Taiwan: LiveCast and music for saving rural livelihood

Agricultural issues are getting more and more attention recently in Taiwan, sadly not because of the vibrant development of the agricultural sector, but quite the opposite.

In March, I reported about the debate on Statue of Rural Renewal that was about to be passed in Legislative Yuan. Given all the problems and controversies in the Statue, the Council of Agriculture had been pressured by a coalition of farmers, scholars, and social activists to organize more public hearings, in particular in rural areas for collecting more public opinions. However, these public hearings have been neglected by mainstream media, and the only way the public get to know the discussion and debate is via citizen journalists who have participated in the hearing and posted their reports at online platforms, such as dfun.com (zh) :

Citizen reports on public hearings

On April 21st, Kaohsiung County, citizen journalist Relax reported:


Mr. Lin Ying-chin from Meinung town criticized that the government had not disclosed enough information in the public hearing. He downloaded the Statute from Internet, read it over and over and discovered many underlining problems. However, he was not able to fully deliver his views during the public hearing….


As if he had not heard of all the criticisms and questions, the director of Sub-bureau, Mr.Li, concluded the Kaohsiung public hearing with the statement: “Today, all people support the Statute of Rural Renewal..”, but interrupted by people's yelling: “Nonsense!”

The next day, in Hualien County, peggy reported:


The floor was open, however, most of the old people could not understand nor write in Mandarin. There was no way for them to submit the question request in written form. I was worried if they would be given the right to speak.
As expected, only legislators, councilors, chief managers of community development associations, and village heads got on the stage to speak….


There was neither explanation of the clauses in the Statute of Rural Renewal nor dialogue between the government and the public. I brought back with me a free lunch box when I left, like all the old grandpas and grandmas.

The bureaucratic and formalistic public hearings were under serious criticism online and finally President Ma Ying-jeou agreed to meet the anti-Statute activists in the Presidential Palace(zh) on April 29th. During the meeting, Ma required Chen Wu-siung (陳武雄) the Chief Councilor of the Council of Agriculture to review the whole Statute and post the revised Statute online “if necessary”.  However, nothing had really changed after the meeting and the majority of Legislative Yuan are determined to pass the Statute before May 20th, a day marked the inauguration anniversary of Ma's presidency.  Activists then initiated a “citizen public hearing” via webcast. They call this activity “3 small media Webcasting“:


希望將辯論現場畫面傳送到農村與社區,你可以協助報導在地的聲音、將討論農再的心得繼續投稿民間媒體。 農再的討論不能只在官方辦的公聽會中草率結束,地方更可以以主動的方式,要求官方來地方辦公聽會,透過網路直播在一起檢視公共政策是否有問題?激盪起真正 「由下而上」的討論,非讓「由下而上」成為政府卸責的口號。

Coolloud, E-info.org represent two of the small media, and the 3rd one is “you”.
The first cross-media cooperation will be the live webcasting at 9:30 AM, May 26th, in the Legislative Yuan, Taipei. The three small Media will invite citizen journalists, bloggers, local organizers, community-building groups to participate in “Taipei LiveCast” or “Local end LiveCast”.

We wish to show the debate of the Taipei public hearing to other rural villages and communities. Apart from LiveCast, you can also help by covering local voices or submitting your view on the statue to other civil media. The discussion should not come to an end in those official public hearings. We expect the LiveCast to encourage local communities to be more active in demanding the government for local public hearings, and the LiveCast would allow people from across the country to discuss public policy together. We need to realize the genuine “bottom-up” discussion process rather than letting the government turning the “bottom-up” consultation into mere slogan and political performance.

Farmers-activists also use twitter , stickeraction, justin.tv, and other social media to spread the above message.

However, recently president Ma faced a new wave of political crisis after the mass rally and over night sit-in protest against his China policies on 17th of May. Public attention might be directed to more dramatic political controversy rather than “regular law enactment”, like the Statute of Rural Renewal.

Songs and musics

Meanwhile an indie band, Hao-Ke (好客樂團) took another approach to raise public awareness of Taiwan's rural crisis. Members of the band are all farmers and they have recently entered the entrant list of the 20th Golden Melody Award on Best Bands. Indeed, the cultural approach is very effective.

Ecogoodies recommended Hao-Ke's album “Love to Eat Rice”:


“Love to Eat rice” is one of my favorite album. In 2006, Chen Guan-yu, the vocal of Hao-Ke left the hurly-burly city and stepped into an organic rice farmland in Chishang in Taitung county to start his farming plan….


Like many others, I left my hometown a long time ago and settled in the urban city, while the memory of hometown is getting further and further behind. Each time, when I feel hurt or disappointed, I recall the smell of air and soil in my hometown, which makes me want to return to where I began and I can find the strength to restart again.

ricelove Photo by Guan Yu, the vocal of Hao-Ke.

Hao-Ke described their feeling after they were nominated in the Award on their official blog:

現在我待在田裡的時間更多了,每天心繫著田地裡的植物,覺得心頭充實。金曲獎反而成了惱人的外務。我做音樂的目的不是為了金曲獎;但他的力量卻又那麼強,讓我不得不把它掛在心上,心情跟著它起起伏伏 …..

Now I spend even more time in the farmland. I thinks of the plants more. The Award thus becomes a burden. I don't play and compose music for the Award; but its power is so strong that I cannot put it off my heart, and my emotion beats along with it…

They started the experimental project of “rice coop” about 3 years ago. Ke Zhi-hao, the guitar player of Hao-Ke explained their idea and daily routine of the “rice cooperatives” on e-info.org:


We perform our music in the field, transplant rice seedlings and pull out the weeds. We make documentary films, write articles, take pictures, make songs, and produce music albums for our rice. We even share our organic rice meal with the audience who come to see our performance in Witch House in Taipei


We believe that a healthy market should provide more choices, which will in turn add strength and flexibility to the market. Farmers are no longer dependent on middlemen for marketing, they can choose to sell half of their products via the middlemen and sell another half directly to consumers.

The band uses wikimapia to show the location of their farmland, and encourage audiences and fans to join the cooperation.

Apart from Hao-Ke, bands like Country Boys (zh) and Sheng Xiang also convey their love, sorrow, and anger for the disappearing Taiwanese agriculture through their music. These bands and musicians also actively participate in street gatherings or protests against destructive agricultural policies and globalization.

Artists and activists in Taiwan are cooperating more and more frequently on various social issues though their influence is still weak when compared with the government and big corporates. But joint handedly, they make the civil society more vibrant .

Last but not the least, please listen to “I Don't Want to Be a Farmer Anymore”, a song full of anger depicting the erosion of Taiwanese agriculture and rural life, performed by Country Boys when they attended “Free Burma, Free Aung San Suu Kyi” concert last year.


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