Leisure Agriculture Policy in Taiwan
For more than ten years, rural tourism proved to be the new agricultural management in Taiwan that assists farmers break through the existing management nuisance for small farms. Presently, rural tourism has two main purposes consisting of two developmental types. The first purpose is to increase the income of the farmers. Since rural tourism is a government project, it is financially assisted by the central government. In addition, this project also solicits the view of the local government as well as the farmer organizations and at the same time confers with the farmers to find out the extent of their willingness to participate in the said project. Furthermore, to request for monetary support, the project has to abide with the guidelines governing rural tourism. The second purpose of rural tourism is to offer leisure and recreation to the public.
This is called leisure agriculture or recreational agriculture. This model is a profitable project supported by a corporation’s personal budget. Despite the fact that economic activity still continues to focus on conventional farm operations, recreational or leisure agriculture is more or less the latest development in Taiwan (Francks, et. al., 1999). This new type of recreation incorporates agricultural production, natural scenery, countryside life, community’s natural resources, as well as the local culture. It uses leisure as a means of acquiring agriculture advancement. Likewise, it guarantees the benefits for farmers, is customer-oriented, and attempts to offer excellent benefits for visitors (Wen-Ching Hong, 1988).
The Council of Agriculture (COA) in Taiwan formulated a policy to develop leisure agriculture and improve the rural life of the people. It focuses on providing the rural areas a brand new look, expansion of fishery management, and upgrading leisure agriculture and fishery. It also centers on creating electronic structures for leisure agriculture, cultivating unique local specialties, and generating rural employment prospects to persuade the rural inhabitants to stay. COA also aims to improve forestry tourism and bring about private ventures and management to promote local tourism (Summer, 1995).
The World Trade Organization (WTO) in its mid-range policy plan for 2005-2008 includes also the development of leisure agriculture. It concentrates on putting up leisure agricultural districts and expanding public facilities. Moreover, it intends to improve management preparation and evaluation and at the same time employ cooperation approach between school and business to provide qualified manpower leading to improve trade quality. Included also in the mid-range plan is to facilitate in the organization of cooperative management and campaign between leisure agricultural areas. This helps promote agriculture sophistication and tourism packages that will alleviate job opportunities in rural areas (Wu Ming-ming, 2004).
Implementation of COA Policy
The Council of Agriculture in 2004, in order to expedite and promote sustainable rural development as well as execute the idea of total community building, finalized the detailed planning for six farm rural communities in Taiwan. COA has also undergone extensive rural construction in eighty regions and awarded five progressive farmhouses. Aside form that, it also upgraded seven areas in terms of redesigning and improving rural community in order to accomplish the goal of constructing a sustainable economic agriculture, fresh rural looks, and new attractive homes.
Also in 2004, the council modified and declared eight related recreational agriculture directives and regulations that include Regulation for Guidance and Management of Recreational Agriculture, Regulations for Design of Recreational Farm Construction, and Guideline for Reviewing of Recreational Management Plans. The significant issues that were modified include empowering province and municipal governments to oversee application for areas of land that are below ten hectares and increasing to 10 percent the ratio of property reclassification for partition of the remaining areas on recreational farms. Four cycles of seminars were organized in relation to recreational farm rules and regulations and also on subject-development and management presentation for recreational farms. As a result, twenty four recreational farms have been granted business permits while one hundred eighty four have been permitted to organize their farms.
The council has also directed to conduct an ingenious product competition for agriculture sectors and recreational fishing plus a contest on leisure agricultural photography. COA also arranged the subject for leisure agriculture that participated in the Taipei International Travel fair and in other intercontinental travel fairs. It has also organized ninety nine performances of local industrial cultural activities. Additionally, it has also provided assistance to forty one organizations in order to triumphantly improve their agricultural products with distinguishing local characteristics and upgraded the local cuisine as well as the feature of souvenir products.
In accordance with the reconstruction of some areas and the endorsement of leisure agriculture and tourism, COA organized ninety nine projects for community and recreational services and ecological gardening. Moreover, thirty seven households were financially supported in constructing their houses following the rural inherent landscapes.
In today’s information age, global information system has become a thing. Therefore, the COA encourages extensive use of the internet. Agricultural information was included in the COA website and a management scheme and information assistance was installed for production and marketing purposes (Wu Ming-ming, 2004)
COA also encourages local rice farmers to plant ornamental vegetations during the cycle when rice planting is postponed in an attempt to heighten the improvement of regional leisure agriculture (Pulse Asia, November 16, 2006).
WTO Impact on Taiwan’s Agricultural Industry
Almost all agricultural, animal husbandry, and fishing industry suffered due to the yearly upsurge of import quotas in various agricultural products as well as animal husbandry products ever since Taiwan became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Apart from this, there also exist general cutback in the supply of livestock and crops because of destruction brought about by cold weather in the early part of the year. Other causes are heavy rains due to typhoons, the arrival of bird flu outbreak, and balancing regulation of rice production. In terms of fishery products, captures of Pacific sauries and squids declined because of diminishing resources. In spite of this, imports and exports in agriculture especially in the year 2004 increased, which only shows that the course of agricultural products imported and exported in Taiwan has develop smoothly since the country became a member of WTO.
