Technical and Technology Help for Small Farmers– Taiwan’s Technological Contributions to the World

Technical and Technology Help for Small Farmers– Taiwan’s Technological Contributions to the World

Published: 2021.05.20
Accepted: 2021.05.20
10
Associate/Lecturer
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

ABSTRACT

Within the international community, Taiwan's International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) collaborated with other capacity-building organizations to finance and establish infrastructures for economic development. These funds are transparently provided via reputable funding agencies for environmentally-sustainable agriculture ventures. The private sector firms involved in the entire distribution chain are also involved as partners in utilizing these funding effectively. The utilization of these funds is based on meritocratic criteria and needs. Some of these needs include augmenting productivity, fostering the creation of new products and services as well as research on new technologies. One of the goals is in connecting the cultivators to their eventual customers through the provision of knowhow and technical help. Such assistance include coping with natural disasters, including quake-prone regions in Southeast Asia. Taiwan is active in humanitarian affairs, disaster relief and post-disaster contributions, particularly in developing areas. Besides Southeast Asia, the South American Continent also receive their dispatches from Taiwan's ICDF to work on capacity-building projects in agriculture in the developing regions of the world. Sharing their experience and technical skills can also bring benefits for Taiwanese stakeholders as the latter can also reap precious exposure with experts, contributors and consultants building up their networks, friendship, understanding of culture as well as a do-good vibe. The Taiwanese participants in developmental programs can also achieve their own personal goals as well. They collaborate in creative and innovative initiatives that improve people's lives. Taiwan has also provided in-house training for volunteers who choose to go on such capacity-building stints for their national service and imbue them with cultural knowledge and language skills before sending them to the developing economies. Taiwan's developmental knowledge is carefully documented for sharing with such global stakeholders, including its modern farming techniques, contributing to regional and global food supplies while customizing initiatives for helping developing economies.  

Keywords: Taiwan, TaiwanICDF, developing, capacity building, Southeast Asia, South America

INTRODUCTION

The International Cooperation and Development Fund (Taiwan ICDF) augments socio-economic development, human resources and advocates economic interactions in its partner entities, providing humanitarian help and funds for mitigating natural disasters or global refugee challenges (specifically lending and investment, technical cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and international education and training) (Taiwan ICDF, undated). Such organizational objectives are very similar to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which aims to help global economic development by strengthening global economies in their recoveries after crises, economic progress and stability. Compared to Japan, Taiwan’s scale is smaller, but for economies with limited natural resources, “knowledge-share” mode is a way to strengthen diplomatic relationship. Taiwan punches way above its weight.

Another similar organization is Republic of Korea (ROK)'s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) which uses ROK's experience to help other developing economies to achieve economic stability and development. The Taiwan ICDF effects investments, loans, revenues, technical support, education/training and assistance through a vigorous evaluation procedure that is supported by local stakeholders to help them reach their objectives and goals, complement regional trends to attain optimal results (Taiwan ICDF, undated). Again, this is very similar to the JICA and EDCF counterparts. All three of them have rigorous projection evaluation process, high integrity evaluation and post-project analysis.

At the global stage, the Taiwanese International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) has partnered with other developmental bodies to fund and put in place technical/technological infrastructural assets and facilities dispensed through well-established financial institutions to support sustainable agricultural business development. Taiwan has also reached out to the private agribusiness sectors from upstream to downstream entities in other economies on a needs basis by providing funding, capacity-building for growth, upgrades in productivity, innovation and technologies. An objective is to link the different agricultural platforms from the primary producers and growers to the end-point consumers (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

Historically, scientific rationality had been responsible for increasing the productivity of the Taiwanese agricultural industry. Technologies and technical knowhow were put in place as early as the 1960s,  e.g., systems of multiple cropping with three or four harvests annually, accelerated research/experiments/field demonstrations, irrigation mechanisms, development of chemical fertilizers/pesticides, soil conservation techniques, hybrid hogs and cattle breeds, artificial insemination for farm animals, balanced feeds, integrated production to marketing, reforestation techniques based on preferred tree species, aerial surveys and photo/mapping, motorization and use of synthetic fiber nets and lines (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2020).

Taiwan is outstanding in specific contexts of knowledge-sharing and technical assistance, e.g., earthquake-scenario help. In disaster zones like earthquake-hit Indonesia, Taiwan is also active in this sector. Within the rubric of humanitarianism, food security is an important aspect of natural disaster recovery and reconstruction. Taiwan has lent a helping hand to other earthquake-prone East Asian economies’ agricultural sector, like the case of Indonesia which also lies along the fault-lines of the tectonic plates (discussed as a brief case study below). Very often, expertise-sharing works both ways as Taiwanese capacity-builders can benefit from the experience and self-actualization.

