Rural Development and Rural Revitalization Strategy of Taiwan

Rural Development and Rural Revitalization Strategy of Taiwan

Published: 2023.07.11
Accepted: 2023.07.11
37
Distinguished Professor
Department of Forestry, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan

ABSTRACT

Taiwan is an island nation located in East Asia that has undergone rapid industrialization and urbanization in the past few decades, resulting in a growing rural-urban divide. To bridge this gap, Taiwan’s government has implemented various rural development policies that aim to revitalize the countryside and promote sustainable economic growth. This article provides an overview of the current state of rural areas in Taiwan and the policies that are being implemented to address the challenges faced by these regions.

Keywords: Rural Development, Rural Revitalization, Taiwan

INTRODUCTION

Taiwan has a population of over 23 million people, with more than half residing in urban areas (Household Registration, 2023). Rural areas in Taiwan account for 96% of the land area, but only 30% of the population. The country's economic success has been largely attributed to its manufacturing and technology industries, which have contributed to the rapid development of urban centers. However, this rapid development has led to a growing rural-urban divide, with rural areas facing significant economic, social, and environmental challenges. The population in rural areas has been declining due to an aging population and migration to urban areas. Furthermore, many rural industries such as agriculture and fishing have been facing challenges such as declining profitability and lack of innovation. In response to these challenges, Taiwan’s government has implemented various rural development policies to revitalize the countryside and promote sustainable growth. This article provides an overview of the current state of rural areas in Taiwan, the policies that are being implemented, and their potential impact on rural communities.

CURRENT RURAL AREA STATUS OF TAIWAN

According to the Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, the total output value of agriculture in Taiwan in 2020 was about 441.8 billion New Taiwan Dollars (equivalent to approximately 15.4 billion U.S. dollars) (Council of Agriculture, 2020a). The main agricultural products in Taiwan are rice, vegetables, fruits, and livestock. In recent years, there has been a shift towards organic farming and the development of high-value crops such as tea, coffee, and other specialty products. Despite this, the number of farmers in Taiwan has been steadily declining, with only around 2.2% of the total population engaged in agriculture as of 2020 (Council of Agriculture, 2020b).

Rural areas in Taiwan face a range of economic, social, and environmental challenges that have resulted in a growing rural-urban divide. Despite accounting for only a small portion of the country's population, rural areas play a critical role in Taiwan's economy, providing food and natural resources, as well as cultural and historical heritage. The country's agricultural sector, which was once a major contributor to the economy, has been in decline for several decades, with many farmers struggling to make a living (Council of Agriculture, 2022).

In addition to economic challenges, rural areas in Taiwan are also facing social and environmental challenges. Many young people are leaving rural areas in search of better job opportunities in urban areas, resulting in a decline in population and a lack of social cohesion. Environmental challenges, such as soil erosion and water pollution, are also affecting the sustainability of rural areas. According to data from Taiwan's Council of Agriculture, the number of farmers in Taiwan has decreased from over 1 million in the 1960s to around 500,000 in recent years (Council of Agriculture, 2023). This trend has been driven by a combination of factors, including aging demographics, low income levels, and the allure of higher-paying urban jobs. As a result, many rural areas in Taiwan have experienced population decline and a loss of human capital.

Furthermore, rural areas in Taiwan often face challenges related to infrastructure development, such as poor road networks, limited access to healthcare and education services, and inadequate irrigation systems. These factors have contributed to a sense of marginalization among rural residents and have led to calls for increased investments in rural development initiatives. Many rural communities in Taiwan have been left behind by the country's rapid industrialization and urbanization, leading to declining populations, aging demographics, and a lack of economic opportunities (National Development Council, 2023a).

RURAL DEVELOPMENT POLICIES OF TAIWAN

Taiwan’s government has implemented a few policies aimed at revitalizing rural areas and promoting sustainable economic growth (National Development Council, 2023b). These policies include:

a. Agricultural reform

Agriculture has traditionally been an important sector of Taiwan's economy, particularly in rural areas. However, in recent years, this sector has faced various challenges, including competition from cheaper imported products, an aging farmer population, and environmental concerns. To address these challenges and promote sustainable agriculture, Taiwan’s government has implemented various measures as part of its rural development policies.

One key initiative has been the establishment of farmers' cooperatives, which enable small-scale farmers to pool their resources and achieve economies of scale in production, marketing, and distribution. This helps to increase the bargaining power of farmers, improve their access to markets, and reduce their costs of production. The government provides support to farmers' cooperatives through funding, training, and technical assistance.

