Dounan's Gutsy Experiment:
Little Landlord, Big Tenant-farmer
Dounan in Yunlin County has become Taiwan's biggest growing area for potatoes and carrots, with the two crops bringing in NT$200 million annually. No longer is an NT$1 million a year salary an unreachable dream for farmers.
Little Landlord, Big Tenant-farmerBy Shu-ren Koo
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 399 )
The "Dounan Experience" has caught the eye of agricultural scholars and experts from around Taiwan and even attracted the attention of President Ma Ying-jeou, who adopted Dounan's "Little Landlord, Big Tenant-farmer" philosophy as one of the new government's policy blueprints.
Beginning around five years ago, an "assistance farming team" was organized in the area centered around the Dounan Farmers' Association. It created a corporate operating model, described as a "center-satellite system," that step by step overcame the obstacles plaguing Taiwan's agricultural sector.
The first step taken by Dounan Farmers' Association CEO Yu-Tse Chang was to amalgamate fragmented plots of farmland and fallow land to expand the cultivated land area. With the government subsidizing farmers NT$90,000 per hectare per year to keep their land fallow, the farmers association offered NT$100,000 per hectare to persuade them to lease their land, and eventually succeeded in integrating small plots of farmland into big fields.
Aside from amalgamating farmland, the association built a standardized production and marketing mechanism that covered the entire farm-to-market process, from preparing the soil, choosing seeds, selecting planting methods, applying fertilizers and using pesticides to harvesting and cleaning the produce, and separating and packaging it according to product grade. The entire process is strictly controlled by the association's "farming management team," which in effect created a production tracking and recording system.
The Dounan Farmers' Association bypassed middlemen and wholesalers to sell directly to large retail outlets and export to Japan, shortening the distance between the farm and the market and gaining greater control over its sales channels. Selling both domestically and abroad, the association can adjust production and the ratio of domestic sales vs. exports based on market conditions.
Developing such a complex production and marketing system required an investment of over NT$100 million, an amount well beyond the average farmer and a scale unattainable through traditional farming methods. So the Dounan Farmers' Association got directly involved, establishing itself as the nerve center of the operation and bringing together farmers and production and marketing in one program, thus creating the so-called "center-satellite system."
To date, the association has amalgamated 400 hectares of land on which carrots and potatoes are planted. The potato fields managed under the new system produce yields 15 percent higher than using traditional methods, and, together with carrots, they earn NT$200 million in revenues for the area.
Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier
Chinese Version: 小地主，大佃農 整合破碎農地