Alternative Agriculture (1990 to present)

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 59-66)

3. CONTEXT AND CASE

3.4.5 Alternative Agriculture (1990 to present)

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

56

prone to ever more erosion and pests that lead to ever more chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Thus while the market has opened up great opportunity for people in Jianshi area to access cheap rice and other goods as well as to earn money selling high-value produce, it has created many challenges. The more recent shift to alternative forms of agriculture can be seen as attempts to mitigate these challenges to maximize the benefits of participation in the market system and minimize the disadvantages. As outlined above, the main issues are environmental and health issues, middle-men, government/petro-chemical company collusion, erosion of cultural norms, price fluctuations and risk posed by natural catastrophe. Recent rethinking of local agriculture is a concerted effort to address all of these issues.

3.4.5 Alternative Agriculture (1990 to present)

As previously mentioned, there has been a gradual and patchy shift toward newer, alternative forms of agriculture in the area. This shift has occurred to different extents, at different rates and with different goals and outcomes in various parts of the

research area. The process can be seen as a form of local activism as members who have made the shift have taken it upon themselves to bring their compatriots into the fold. This section has been divided into three parts based on Watan Taru and the FA’s presentations and my conversations with them. The three parts can be seen as a complex ongoing process in search of a production system that best fits with the land, people and market.

Organic Farming (1990 to present)

Organic farming in the area has been sporadic, diverse and with mixed degrees of success. Like Pastor Tali, Pastor Taru Behwy of Quri settlement (father of Watan Taru) also recalls engaging in traditional farming alongside his father, though he is a generation younger that Pastor Tali. He and his family had migrated to Quri from Smangus but were one of the later families to arrive and, in part due to modern, non-communal land ownership regime and community upheaval, were left with a very poor tract of land. While other fields could yield two rice harvests each year, theirs could only produce one. As a consequence of the quality of the land, they were a very poor family and he describes himself as very lucky to have found a wife. With a story that echoes from the mouths of many in these valleys, they focused on one cash crop

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

57

after another as the prices fell one by one. Eventually he was trained in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for conventional agriculture by a government program. He was very successful in using these methods and claims to have been chased from his wife’s family’s community for producing too much.

Upon moving back to Quri and continuing to use these methods, his wife was diagnosed with cancer by doctors in the plains with the prognosis that it was terminal.

Convinced that the agricultural chemicals were to blame, he vowed never to use them again. He began exploring traditional methods and combining them with outside techniques that used manure and other alternatives to chemical fertilizers.’ Taru Behry’s wife is now well and healthy: the cancer has disappeared. She even gave birth to another child and is now a grandmother many times over.

He is quick to point out that he received no government or community support; that people thought he was crazy. His own mother begged him to stop this type of farming and make more money to feed his children. It was years later that a University professor visited his farm and first introduced to him the term “organic” to describe the type of agriculture he was engaged in. The professor requested he send some of his vegetables to a university in Taichung (台中市) that was studying organic farming. This initial interest and subsequent support from the academic and non-profit communities in Taiwan spurred on his endeavor.

After 17 years of organic farming, conducting experiments and combining different methods, he has adapted “Korean Natural Farming” to create the technique he and his son are calling, “Indigenous Farming.” He claims that these days, a small field can support 60 families, growing a variety of species for local consumption and/or market sale. He has decided to share his experience with the world so that we may learn from it. His son, Watan, now records and documents this experience.

Watan describes that his father was the first in the community to connect the local Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the elders with natural farming techniques because his mom had cancer and his father treated it with traditional Tayal medical techniques and a natural diet.

In Magalan Settlement, I met a family who worked with the FA. They had built a house themselves in the mountain up above the main settlement because the father was the youngest son of a large family and said there was no land left for his parents to bequeath him. They built a beautiful house, grow fruit trees organically and

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

58

do much charity work in the area. He told us that they had previously used pesticides on their fruit trees and that since they went organic the area has become more natural.

They often see monkeys, flying squirels, rare birds and even a Formosan black bear coming to eat their fruit; whereas with conventional methods, no animals came near.

Korean Natural Farming (2007 to present)

In the late 2000s some members of Quri settlement traveled to South Korea to study a form of organic farming called “Korean Natural Farming” or KNF. They then brought this knowledge back to Jianshi and tried to make use of it and promote it to mixed degrees of success. There were many challenges and some failures, which led some farmers to abandon the system. Others, including Pastor Taru, continued to use the system but adapted it to the local area by combining it with Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge imparted by local elders. The ongoing process and product is discussed in the following section and called Indigenous Natural Farming.

Korean Natural Farming (KNF) has some similarities to the Japanese concept of “Do Nothing Farming” or “Natural Farming” (自然農法 zirannongfa) developed by farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka in that it aims to harness local organisms and reduce human input in agriculture. KNF takes advantage of

microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, nematodes and protozoa to produce fertile soils without the use of herbicides or pesticides. KNF also enables odor-free animal agriculture without the need to dispose of effluent. These techniques and practices were developed by Korean researcher Han Kyu Cho over 40 years. Many people have travelled to study at the Janong Natural Farming Institute in South Korea and this practice has spread to over 30 countries, used both by individuals and commercial farms.