Another important aspect of Taiwan's agricultural reform is the promotion of organic farming. The government recognizes the potential of organic farming to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and to produce healthier, more nutritious food. To support the growth of organic farming, the government provides subsidies and technical assistance to farmers who adopt organic farming practices. It also promotes the use of organic products through marketing and education campaigns.

The government also provides subsidies for agricultural production to support farmers and encourage sustainable agriculture. These subsidies are designed to help farmers cover the costs of production, improve the quality and quantity of their products, and promote environmentally-friendly practices. The subsidies are targeted at small-scale farmers, who often have limited access to credit and other resources.

In addition to these measures, the government has also implemented policies to support agricultural research and development, as well as to improve the management of natural resources. These policies aim to increase the productivity and competitiveness of Taiwan's agricultural sector, while also promoting sustainable land use and environmental protection.

The government's agricultural reform policies are designed to support farmers, promote sustainable agriculture, and ensure food security in Taiwan. By investing in agriculture and supporting rural communities, the government aims to create a more balanced and inclusive economy, where the benefits of economic growth are shared more evenly across the country.

b. Rural infrastructure development

Taiwan's rural infrastructure development has been a key priority for the government's rural development policies. The government recognizes the importance of improving the connectivity and accessibility of rural areas in promoting sustainable economic growth and improving the quality of life for residents.

To achieve these goals, the government has invested heavily in rural infrastructure development, including the construction of roads, bridges, and irrigation systems. The aim is to improve access to markets, healthcare, education, and other essential services for residents in rural areas, as well as to promote the growth of businesses and industries in these regions.

One of the key initiatives in rural infrastructure development has been the construction of new roads and bridges in rural areas. These projects aim to improve connectivity between rural communities and urban centers, as well as among different rural communities. This facilitates the movement of goods, services, and people, and enables rural residents to access essential services and opportunities more easily.

The government has also invested in the construction of irrigation systems and other water management infrastructure in rural areas. This helps to improve agricultural productivity, enabling farmers to produce more crops and generate higher incomes. In addition, it helps to reduce the risk of drought and water shortages, which are common challenges in many rural areas.

In addition to these infrastructure development projects, the government has also implemented policies to support the maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure in rural areas. This includes the provision of funding and technical support to local communities to help them maintain and repair roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

Rural infrastructure development is a critical component of Taiwan's rural development policies. The government's investments in this area aim to improve the quality of life for residents in rural areas, promote economic growth and development, and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared more evenly across the country.

c. Rural tourism promotion

Rural tourism is another key aspect of Taiwan government's rural development policies. The government recognizes that rural areas in Taiwan have unique cultural and natural resources that can be attractive to tourists. By promoting rural tourism, the government aims to generate income for local communities, preserve local cultures and traditions, and promote sustainable economic growth in rural areas.

To promote rural tourism, the government has implemented a range of policies and initiatives. One of the key initiatives is the development of rural tourism infrastructure, such as the construction of visitor centers, hiking trails, and accommodation facilities. The aim is to provide tourists with convenient and comfortable facilities that allow them to explore rural areas and experience local cultures and traditions.

The government has also implemented marketing and promotion campaigns to raise awareness of rural tourism destinations in Taiwan. These campaigns aim to attract domestic and international tourists to rural areas by highlighting the unique attractions and experiences available in these regions. The government works closely with local communities and tourism operators to develop attractive packages and itineraries that showcase the best of rural Taiwan. The government also provides financial support and incentives to rural tourism operators. This includes funding for the development of new tourism products and services, as well as tax breaks and subsidies for tourism businesses in rural areas. The aim is to encourage investments in rural tourism and to support the growth of tourism businesses that can create employment opportunities for local residents.

Rural tourism promotion is an important component of Taiwan government's rural development policies. By attracting tourists to rural areas, the government aims to create new economic opportunities for local communities, while preserving local cultures and traditions. These policies are designed to promote sustainable economic growth and development in rural areas, and to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared more evenly across the country.

d. Entrepreneurship promotion

Entrepreneurship promotion is a key component of Taiwan government's rural development policies. The government recognizes the importance of entrepreneurship in driving economic growth and creating job opportunities in rural areas. To support entrepreneurship in rural areas, the government has implemented various measures aimed at providing support, training, and incentives to entrepreneurs.

