most salient issues were: few opportunities for young people locally, leading to an exodus that left mostly only the very young and old in the villages; increasing vulnerability to global competition in agricultural products, exploitation by middle-men (wholesalers of fruits and vegetables) and difficult transportation networks; as well as the less-measurable ways in which mainstream development did not reconcile well with their cultural norms in terms of environmental destruction, commoditization and rational self-interest (competition).

According to Watan (Nov 2013), one of the core issues addressed by the FA is that their relationships with each other had been changed by their changing

agricultural practices. He explains that their culture, beliefs and lives are integrated with agricultural production, thus the FA aims to integrate a form of agricultural production and network that fits better with their culture. “We are coming together again. We are deciding for ourselves to develop agriculture that has culture in it, gaga in it” (Nov 2013).

The FA established a network to share knowledge from farmer to farmer. They run workshops, invite farmers to learn or present their experiences, they go to different places to provide lessons. Already 3,000 people have been in contact. In Jianshi District, they have been working to raise awareness and accompany farmers in the difficult transition to natural farming (Taru, W., Nov 2013).

In terms of farming techniques, they argue that they are quite advanced, but in terms of business and trade, they have trouble. Some measures to address these issues include introducing the concept of collaborative farming (collectivizing marketing and transportation) and marketing directly to consumers (online, word of mouth, customer loyalty, local tourism).

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


The sharing and development of agricultural knowledge can be divided into two main categories, cash-crops and traditional crop revitalization. Both benefit from rediscovering and applying traditional practices (such as TEK, gaga, crop rotation) as well as methods from outside the community (such as Korean natural farming,

permaculture techniques, international seed banking, high-value crops). Both contribute to their wider development goals of health, sustainability, cultural revitalization and profitability to encourage young people to stay in the area.

The Zhishan Foundation (至善社會利基金會) NGO has been instrumental in supporting their efforts. Watan says that it has been keen to promote organic farming and to gradually establish a network that is a foundation for future self-government.

One of the end goals of their work and also part of the process is to raise local

subjectivity. Sayun (huiwen) says that they are trailblazing a new development model for indigenous agriculture that integrates cultural values, the local environment, TEK and economic principles. In terms of a division of labour, they are divided into Planning Subcommittees: rebuilding local life, local communities’ environmental protection and ecological balance, developing resources for future generations and fair and equal obligation and responsibility for society.

Sayun (Huiwen) describes that her job is motivate and help farmers make the change to organic farming. She says that conventional, chemical farming is just about making money, maximizing production is the top priority. They are working to show farmers the alternative benefits of organic farming to their environment, communities and culture. She also points out that conventional produce can only be sold in fruit and veg markets (in this area people will mostly grow cabbage for this purpose), another advantage is that they can sell through a variety of avenues, such as visitors coming to the tribe, actively bringing their veg to organic markets or tourist

destinations or even building relationships and selling directly to consumers. A further advantage of the organic model is that they can grow a variety of produce, increasing the diversity and decreasing the risks and damage of a monocrop model (8/11/2014 presentation in Cinsbu). In visiting organic shops in the plains area for ideas, she observed that many of the products are secondary, prepared goods, rather than original produce. So they have changed some of their strategies, for example making cabbage into kimchi (paocai).

She outlines 4 main ways to sell their vegetables

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


1. Wait for sellers or middlemen. Often with a lower price.

2. Cooperate with a company. A contract can make the price more stable.

3. Farmers’ Markets. This form of direct selling fetches good prices and allows them to know their customers’ needs and habits, but is time consuming and less stable.

4. Selling through churches, schools, communities, or online. In this way they can get feedback and benefit from customer loyalty.

Sayun points out that in order to develop their marketing, they must know their customers; where they are coming from. This information can help them make links with the different groups that they hope to target. She displays their market

demographics as such, with those more likely to buy organic in descending order from the top, but with increasing size according to population sizes:

Figure 11 - FA Market Demographics

She explains that rich people have more money to spend, are scared of death and care a lot about health. Sick people need healthy food; their doctors encourage them to eat organic foods. Middle Class people care about health but are less concerned about organic produce. And people in ordinary society for the most part think that organic products are too expensive. She gives the example of some professors who come to the mountains to visit their settlements and want to help conserve their culture. When they find out that organic farming is an important part of their efforts, they often want to help out the tribe so they started to buy their vegetables. The FA provides lists that visitors like these professors can use to order vegetables directly from the farmers. So they really want customers to know their motivation and experience of organic

farming, to inspire each other and create new ways to sell their vegetables. When they have the same objectives, they can work together.

