赤腹山雀
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Origins of the Satoyama Initiative in Taiwan

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The Satoyama Initiative and the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) were jointly launched by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in 2010 at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The core vision of the Satoyama Initiative is to realize societies in harmony with nature.

The Japanese terms satoyama and satoumi refer to mosaic landscapes and seascapes such as woodlands, paddy fields, grasslands, irrigation canals, coastal areas, tidal zones, and human settlements, which have traditionally been sustainably managed by their inhabitants. As these satoyama-satoumi-like landscapes and seascapes exist in different parts of the world and represent diverse ecosystems, they are often dubbed as socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS). The interactions in traditional SEPLS are based on a positive human-nature relationship: while nature provides goods and services to support human well-being (firewood, food and daily commodities), people treat nature with respect and use its resources in a balanced and sustainable manner.

[For more information on the concepts of the Satoyama Initiative and SEPLS, please visit the official IPSI website: https://satoyama-initiative.org/]

The Satoyama Initiative and SEPLS were introduced to Taiwan the same year – at the end of 2010. Translated into the Chinese language as 里山 (satoyama) and 里海 (satoumi), these terms were not foreign to the Taiwanese public and quickly became well-accepted across Taiwan. The top and bottom parts of the character 里 (sato) are 田 (“farmland”) and 土 (“soil”), which together carry the meaning of “home”, “neighborhood” or “settlement”. Thus, 里山 (satoyama) in Taiwan means a village with its farmlands surrounded by low hills, while 里海 (satoumi) is a village surrounded by the sea or ocean. In other words, these are human settlements co-existing with and sustainably using their surrounding environment.

Taiwan is a small island with a high population density of average 649 people/km2, which makes it the 17th most densely populated country in the world. The middle and lower reaches of the island are mainly occupied with rural and urban areas. Eighty percent (80%) of the population is concentrated in urban areas which cover only 13% of Taiwan’s total land, while natural and rural areas take up 58% and 29% respectively. Known as one of Four Asian Tigers, starting from mid-1960s, Taiwan experienced an unprecedented industrial development and economic growth, which resulted in its present-day high levels of urbanization, widespread practice of conventional agriculture and substantial land use changes. Not surprisingly, rural areas took it the hardest with rural depopulation and aging, deterioration of production landscapes, loss of traditional ethics and culture, and disintegration of rural communities being just few out of many challenges at the forefront of Taiwan’s social-ecological crisis.

In the past, satoyama and satoumi were characteristic of the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities in Taiwan. Environmentally friendly agriculture, forestry, fishery, livestock farming, hunting, and gathering supported by intergenerational knowledge transfer were the key factors that ensured a harmonious balance between the humans and nature. However, socio-economic development of the recent decades has led to a pervasive deterioration of Taiwan’s SEPLS causing environmental decline and biodiversity loss.

Since the 1980s, concerns of humans’ “destructive force” have prompted active conservation efforts and establishment of protected natural areas in Taiwan. However there has long been a failure to recognise the role of man-managed agricultural landscapes in biodiversity conservation and environmental protection. Establishing connections between forests, rivers, human settlements, and seas in natural and rural areas of Taiwan were in an urgent need for integrated approaches to conservation, revitalisation and sustainability.

Thus, in 2010, introduction of the Satoyama Initiative to Taiwan was viewed as an opportunity to reshape the conservation dialogue and bring the local communities, government agencies and the whole of society into the picture. Since then a wide array of SEPLS revitalization activities has taken place in the name of the Satoyama Initiative.

The Forestry Bureau is proud to be one of Taiwan’s satoyama pioneers. Some of the earliest projects (since 2009) on restoration of traditional rice paddy terraces, wetlands and water canals were supported by the Forestry Bureau in Banyan and Gongliao communities in New Taipei City and Gangkou community in Hualien County. Return of endemic crab-eating mongoose to Gongliao terraced fields and the first in many years harvest of Gangkou satoumi rice (grown next to the Pacific Ocean) were seen as a great success of the revitalization efforts.

From 2011 to 2014 practices engaging in conservation and revitalization of SEPLS were on the rise in Taiwan with more and more government agencies, research and academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and local communities expressing their interest in the Satoyama Initiative.

In 2011, National Dong Hwa University (NDHU) was the first organization from Taiwan to join IPSI. At the Global IPSI-4 Conference conducted in September, 2013 in Fukui City, Japan, NDHU’s case study from Fengnan Village, Hualien County titled “Collaborative planning and management of SEPLS: a rice paddy cultural landscape conservation in an indigenous community, Taiwan” was chosen among seven (out of 43) best SEPLS case studies of the year. It was the time when NDHU realized that if more Taiwanese members could join IPSI, it could become an invaluable platform to learn about new international concepts and share Taiwan’s experiences. Since then, NDHU has become an active promoter of the Satoyama Initiative across Taiwan.

By the end of 2014, three more organizations had joined IPSI: Taiwan Society for Wildlife and Nature (SWAN, 2012), Taiwan Ecological Engineering Development Foundation (EEF, 2013) and Environmental Ethics Foundation of Taiwan (EEFT, 2014). However, given the diversity of satoyama practitioners and their various backgrounds and objectives, the nation-wide promotion of the Satoyama Initiative in Taiwan was facing some challenges, which included:
  1. The need for a comprehensive policy and strategic planning to connect at the time scattered satoyama-related activities across various themes, localities and stakeholders under the guidance of a government institution;
  2. The need for knowledge enhancement and academic studies to elicit a comprehensive analysis and discussions of domestic on-the-ground activities as well as to channel Taiwan’s experiences internationally;
  3. The need for a capacity building mechanism to organize workshops and other kinds of training activities for on-the-ground practitioners to facilitate mutual learning and exchange of experiences;
  4. The need for good practices in line with the three-fold approach of the Satoyama Initiative in the form of analytical reports on detailed planning processes, management frameworks and implementation outcomes to share with international and domestic audiences.

As a way to address the above challenges, in 2014, NDHU proposed the first draft of the National Strategic Framework for Promoting the Satoyama Initiative in Taiwan. In early 2015, the Strategic Framework of Taiwan Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (TPSI) was adopted by the Forestry Bureau. This historic moment paved the way for a new chapter in Taiwan’s satoyama story.
 
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Visit counts:41 Last updated on:2021-07-13