Taiwan villages to ‘touch your heart’
Recent development trends in the rural village,such as establishing farmers’ markets, promoting agricultural tourism and entrepreneurialventures etc., have revitalized the rustic culture of Taiwan’s small towns andvillages by injecting elements of fun and spontaneity. Under the Council ofAgriculture’s (COA) Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program, youngergenerations have also begun to play a larger role in the nation’s agriculturalsector, marking the start of an era that trumps farming as a new lifestyle.
In a similar vein, the Soil and WaterConservation Bureau (SWCB) has launched its Rural Campout Program for CollegeStudents, a long-term internship program that solicits new ideas and proposalsfrom college students after they’ve had a real taste of agricultural work.Since the program’s debut last year, college students from across the islandhave demonstrated their eagerness and creativity in the selection process asthey vied for a spot in the program. The SWCB was particularly impressed by theRural Campout Proposals submitted by student applicants, who outlined a numberof innovative ways to assist the rural communities that are targeted forrevitalization – especially the communities that have previously participatedin the SWCB’s Rooting for Education agricultural seminars.
There is no better way to understand thecountryside culture than “long stay,” a unique opportunity provided by the SWCB’sRural Campout Program. No longer confined to a dreary classroom, students willbe able to gain hands-on knowledge and experience among real farmers andfishermen. From planting rice seedlings, picking ripe fruit to drafting amarketing proposal, participants will be learning in Mother Nature’s classroomsthis time around, bouncing off community betterment ideas with fellow teammatesand local residents all summer long. Wu Jing-jing, head of the SWCB’s PlanningDivision, explained that the program was built upon the concept of “migration,”in the hopes that these students will one day return to the rural village upongraduation or professional work, bearing the talent, energy and creativityneeded to revitalize the countryside.
The second round of recruitment for theSWCB’s Rural Campout Program took place earlier this year, in which the judgesrequested the addition of a self-introduction video as part of the application.Finalists selected for the Program include students from outlying islands forthe first time. In partnership with National Penghu University of Science andTechnology’s Department of Marketing and Logistics Management, the SWCB willarrange for this year’s student volunteers to be stationed at the ErkanCommunity in Penghu County’s Xiyu Township. Wu said she was excited to show thenew batch of students a different side of the fishing industry against theexotic backdrop of the outlying islands.
She concluded that the purpose of the RuralCampout Program has always been to foster a new generation of self-motivated,group-oriented individuals who will bring new energy and ideas to the nation’sagricultural sector. Moreover, introducing these youngsters to the countrysideensures that the abundance of folk wisdom will continue to pass into the handsof future generations.
Tree-huggers alert: Forestry Bureau tooffer summer camp for nature lovers
In the hopes of providing youngsters with aone-of-the-kind holiday experience, the Forestry Bureau of COA launched itsfirst-ever summer camp this year, in which student volunteers got up close andpersonal with the nation’s mountainous terrain and rolled up their sleeves tohelp clean up the land.
“This is a rare opportunity for the youngergeneration to be immersed in an all-natural environment,” Forestry Bureau ChiefSecretary Lin Hao-chen pointed out. “Only then will they understand theimportance of ecological conservation and environmental protection, which ofcourse is the main objective of this summer event.” By targeting the youngergeneration, environmental awareness will spread through participation in theForestry Bureau’s summer camp, Lin said. Participants will not only gain abetter understanding of the role and functions the Forestry Bureau plays insafeguarding the nation’s natural resources, they will also gain access to someof Taiwan’s most spectacular scenic spots, witness the island’s unique floraand fauna collection and behold world-class natural wonders, she added.
This year’s group of fifty volunteers,comprised of both Taiwanese nationals and foreign enthusiasts, first underwenta two-day basic training camp that outlined the ramifications, ethics and scopeof responsibilities related to the program. Basic training was followed byadvanced biology courses related to wildlife and natural resources, and thenseminars on sightseeing techniques and tour-guiding practices. Upon completingtheir training, volunteers were sorted by their interests and sent either toone of the 8 Nature Centers or to one of the 18 Forest Recreation Parks locatedwithin the nation’s borders.
The bulk of these summer interns’ jobresponsibilities comprised of providing information to tourist groups,assisting agencies with event preparations, patrolling the park grounds andobserving the natural environment. Whenever visitors book a guided tour,students would accompany veteran national park workers and help answerquestions; their remaining time was split between assisting the Nature Centeror Forest Recreational Park with conducting activities and cleaning up the parkgrounds. Foreign volunteers are further enlisted to help copyedit and rectifythe English used in national park signs. Last but not least, all volunteershelped to promote the splendor of the nation’s mountains and forests throughthe 21st-century way – blogging. The creation of an online journal designedentirely by a fresh set of young minds and updated with daily entries on thefun and experience of working in the mountains has definitely boosted thenation’s international profile, Chief Secretary Lin concluded.
Aside from the newly launched summer campdedicated to local and foreign visitors, the Forestry Bureau has otheryear-round volunteer programs that recruit tour guides, trail preservationexperts and business professionals. The unique insights and ideas proposed bythis year’s student participants will provide the basis for similar events inthe future, the Bureau noted, pledging that it will continue its efforts indrawing youngsters back out to the wild and recruiting more enthusiasts to helppreserve the nation’s natural beauty.