Collaborative Planning and Management of Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes: a Rice Paddy Cultural Landscape Conservation in an Indigenous Community, Taiwan



  • National Dong-Hwa University


  • 01/05/2014

  • REGION :

  • Eastern Asia


  • Chinese Taipei (Hualien County)


  • In 2005, the idea of landscape/seascape conservation was introduced into the amended Cultural Heritage Preservation Act as a new legal subject entitled ‘Cultural Landscape' in Taiwan. Unlike traditional strict protected areas, namely the IUCN protected area category I-IV, the Cultural Landscape is a new concept to Taiwan that emphasizes the interaction of local people and the land. In order to help stakeholders of governmental authorities and local communities to apply this new instrument, the researcher employs a community-based participatory approach to enhancing partnership among them. The research has especially learnt from the operational guidelines of IUCN protected area category V (the protected landscapes) and the Satoyama Initiative as well as the goal of ICCA aimed at empowerment of local indigenous community. A pilot study area of a rice paddy production landscape in the indigenous Fengnan village, Hualien County was selected as a potential Cultural Landscape site. A participatory action research was conducted by the researcher in light of the collaborative planning theory and methods to enhance partnership among the villagers, the local authorities officers and experts. Various formal and informal forums were conducted in the local area from 2011 to 2014 to achieve consensus on the Codes of Conduct as well as the Management Plan for the Cultural Landscape. Through intense communication on the forums, stakeholders jointly designated the site as a legal Cultural Landscape, developed a mid-term Cultural Landscape Conservation Plan and set up a local management committee for implementation of the Plan. The case study shows that a landscape approach based on the idea of the Satoyama Initiative and ICCA can be more welcomed by local people and create a new style of ‘living' protected landscape into Taiwan's national protected area system.


  • collaborative planning, cultural landscape, stakeholder participation, public forum, socio-ecological production landscape


  • Dr. Kuang-Chung Lee, a member of IUCN-WCPA since 2006, has six year work experience in the Nature Conservation Division of the Council of Agriculture (COA) as well as in the Tarorko National Park Headquarters from 1991 to 1997. He is now an associate professor in the Department of Nature Resources and Environmental Studies of the National Dong-Hwa University. From 2002 to the present, he has led and carried out eighteen research projects which mainly focused on community participation, collaborative planning and management of rural areas and different IUCN categories of protected areas in Taiwan.

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  • Website link of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, National Dong-Hwa University:

Project Description

This two-year action research project was commissioned by the Hualien County Cultural Affairs Bureau and implemented from May 2011 to June 2013 by the National Dong-Hwa University. The goal was to facilitate a collaborative planning process to help stakeholders to designate a Rice Paddy Cultural Landscape and formulate its Management Plan. Research funding was in total about US$ 65,000.

IPSI Activity Clusters

  1. Cluster 2 (Policy Research)- The project aims to explore a landscape and participatory approach to incorporating the Satoyama Initiative framework into a rural Cultural Landscape designation and its management plan under relevant legal instruments of Taiwan.
  2. Cluster 5 (On-the-Ground Activities)- An indigenous village and the surrounding production landscape in eastern rural Taiwan was chosen as the case study area (Pic 1). The goal of the empirical study is to explore, first, to what extent the Satoyama Initiative framework can fit into the management plan of the rural cultural landscape. Second, what contribution a collaborative planning approach can make to reach consensus among different stakeholders.

General background of the project area


Fengnan village is located at the most southern tip of Fuli township, with the Coastal Range across its east connecting with Cheng-gong Town of Taitung County. The village occupies up to 35.18 km² and is the largest village in the township. The boundary of Ciharaay cultural landscape is a complete watershed of the Stonghouse Ravine Stream that is situated on the most north of the Turtle Stream watershed. The Ciharaay cultural landscape covers a land area of 1,040 hectares. Right next to it is the 1682-meter highest peak of the Coastal Range. The area distributed with rice terraces, irrigation canals and the aboriginal tribe Ciharaay downstream of Stonehouse Ravine Stream is the core area of the entire cultural landscape, with 20 hectares of rice terraces and 6 irrigation canals adding up to 4,100 meters long (Fig 1).

