Taiwan grows only 32 percent of its own food. To become more self-sufficient, the government hopes to raise that figure to 40 percent by the year 2020. However, a controversial plan to build an artificial lake, on good farmland in Meinong, in the south of Taiwan, seems to go against the idea. In the latest in our series of in-depth features, from the Meinong area of Kaohsiung County, we ask the wise local farmers, what they think of the plan.
( Shuixian temple guards Guishan stream )
Here in south Taiwan, for over 80 years, Shuixian temple has quietly looked over the mouth of the Guishan irrigation channel, in Meinong of Kaohsiung County.
The Chinese couplets on the temple pillars echo the importance of water to the fields, and the respect farmers have for their water supply.
Meinong farmer, Xiao Dehua : " He is watching over the water supply, protecting it for the people who farm the land. "
( Worshipping the land god )
When they have time, farmer Xiao Dehua and his wife come to pay their respects to the land god, and thank him for giving the fields of Meinong a supply of water.
( Rice plants are like "children" )
Channeling water into the paddy, the farmer says the rice plants are like his children.
Xiao Dehua grew up here, and has a special relationship with the land.
Meinong farmer, Xiao Dehua : " Farm the fields, don't leave them. Don't leave this place. When we water them, it's like looking after children. "
( Water of life )
With over 40 years of farming experience, Xiao Dehua and his wife often patrol the fields, scaring away sparrows. They carefully water the paddy on average once every five days, making sure the field does not get too little or too much.
Meinong farmer, Xiao Dehua : " Of course water is important to farmers! Without water, we'd die! "
Laughing wryly, Xiao Dehua says he relies on the elements, and his own bare hands, to make a living from the land.
Da Ai TV reporter, Huang Yongling : " This mulberry tree is already over 10 years old. In April and May, its fruit ripens, like we can see, the darker mulberry are ready to eat and very sweet. In this orchard, we can find lots of weeds, because the owner, Mr. Gu古, insists on growing organically and respecting nature. "
( Mrs. Gu tends orchard, Mr. Gu reads )
The wax apples Mrs. Gu is wrapping in protective bags will soon be ready for picking. Meanwhile in retirement, Mr. Gu has other interests ...
The old farmer is an avid reader.
Senior farmer, Gu Defu : " I read eclectically. I read anything. I have a lot of books that you can't buy in stores. "
( Learned farmer recalls good-old days )
The piles of books are Mr. Gu's spiritual nourishment.
Senior farmer, Gu Defu : " What I'm ready now is the history of bananas, all over the world. "
Mr. Gu started by growing tobacco, then switched to bananas, until he retired. Replacing his spade with a book, although he no longer farms, Mr. Gu is still passionate about the land where he was born and bred.
Mature carrots lie outside, giving off a pleasant smell as they dry in the sun.
Senior farmer, Gu Defu : " When I was little, in this land, springs of water would naturally come up by themselves, all over the place. We didn't need to take bottled water with us, wherever we went. We'd go to any ditch and take up the water like this to drink. "
( Fields to make way for artificial lake? )
Once again, the environment pays the price for economic development. This farmland is scheduled to make way for the Jiyang Artificial Lake.
Senior farmer, Gu Defu : " I was born a farmer. I have a very rich and deep relationship with this land. To dig up such good land, and use it to store water, in an artificial lake, is a real shame. "
If construction goes ahead, the rural scenery will change dramatically. Mr. Gu is not only sad to see the fields go.
Senior farmer, Gu Defu : " I'm worried about lots of things. Nature will be destroyed. The grass, trees, and animals will all disappear. In the end, the ones who suffer will be us people. "
( Take a leaf from a farmer's book )
Come rain, wind or shine - farmers will never stop working the land. Perhaps the planners of the artificial lake, should take a leaf out of the farmers' book, and humbly follow nature's ways.