The Saint Lu­cia Tai­wan Con­nec­tion

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

Iknew long be­fore leav­ing Saint Lu­cia that my re­cent trip to Tai­wan would be mean­ing­ful, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the ef­forts of the Tai­wanese gov­ern­ment here on is­land, fa­cil­i­tated by its Em­bassy, es­tab­lished in 2008.

Most of the projects un­der­taken by the Saint Lu­cian gov­ern­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the em­bassy are devel­op­men­tal ori­ented, whether in terms of build­ing or up­grad­ing in­fra­struc­ture, or imparting knowl­edge, through var­i­ous train­ing and ex­change pro­grammes. It has al­ways seemed that it is with par­tic­u­lar zeal that the Tai­wanese sup­port our gov­ern­ment on th­ese ini­tia­tives, and my trip across the globe gifted me with some in­sight as to why this may be so. For one thing, there are a few un­mis­tak­able similarities be­tween Tai­wan and Saint Lu­cia, the ge­o­graph­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion of our is­lands, for one. Then there’s the fact that the Tai­wanese them­selves, as per­son­able in their own ter­ri­tory as they are in ours, share the same be­lief that the friendli­est peo­ple come from the south. The south for them is where the abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple can be found, and there, cul­ture and tra­di­tion are val­ued above all else. Sounds fa­mil­iar?

In par­tic­u­lar, a visit to the Ri­nari tribe on day three of my tour led to the heart and soul of that part of the coun­try. The women there danced, and men strummed guitars as they spoke about how im­por­tant was the need for them to pre­serve their cul­ture, and how far they’d come. I won’t soon for­get the mo­ment a group of women ap­proached me to ask for a photo. The only English word we ex­changed then was, sim­ply, “beau­ti­ful”. Need­less to say, we spent quite a lot of time go­ing back and forth about whom was more so, and in the end left in smiles and waves. Ear­lier in the day we’d made sym­bolic glass beads, mostly of our own cre­ation I’d like to say, but I know most of the ac­tual craft­ing hap­pened long af­ter we left the work­shop, while we were busy test­ing the lim­its of the Duona Sus­pen­sion Bridge, a scenic cross-over 105m high with a view com­pa­ra­ble to none.

Our sched­ule in­cluded a tour of Maolin in the south that en­cour­aged par­tic­i­pants to slow their life pace and ex­pe­ri­ence true vi­tal­ity. We found there an abun­dance of eco­log­i­cal re­sources and stun­ning back­drops lit­tered with hik­ing trails, wa­ter­falls, and sev­eral in­dige­nous groups. In the midst of it all was the Pur­ple Crow But­ter­fly Val­ley, a hub for na­ture seek­ers par­tic­u­larly in the win­ter, as it was the time a large num­ber of dwarf crow but­ter­flies mi­grated from the north, to the Val­ley in Maolin. More than just a scenic stop, Maolin has over the years been recog­nised as an ideal place to cul­ti­vate agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, which set the tone for a visit to the Kaoh­si­ung District Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Ex­ten­sion Sta­tion.

The Sta­tion is one of seven agri­cul­tural re­search es­tab­lish­ments in Tai­wan, and some of the ma­jor agro­nomic crops stud­ied there in­clude rice, veg­etable soy­bean, and adzuki bean. The gen­eral ob­jec­tives of the re­search are va­ri­etal de­vel­op­ment, and cul­tural prac­tice in­volve­ment. In par­tic­u­lar: “Our breed­ing goal is to de­velop crop va­ri­eties with high qual­ity, high yield, and anti-stress traits.” Re­search at the sta­tion delves into trop­i­cal fruit, flori­cul­ture, food pro­cess­ing, plant pro­tec­tion and var­i­ous other as­pects. The agri­cul­tural sta­tion takes charge of agri­cul­tural man­age­ment and con­sul­ta­tion, farmer ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, as well as in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Af­ter a tour of the wide acreage at the re­search cen­tre we were off to the Na­tional Ping­tung Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, timely, be­cause there we met var­i­ous schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents from the Caribbean and Pa­cific, in­clud­ing a Saint Lu­cian stu­dent from the De­part­ment of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion. I asked about his jour­ney from Saint Lu­cia to Tai­wan and he walked me through the rapid tran­si­tion of want­ing a schol­ar­ship so badly, then fi­nally get­ting it and be­ing ter­ri­fied, to set­tling into a new coun­try, and now be­ing in his fi­nal year. His per­spec­tive on the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try in Tai­wan vis-à-vis Saint Lu­cia is re­flected in an in­ter­view on page 16.

Mean­while, af­ter a trip that sought to share knowl­edge on Tai­wan’s progress and ad­vance­ments in a num­ber of ar­eas, not to men­tion its far-reach­ing in­ter­na­tional devel­op­men­tal aid en­deav­ours, I am left with even more ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the ef­forts of the Tai­wanese gov­ern­ment in Saint Lu­cia.

A warm wel­come from mem­bers of the Ri­nari tribe.

Tour­ing the Kaoh­si­ung District Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Ex­ten­sion Sta­tion.

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