Rich people Sick People Middle Class Ordinary Society

The Digital Dreamweavers Foundation has helped many farmers sell their produce, make their motivations clear and help people come to the mountains to learn more about their products. In 2005, Sayun points out, they only sold 500 boxes of peaches, last year, using online selling, it was more than 1500 boxes. They have created a concept of consumers and producers eating together and growing vegetables that the land needs, not just for consumer tastes. She points out that they make

decisions on what to grow based on the land, rather than only the market/consumer, and that is why communication and relationships are important.

One issue is that traditional crops are very important to their agriculture, they are adapted to the local environmental conditions, they can survive even difficult conditions, but it is hard to market them to mainstream tastes. Some local fruits such as Ayut and labit are very well suited and can feed whole group with just 3 trees.

Taiwan imports a lot of fruit when there are some varieties that can be grown very successfully and ecologically here. Sayun says that in a valley nearby an elder has been growing a local variety of kiwi on rocky land. This is an example of how a local species can be developed for industry, another advantage is that it would not have to compete in the global market.

Figure 12 - The Farmers’ Academy

Village (Qalang / 部落 bu4luo4) FA Representative Atayal Name

and Qyunum

Chinese Name

Pinyin Atayal Name Chinese Name

Growing crops without chemical pesticides and fertilizers requires very different methods and labour organization as well as a totally different marketing system (Lin, E. 2009). More time and money must be invested in learning

ecologically related skills as well as administrative ones for the purpose of marketing, seeking funding and applying for certification. Sayun tells me that before 2009, only 5 families had organic certification, in 2013 55 farmers are doing natural farming

(wudu). FA is trying to replace some government functions in the area, prove that the farmers can compete with the companies.

Taru refers to using and adapting enzymes (酵素) ,Traditional Chinese methods (漢方) and microorganisms (微生物) as the area’s specialties. He points out that their efforts have already prompted a Hsinchu County agricultural institution to name the Jianshi farmers experts in combining traditional ecological knowledge and agricultural techniques to create new, innovative techniques (Taru 2013)

In my in-depth interview with Sayun (08/12/2014), she says that the idea for the FA was Watan and Yabbit’s in 2010. The main issue was that the farmers are small and individually less competitive. Before this project some Dreamweaving workers would work individually to help the farmers work together and to promote organic farming. They worked very hard but had other responsibilities. We decided to find someone else to dedicate to this task, so they could focus on farmers. The first step was finding appropriate, talented representatives. So Yabbit and Watan discussed

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


what kind of people would work. They had to be indigenous, had to understand community members. (didn’t want to deny a Han Chinese person the job but just wanted people who knew the context). Before Sayun they had found some other people but in the end they were not appropriate for the job. Since Sayun had studied agriculture, Yabbit suggested it could work. The second step was outreach: meeting farmers, developing an understanding of the context and gaining a rapport. The plan was that she would start the work in a year but she learned very fast and could do it in 6 months.

Sayun tells me that her biggest challenge has been the relationships with people. She says she really had to put her ego to one side and open her mind. She had to introduce herself to many people, many elders. At first they didn’t trust her because she had lived in urban areas. It was hard to get their approval. She spent two years interacting with elders, and describes it as hard work. At times she felt hopeless, also because at first her family didn’t really support her work. She felt lots of pressure, but as the community understood more what they are trying to do, she gained their trust and was embraced by the community.

In terms of future plans, Sayun says that she hopes the FA can act as a

platform to bring young generation back to the mountains and make agriculture more stable, provide opportunity to community. Besides industry, it can be a platform for caring for elders, single-parent families. Therefore more people will want to come back and get involved in the industry.

The revitalization of traditional crops and cuisine is an important aspect of the FA’s work because it helps them connect to their past and culture. Crops such as millet (Tlaqis), taro (sahui), sweet potato (Nahi) and corn (qaytun), are also important to grow because they are better suited to the environment so they are more stable.

Sayun says that they want to ensure future generations know that these crops represent their culture. Millet is the most important, there are many kinds and many ways to use it. Sweet potato and taro are next as important. These days they only prepare millet when there are guests but still eat sweet potato and taro in daily life.

Her grandfather (Pastor Tali) long ago saved some seeds from one kind of millet (just a few) and has asked many other families (including Pastor Taru) to also do this work.

They have been growing and spreading these old varieties of millet. Yabbit was one of the first to recognize how important this is. It has ritual significance.

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


Traditional cooking with traditional ingredients is being promoted as well and is done mostly at festivals, thanksgiving, Christmas, bumper harvest festival. They will gather, cook together, eat together. Millet dough (dried millet with water pounded into a dough with large stick and traditional hollowed out piece of wood) usually served sweet with honey but sometimes salty with meat and vegetables. Three are some traditional types of cured meat such as dememian, which is fermented pig’s skin.

Figure 13 –

Jianshi Township Atayal Qalang and Qyunam

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y


在文檔中 有機之根: 台灣泰雅族部落替代性食物網路與發展之研究 - 政大學術集成 (頁 66-75)