After the agreement of Taiwan with the WTO, the regular supposed tariff percentage for the agricultural sector was cut down from 20.02 percent to 15.21 percent. Apparently, there was a big impact on the agricultural sector just barely one year after Taiwan entered into the WTO. Prices in the market were reduced for rice, chicken, and fruits due to replacement by imports. As a result, the overall production worth of farming, fishery sectors, and animal husbandry declined by 0.63 percent in 2002. Crop production fell by 5.54 percent, livestock production escalated to 3.95 percent, and production in the fishery sector increased by 2.70 percent. Employers went back to the agricultural sector because of economic decline. In 2002, people employed in animal husbandry, farming, and fishing was 3,000 or 0.42 percent higher as compared in 2001. Aside from the tariff reduction confronting the agricultural sector, agricultural products met into competition, for instance the creation of import distribution stations and also imports from other countries like China. These issues establish a greater challenge to the agricultural sector of Taiwan especially that in 2005 new conditions were set to open Taiwan’s market and also reduction in the subsidies for agriculture (Li Zhou-sheng, 2004). Because of the existing challenge, Taiwan enhanced its leisure agriculture.
WTO Impact on Taiwan’s Leisure Agriculture
After Taiwan gained access with the WTO, development of other agricultural products was encouraged in order to be competitive with other products in the market. Therefore, the COA has selected some potential farm items to be developed. These farm items are believed to have market capability, local characteristics, and technological advantage. Such items include: seeds and seedlings, vegetables, flowering plants, latest variety of mushrooms, tropical fruits, and organic rice. This is in relation to the project of the country regarding leisure agriculture. With respect to fisheries sector, attempts were made in culturing the latest variety of fishes, raising new variety of fingerlings and ornamental fishes, and enhancing the sea-cage culture method (Lo Chai Chen, 1990). Automated and mechanical fishing procedures were promoted. In terms of domestic animals, native chicken and pigs were marketed along with the combination of state-of-the-art industrial resources. With the growth of income in the rural areas, the demand of the people for leisure hours also increased. Therefore, COA has enthusiastically encouraged leisure agriculture and fisheries with the incorporation of production and relaxation activities. This will not only bring advancement in Taiwan’s agricultural economy but it will also broaden the people’s understanding regarding agriculture and rural community (Hart, et. al., 1992).
Environmental Effect of Leisure Agriculture
Just like in any countries, leisure or recreational agriculture in Taiwan is diverse, which indicates different practices and local resources. An overall 80 licensed leisure farms around the island are existing with an additional 215 approved applications for the creation of leisure farms (Pulse Asia, November 3, 2006). Taiwan has four types of leisure agriculture namely, sightseeing farms, citizen farms, educational farms, and health farms that have varied impact on the environment (Mellor, 1995).
Involvement in the agricultural production practice and recreational activities are being given into consideration by sightseeing farms. This type of farm has a remarkable impact on the environment. Alternatively, it is encouraged that farmers exercise low-pollution methods of production similar to organic farming in order to ensure the well-being of the visitors.
Citizen farm is a kind of farm wherein inhabitants in the city allocate a small plot of their land and farm it during holidays or weekends. This process permits the city dwellers to take part in farming activities and take pleasure in the country scenery. It is important that citizen farms follow production approaches that take care of the environment.
The key thrusts in educational farms are farming life, agricultural production, and living through the rural culture. Although this kind of farm provides a small amount of impact in the environment, still, attention should be called for regarding the safety of recreational facilities and equipment.
Health farms are someplace urban dwellers reside in order to recover their well-being usually subsequent to an illness or operation. The natural landscape and warm accommodation are the foremost attraction in these farms. So as to conserve the landscape, ecological and other related features should be considered while developing physical facilities as well as cutting the forests.
In a leisure farm where tourists take part in agricultural works, it is important for managers to employ organic agriculture in using pesticides and fertilizers. Likewise, farm managers should also abide by the guidelines of environmental protection in order to avoid environmental pollution brought about by a lot of visitors. The environment for producing ad selling of products will be improved if regulations on pollution control, hygiene for cooked and processed foods, cleanliness, and recreational quality are properly implemented.
Agriculture is considered as the foundation of national growth, natural conservation, and the livelihood of the people. In most countries, agriculture is considered as one important indicator whether the policies of the government are well implemented or not.
In Taiwan, recreational or leisure agriculture is seemingly popular to both farmers and visitors. It has become the new kind of agricultural management for farmers. Because of the effect of international free trade in the profits of farmers, leisure agriculture alleviates the profitability of farms and at the same time improves the quality of rural life.
Looking at the result of leisure agriculture in Taiwan, not only that tourist farms were developed but also the local communities have been rejuvenated. Especially now that Taiwan has implemented a two-day’s off policy every other week, the capability of leisure agriculture to attract visitors is very strong. In the years to come, the different leisure farms in the country will be linked into a complete network that will unite farmers, rural villages, and agriculture.
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