For example, Taiwanese agricultural expert Lee Ching-shui lectured on agriculture at National Chiayi University in southern Taiwan for three decades before stepping down from active academia in 2001 as an associate professor, therefore his Indonesian mission to serve in the agricultural field was a dream come true: “It had been my aspiration to promote modern agricultural techniques overseas and to fully utilize my knowledge, skills and experiences…Joining the mission made my dream come true.” (Her, 2016) Overall, Taiwan’s wealth of knowledge and experiences in the agricultural industry are carefully curated and shared with others in the world. The article does not pretend to be comprehensive in coverage but provides some selected case studies illuminated below.

THE AFRICAN POTENTIAL

Other tropical locations have similar weather patterns and climatic conditions that can benefit from Taiwan’s sharing. This is especially true in the case of the fast-emerging African continent which has a lot of potential for agricultural economic growth but lack the technologies or knowhow to reach its full economic potential. In Eswatini, the Taiwanese International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) collaborated with six other international organizations to fund the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) in irrigating lands and helping small farmers become commercial producers to augment household income for attaining poverty reduction (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

The lands in Eswatini are dry and arid, therefore requiring irrigation. The Taiwan Technical Mission contacted the Eswatini Ministry of Agriculture for providing assistance to local subsistence farmers in becoming small scale commercialized farms. In addition, ICDF provided a loan to the Development Finance Corporation (FINCORP), a veteran funder, for funding micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in sustainable agriculture, forestry and irrigation projects by local currency-denominated loans (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF), undated). ICDF has put in place key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate project viability, results and the extent of beneficiaries. The non-performing programs were closed, and successful mature programs were turned over to the local authorities for their indigenous management (Her, 2016). Besides irrigation, Taiwan’s experience in pig rearing, housing, meat production and marketing were jointly integrated into the collaborative Eswatini Pig Industry Enhancement Project, involving program items like upsizing the Mpisi National Pig Breeding Station to meet demand and further expand the pork industry (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

THE SOUTH AMERICAN VENTURES

Yet another continent that has not reached full potential is South America where tropical crops are also important sources of revenues. Since 1966, research and education were amongst the two major pillars of Taiwanese agricultural technological advancement with an emphasis on innovative breakthroughs (often known as leapfrogging technologies) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1966). Since then, scientific research for enhanced crops has become integrated with Taiwan’s overseas development aids. For example, the Haitian authorities’ Change Caravan initiative and ICDF started the National Rice Seed Production Enhancement Project drawn from the Taiwanese experience/technologies to help Haiti reinforce its seed inspection and certification system, improve institutional capacity, augment rice output, improve postharvest procedures, rev up production and mitigate absence of optimal rice species (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF), undated).

Taiwan ICDF is particularly active in South America due to various political economic interests. It executes initiatives under the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in addition to its autonomous programs in agriculture, environmental protection, healthcare, information and communications technology (ICT), vocational training in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Central/South Americas and the Middle East (Her, 2016).

Its footprints can also be detected in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan plantain is a mainstay crop with strong added value where there is still strong demand with insufficient supplies hampered by less-than-ideal cultivation technology (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated). There appears to be successive waves of Taiwanese interested to serve in the Nicaraguan agricultural sector. Newly-minted doctoral talents like Tony Lin (林雋軼) from National Taiwan University in Taipei with an expertise in plant pathology and microbiology is inspired by his predecessors’ Nicaraguan missions to participate in the Taiwan Youth Overseas Service in Fiji in the South Pacific: “I’d heard many positive comments from a senior classmate who was once posted to Nicaragua in Central America and from my teacher, who is involved with Taiwan ICDF…I couldn’t wait to get involved with the programs” (Her, 2016).

Therefore, ICDF and the Nicaraguan authorities have joined forces to establish the Plantain Development Project to help the local economy set up a national tissue culture center with staff capacity training, manufacturing and marketing of seedlings, cultivation methods/extension system, upgraded public sector counselling ability, strengthened cooperatives, plantain productivity/quality and augmented farmer revenues (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

Taiwanese capacity building in Nicaragua can help its economy leapfrog over generations of technologies to achieve high agricultural productivity. Taiwan has had a long experience in formulating technical and technological initiatives to boost its agricultural outputs. Since the early post-war era, Taiwanese engineers and agriculturalists installed and maintained hydraulic power facilities, sugar mills, pineapple canneries, tea processing factories, fertilizer manufacturing facilities, irrigation mechanisms, flood mitigation dikes as part of the first wave of technological enhancement of the agricultural industry (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1966). Given that Taiwan has almost a century of post-war experience under its belt when it comes to basic processing, farming and advanced Industry 4.0 technologies, it can cherry pick the items most relevant for assisting developing economies.

THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN SECTOR

Moving from Africa and South America to yet another developing world region, Taiwan is also active in Southeast Asia. The dispatching of experts and missions to Southeast Asia is chronologically the genesis of Taiwanese agricultural aid to foreign friends and partners. Taiwan ICDF’s roots are actually traceable back to Southeast Asia, a region that is literally in the backyard of Taiwan’s outreach. Taiwanese ROC’s foreign aid started in 1959 with an agricultural team in Vietnam before expanding outwards in the 1960s to some decolonized African economies to strengthen crop production, animal husbandry, aquaculture and horticulture (Her, 2016).