Some of the main principles of KNF are, as mentioned above, the use of microorganisms to enrich the soil, avoiding inputs of animal waste as well as eschewing commercial fertilizers and reducing energy inputs such as tilling. The gathering of microorganisms to produce fertile soil by accelerating the decomposition of plant waste is the most important aspect of this technique. First, some cooked rice or another edible starch is left out in a natural area for a few days covered with a porous material (this is the gathering stage, the ideal successful recruitment will appear as a white fuzz, dark coloured growths may indicate the need to restart in a different location). It is important to note that this process means that the

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

59

microorganisms that are gathered will be local, indigenous ones, best suited to the local environment in terms of climate, and available plant material. Once some local microorganisms have been gathered, they must be fed or “nourished,” usually by mixing in local fruits (Papaya is used in the research area) and sugar to begin the fermentation process. After a few days the final step can be taken, which is to mix or dilute some of this mixture with a bulking agent that can be decomposed by the microorganisms to use as soil/fertilizer, such as rice husks or other agricultural waste products. Depending on the nutrient and mineral requirements of the crops and soil, additional materials may be added to the final stage, such as fish waste, bone meal, sea water, egg shells, etc.

When members of Quli settlement travelled to Korea to learn about KNF, they were very hopeful. The techniques were useful to them in terms of cost and

effectiveness but perhaps most of all, because it could help them break through government and private interests and control that came with dependence on fertilisers and pesticides. As mentioned previously, petrochemical companies in Taiwan are heavily subsidised. This movement of the farmers away from dependency opened up new avenues for production, marketing, and cooperation. This is not just the case here in Taiwan, in other areas of the world (especially Asia) as well, this farming

technique is associated with radical agricultural activism because it helps farmers be more independent, escaping cycles of debt and dependence that have become

devastating issues for small-scale farmers throughout the developing world.

Indigenous Natural Farming (2010 to present)

As mentioned in the previous section, the shift to KNF in Jianshi Township has had some important successes but also some stumbles; many farmers who took it up hopefully, quit when it failed. This is a testament to the insecurity felt by farmers that makes it difficult for them to make decisions that are in their long-term best interest.

But some stuck with it and Paster Taru has used his land as an experimental area to explore some of the concepts of KNF but mixing them with local TEK. This has been very successful and now his son, Watan Taru, and other young people from the area are working hard to promote this type of agriculture. They have already won awards from their county agricultural department for agricultural innovation.

The natural farming process promoted and taught by the Farmers’ Academy combines traditional knowledge and techniques with some carefully studied and

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

60

chosen outside influences (Taru, 2013). Some traditional aspects of natural farming involve agroforestry techniques that leave surrounding trees intact to prevent erosion and landslides as well as retain water. Further, naturally occurring grasses and other bitter plants are kept in and around productive area as a form of natural pest deterrent (Yen and Chen, 2012). Stones are also left in the fields in traditional Atayal

cultivation because they encourage drainage and raise the temperature of the soil by absorbing solar heat, thus encouraging faster crop growth and preventing injury to crops from frost (Yen and Chen, 2012). Some of the local TEK concepts adapted and combined with KNF also include medicinal plants and concoctions mixed in with the fermenting compost. Furthermore, indigenous TEK has led to the revival of certain historic crops in the area as well as traditional land-use principals regarding the types of trees to avoid cutting down or to plant alongside fields to maintain the top-soil and prevent erosion and land-slides.

One of the most important aspects of the work of the local youth is spending time walking and doing handicrafts with the remaining elders in the communities in order to record as much of their knowledge as possible. This is seen as important not just in terms of preserving farming techniques but also community development and cohesion.

These days Quli farm does not produce a lot of crops for the market, but rather is a research, experimenting and teaching area. They are trying out different

techniques and demonstrating them to others. They have been very successful but insist that their techniques, while using and combining outside knowledge, are localized and must be viewed in context. When Watan says context he means both in terms of natural and social environments.

As will be discussed further in subsequent sections, many of the reasons why the youth are working so hard to promote this lay outside the domain of economic development. Of course, financial security is valued and they hope that more profit derived from these fields will encourage more young people to stay in the area. But there is much more at stake; Watan Taru refers to this type of development as creating an agricultural attitude with God in it. He puts their philosophy into the trinity of God-Land-People.

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

61 Figure 10 - Land-God-People

He argues that modern commercial practices had destroyed these principles but that they were working hard to bring cultural values back into agricultural

development. They want their economic lives to fit with their cultural values of God, Gaga, Environmental protection, community, and autonomy.

Other, related projects include, as mentioned above, recording the lessons and knowledge of local elders for posterity, as well as promoting community cooperation and forming the foundations for future local self-governance. Many in the area speak of increasing local subjectivity, something significant for a marginalized minority population who too often have their culture, history and practices objectified, over-simplified or ignored by the dominant, mainstream society in Taiwan.

The challenges of this work are many. It is frequently described by local farmers that they have figured out the production end of the equation; that they are able to produce high-quality produce with high yields. But the challenges that they face include organic certification difficulties as well as transportation and marketing of their products to outside areas. They are very happy to no longer rely on

middlemen but have struggled to find their niche. One recent success in this regard, however, has been the marketing of high-value peaches through online orders supported by the Zhishan Foundation charity. The hope is that they will be able to replicate this success in other areas.

Another challenge of this work, but that is seen as having long-term advantages, is capacity building. The local farmers know that by developing

computer, accounting, marketing, proposal and report writing, as well as presentation skills they are, as a community, more resilient in the face of future potential

difficulties. Thus, while indigenous farming development, marketing and promotion

People

Land

God

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

62

is a priority in the area, the means through which they do these things and the capacity and networks created are considered to be one of the higher goals of their work.

立 政 治 大 學

N a tio na

l C h engchi U ni ve rs it y

63

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 59-66)