Eastern Taiwan home to nation's first 'organic town'

Xibao, a community in the eastern foothills of the Central Mountain Range, has transformed itself into Taiwan's first completely organic farming town thanks to five years of collaboration with one of the country's largest national parks.

The accomplishment was made possible by the Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation, which was commissioned by Taroko National Park to designate 6.7 hectares of farmland to organic produce. As a result, seven out of the eight households in the village, located in Xiulin Township in Hualien County and a part of the national park, are now practising sustainable agriculture.

Foundation CEO Su Mu-jung said that through organic farming -- the use of crop rotation, compost, and biological pest control rather than chemicals -- Xibao residents have found a more harmonious relationship with nature.

Su said a total of 13 households are now participating in the project, which launched in 2010. In addition to Xibao, it has been extended to parts of three neighbouring villages in Xiulin.

To date, nine households covering 10 hectares of farmland have been certified organic, Su said, adding that the scope will continue to be expanded with an eventual goal of establishing a brand name.

Organic farming contributes to greater biodiversity and a healthier environment and helps farmers enjoy their work more, Su explained.

Chang Jung-wen, a Xibao farmer, said he joined in the program because he wants a healthier lifestyle after some of his friends died at an early age because they did not pay attention to the hazards of chemical fertilizers.

"I don't want to die like that," he said.

Eco-friendly farming practices have also brought greater wildlife activity to Xibao, according to animal expert Lin Ching-feng.

The hilly village is now home to 13 mammal species, 46 bird species, eight reptile species and five amphibian species. That includes five out of the 12 types of owls seen in Taiwan, Lin said.

As Xibao undergoes its organic agriculture awakening, its next mission is to maintain the biodiversity it has brought about, Lin said.

Source: focustaiwan.tw

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