Against this backdrop, as early as 1966, Taiwan already realized that many tropical and subtropical regions have similar features and challenges with underdeveloped natural resources and commodities, reliance on the agricultural economy, dependent on subsistence farming, frustrating poverty and susceptibility to political instabilities (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1966). Certainly, there are a number of economies that will coincide with such scenarios during their developmental stages. Fortunately, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world but has pockets that have not graduated into middle income economic bracket yet.

Within Southeast Asia, the largest entity is undoubtedly Indonesia. The Taiwanese and Indonesians collaborated in the Lembang National Agricultural Training Center (LNATC) to put in place the Strengthening Incubator Agribusiness with Human Resources Development in Bandung project to level up its counselling capacity, upgrade courses quality, churn out teachers to help farmers upgrade agricultural commercial operations, build greenhouses, set up shipping and logistics facilities, design internships, instil longer-term surveillance and analytical systems for tracking farmers (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

Taiwanese contributions came from individual experts as well. Taiwan has sent individual specialists to offer help and expertise to Indonesia as well. In March 2016, 66-year-old agriculture specialist Lee Ching-shui (李清水) went back to Taiwan after staying in Indonesia for four months to share his knowledge in cultivating better potatoes under the auspices of a Hasanuddin University program in Makassar South Sulawesi (in collaboration with the Indonesian Taipei Economic and Trade Office) (Her, 2016). Besides training provision and offering individual expertise, there are other institutionalized outreaches as well. For example, Taiwan ICDF and World Vision came up with the Sigi-Biromaru Livelihood Support Program to mitigate the impact of the Central Sulawesi Indonesian earthquake by building shallow wells to irrigate agriculture after existing irrigation mechanisms were damaged (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated). Since 2001, the MOFA-sanctioned Taiwan ICDF youth overseas service program has become an alternative to the compulsory military service for Taiwanese males with youths deployed to overseas missions based on educational levels, skill sets, diplomatic needs, lottery selection after finishing 1.5 months of compact lessons in linguistics, cultural traditions, protocol at an in-house training facility in Taipei (Her, 2016). These Taiwanese individuals are ready to rough it out in the farmlands, fields and plantations of the developing economies that possess great potential!

While deploying their personnel, Taiwan ICDF also provides work for the local community. For example, in Indonesia, the Cash-for-Work (CfW) initiative provided employment to locals to clear debris after Central Sulawesi Earthquake, rehabilitate plantations while providing inputs and technical help for the farmers’ daily necessities and needs and the Last Mile Mobile Solution (LMMS) beneficiary-registration system designed by World Vision provided humanitarian aid and salaries to CfW-active households (International Cooperation and Development Fund ICDF, undated).

CONCLUSION: REITERATION AND SUMMARY

Taiwan has lent a helping hand to other earthquake-prone East Asian economies’ agricultural sector, like the case of Indonesia which also lies along the fault-lines of the tectonic plates (discussed as a brief case study below). Very often, expertise-sharing works both ways as Taiwanese capacity-builders can benefit from the experience and self-actualization. Taiwanese contributions came from individual experts as well. This is coupled with innovative initiatives. Since 2001, the MOFA-sanctioned Taiwan ICDF youth overseas service program has become an alternative to the compulsory military service for Taiwanese males with youths deployed to overseas missions based on educational levels, skill sets, diplomatic needs, lottery selection after finishing 1.5 months of compact lessons in linguistics, cultural traditions, protocol at an in-house training facility in Taipei (Her, 2016). Taiwan has sent individual specialists to offer help and expertise to various developing economies around the world. Overall, Taiwan’s wealth of knowledge and experiences in the agricultural industry are carefully curated and shared with others in the world. Given that Taiwan has almost a century of post-war experience under its belt when it comes to basic processing, farming and advanced Industry 4.0 technologies, it can cherry pick the items most relevant for assisting developing economies.

REFERENCES

Development Fund (ICDF), undated. Retrieved from https://www.icdf.org.tw/ct.asp?xItem=12410&ctNode=29859&mp=2 (link is external) (1 January 2021)

Her, Kelly. Taiwan Review on an Agricultural Mission. Taiwan Today, 1 November 2016. Retrieved from https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=8&post=106347 (link is external) (1 January 2020)

International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF). Agriculture. International Cooperation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). Agricultural Development in Taiwan. Taiwan Today, 1 November 1966. Retrieved from https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=8&post=13863&unitname=Economics-Tai... (link is external) (1 January 2020)

Taiwan ICDF International Cooperation and Development Fund. About Us. ICDF, undated. Retrieved from https://www.icdf.org.tw/ct.asp?xItem=4470&CtNode=29840&mp=2 (link is external) (1 April 2021)

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