One of the key measures implemented by the government is the establishment of business incubators in rural areas. These incubators provide a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses. They offer a range of services, including business mentoring, networking opportunities, and access to funding and resources. The aim is to support the development of new businesses and to help them grow and succeed in the long term. In addition to business incubators, the government also provides training and education programs for entrepreneurs in rural areas. These programs aim to equip entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need to develop and grow their businesses. They cover a range of topics, including business planning, marketing, financial management, and innovation. The aim is to provide entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed in the competitive business environment.

To encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas, the government also provides financing and tax incentives to entrepreneurs. These incentives include low-interest loans, tax breaks, and grants. The aim is to reduce the financial burden of starting a new business and to provide incentives for entrepreneurs to invest in rural areas. These measures are designed to make rural areas more attractive to entrepreneurs, and to encourage the growth of new businesses in these regions.

Entrepreneurship promotion is an important aspect of Taiwan government's rural development policies. By providing support, training, and incentives to entrepreneurs, the government aims to create a more vibrant and sustainable rural economy. These measures are intended to create new job opportunities, promote innovation, and attract investments to rural areas, thereby promoting long-term economic growth and development.

CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS

The revitalization of rural areas is a key priority for the Taiwanese government, given the significant economic, social, and environmental challenges faced by these regions. The government's rural development policies aim to promote sustainable economic growth, preserve local cultures and traditions, and improve the quality of life for rural residents. However, the success of these policies will depend on their effective implementation and the willingness of rural communities to participate in and benefit from these initiatives.

Taiwan government's emphasis on revitalizing rural areas reflects the need to address a range of economic, social, and environmental challenges that rural communities face. These include declining populations, aging populations, outmigration of younger generations, lack of access to quality education and healthcare, and limited job opportunities. The government's rural development policies aim to address these challenges and promote sustainable economic growth, preserve local cultures and traditions, and improve the quality of life for rural residents. To successfully revitalize rural areas in Taiwan, there are several key suggestions that can be made:

  1. Encourage the development of local industries: One way to promote sustainable economic growth in rural areas is to encourage the development of local industries that capitalize on the unique resources and strengths of each community. For example, local handicrafts, agriculture, and tourism-related businesses could be supported and promoted, creating new job opportunities and boosting local economies.
  2. Improve access to education and healthcare: Rural areas in Taiwan often face challenges in providing quality education and healthcare services to residents. The government could invest in improving infrastructure and services in these areas, as well as providing incentives for professionals to work in rural communities.
  3. Develop rural tourism: Rural tourism has the potential to attract visitors to rural areas, create jobs, and preserve local cultures and traditions. The government could promote rural tourism by investing in infrastructure, developing tourism-related businesses, and providing training and support to local communities.
  4. Encourage sustainable farming practices: Agriculture is a key industry in many rural areas of Taiwan, and promoting sustainable farming practices can help to preserve the environment and promote long-term economic growth. The government could provide subsidies and incentives for farmers to adopt sustainable practices, as well as invest in research and development to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture in rural areas.
  5. Provide support for entrepreneurship: The government could provide support for entrepreneurship in rural areas by establishing business incubators, providing training and education programs, and offering financing and tax incentives to entrepreneurs. This can help to create new businesses and job opportunities in rural communities.

In summary, revitalizing rural areas in Taiwan requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the unique challenges faced by each community. The government's rural development policies are an important step in this process, but their success will depend on effective implementation and the participation and cooperation of local communities. By promoting sustainable economic growth, preserving local cultures and traditions, and improving the quality of life for rural residents, Taiwan can create vibrant and thriving rural communities that contribute to the country's overall prosperity.

REFERENCES

Council of Agriculture. (2020a). “COA Annual Report 2020.” Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Available from: https://www.coa.gov.tw/ws.php?id=2512599

Council of Agriculture. (2020b). “Agriculture Employed Person by Gender 2020.” Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Available from: https://echart.coa.gov.tw/index.php?cid=24

Council of Agriculture. (2022)."Agricultural Policy in Taiwan." Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Council of Agriculture. (2023) “Number of Farmers' Households in Taiwan Area.” Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Available from: https://echart.coa.gov.tw/index.php?cid=23

Household Registration. (2023). "Household registration statistics data analysis in Feb 2023." Household Registration, Ministry of the Interior, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Available from: https://www.moi.gov.tw/News_Content.aspx?n=9&s=276639.

National Development Council. (2023a). “Urban and Regional Development Statistics.” National Development Council, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Available from: https://www.ndc.gov.tw/Content_List.aspx?n=BC6ED075CAF03199

National Development Council. (2023b). “Region Revitalization National Strategy Plan” National Development Council, Executive Yuan, Taiwan.

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