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Taiwan villages to ‘touch your heart’
Recent development trends in the rural village, such as establishing farmers’ markets, promoting agricultural tourism and entrepreneurial ventures etc., have revitalized the rustic culture of Taiwan’s small towns and villages by injecting elements of fun and spontaneity. Under the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program, younger generations have also begun to play a larger role in the nation’s agricultural sector, marking the start of an era that trumps farming as a new lifestyle.
In a similar vein, the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB) has launched its Rural Campout Program for College Students, a long-term internship program that solicits new ideas and proposals from college students after they’ve had a real taste of agricultural work. Since the program’s debut last year, college students from across the island have demonstrated their eagerness and creativity in the selection process as they vied for a spot in the program. The SWCB was particularly impressed by the Rural Campout Proposals submitted by student applicants, who outlined a number of innovative ways to assist the rural communities that are targeted for revitalization – especially the communities that have previously participated in the SWCB’s Rooting for Education agricultural seminars.
There is no better way to understand the countryside culture than “long stay,” a unique opportunity provided by the SWCB’s Rural Campout Program. No longer confined to a dreary classroom, students will be able to gain hands-on knowledge and experience among real farmers and fishermen. From planting rice seedlings, picking ripe fruit to drafting a marketing proposal, participants will be learning in Mother Nature’s classrooms this time around, bouncing off community betterment ideas with fellow teammates and local residents all summer long. Wu Jing-jing, head of the SWCB’s Planning Division, 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 upon graduation or professional work, bearing the talent, energy and creativity needed to revitalize the countryside.
The second round of recruitment for the SWCB’s Rural Campout Program took place earlier this year, in which the judges requested the addition of a self-introduction video as part of the application. Finalists selected for the Program include students from outlying islands for the first time. In partnership with National Penghu University of Science and Technology’s Department of Marketing and Logistics Management, the SWCB will arrange for this year’s student volunteers to be stationed at the Erkan Community in Penghu County’s Xiyu Township. Wu said she was excited to show the new batch of students a different side of the fishing industry against the exotic backdrop of the outlying islands.
She concluded that the purpose of the Rural Campout 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’s agricultural sector. Moreover, introducing these youngsters to the countryside ensures that the abundance of folk wisdom will continue to pass into the hands of future generations.
Tree-huggers alert: Forestry Bureau to offer summer camp for nature lovers
In the hopes of providing youngsters with a one-of-the-kind holiday experience, the Forestry Bureau of COA launched its first-ever summer camp this year, in which student volunteers got up close and personal with the nation’s mountainous terrain and rolled up their sleeves to help clean up the land.
“This is a rare opportunity for the younger generation to be immersed in an all-natural environment,” Forestry Bureau Chief Secretary Lin Hao-chen pointed out. “Only then will they understand the importance of ecological conservation and environmental protection, which of course is the main objective of this summer event.” By targeting the younger generation, environmental awareness will spread through participation in the Forestry Bureau’s summer camp, Lin said. Participants will not only gain a better understanding of the role and functions the Forestry Bureau plays in safeguarding the nation’s natural resources, they will also gain access to some of Taiwan’s most spectacular scenic spots, witness the island’s unique flora and 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 underwent a two-day basic training camp that outlined the ramifications, ethics and scope of responsibilities related to the program. Basic training was followed by advanced biology courses related to wildlife and natural resources, and then seminars on sightseeing techniques and tour-guiding practices. Upon completing their training, volunteers were sorted by their interests and sent either to one of the 8 Nature Centers or to one of the 18 Forest Recreation Parks located within the nation’s borders.
The bulk of these summer interns’ job responsibilities comprised of providing information to tourist groups, assisting agencies with event preparations, patrolling the park grounds and observing the natural environment. Whenever visitors book a guided tour, students would accompany veteran national park workers and help answer questions; their remaining time was split between assisting the Nature Center or Forest Recreational Park with conducting activities and cleaning up the park grounds. Foreign volunteers are further enlisted to help copyedit and rectify the English used in national park signs. Last but not least, all volunteers helped to promote the splendor of the nation’s mountains and forests through the 21st-century way – blogging. The creation of an online journal designed entirely by a fresh set of young minds and updated with daily entries on the fun and experience of working in the mountains has definitely boosted the nation’s international profile, Chief Secretary Lin concluded.
Aside from the newly launched summer camp dedicated to local and foreign visitors, the Forestry Bureau has other year-round volunteer programs that recruit tour guides, trail preservation experts and business professionals. The unique insights and ideas proposed by this year’s student participants will provide the basis for similar events in the future, the Bureau noted, pledging that it will continue its efforts in drawing youngsters back out to the wild and recruiting more enthusiasts to help preserve the nation’s natural beauty.