Fig 1 Boundary of Cihalaay Cultural Landscape

Picture 1 The newly designated Cihalaay Cultural Landscape covers nearly 1000 hectares and comprises mosaic landscapes of a indigenous village, rice terraces and irrigation channels, orchards, secondary forest, nature forests and streams.

Land use and land ownership

94.7% of the designated cultural landscape is forest area. 5.2% is unclassified and 0.1% is hillside conservation area on land use zoning; whereas on land use classification, 87.4% of it falls into forestry, 5.1% is agriculture, 6.4% is unclassified, 0.9% is construction, 0.1% is transportation and 0.34% is private land which occupies 35 hectares of the total area.

Cultural groups

There in the cultural landscape are 26 households, that is a population of 150 in which 97% are Amis, with only one Hakka, one Bunun, one Atayal and two new immigrants. Of all the households, most of them have an average household population of five, the second most has seven and 2-3 households have more than 10 members. As per religion, Ciharaay is mostly occupied with aboriginals and thus most residents are Christians, only one household is Catholics and another Jehovah’s Witness.

Age structure

Depending on the size of economic activity, three age groups are concluded in the cultural landscape range. The first age group is composed of 35 people who are aged from 0 to 14 in which 20 of them reside in the area and 15 of them relocated to Taipei. Due to the fact that the government offers subsidies to teenagers who attend school, most of the teenagers choose to further studies after junior high school, however; only about 50% of senior high school graduates further their studies. Most of those who have decided to get a job instead of studying choose to work in big cities such as Taipei, Taoyuan and Taitung because of the very few job opportunities in Hualien. The second age group has a population of 90-100 between the age of 15 and 64 in which 40 of them reside locally and 50 of them spread to work in the northern part and Li-shan. This age group is the most productive, and has working ability and capacity, and therefore is mostly involved in agriculture, carpentry, construction, factory working, with only a small number of younger ones in the service sector. The last age group refers to 20 seniors who are above the age of 65 in which ten live in the area and the other ten in Taipei. The seniors who reside locally engage in low labor work as well as agriculture, carpentry and weaving.

Education level

Most of the residents have primary school qualification, with some having received senior high school or vocational education. At present, residents under the age of 30 mostly have attained senior high school or vocational school; whereas those who are above 50 are mostly primary school graduates, with some illiterated. As for residents aged between 30 and 50, they are a mixture of the above-mentioned groups. If an agricultural society has a small educated population, it will make it difficult for new agricultural technology to promote and new agricultural information to flow quickly.

Choice of crops

The area is located on a sloped hillside, with most of it being woodland and dry land, and only a small part of farmland, thus small-scaled fields are cultivated for planting. With the forming of steps of terraces, farmers put focus on planting rice mainly on the farmland, and vegetables for self-consuming such as tree beans; as for dry land and woodland, plums, sweet peaches, persimmons, oranges, bamboo shoots, grafted pears, nuts and coffee is planted, and lilies could also be found earlier in the area.

Method of farming

(a)Rice planting: Yinchuan had signed a contract with Fengnan rice farmers ten years ago, and that is why there was quite a surprising amount of organic rice planted in the district, however; with time goes by, the current proportion of organic farming against non-organic has dropped to 48:52, which is in fact as a result of farmers getting older and finding non-organic easier; (b)Plum planting: because the cost of plum planting is low and plums do not require the application of pesticides, plums are still being grown in most of the area; (c)Coffee is another kind of plants which needs no pesticides. At present, only one household is involved in this 100% pesticide-free planting; (d)Bamboo shoots are a type of wild plants whose harvest season falls in March and April each year. When it comes to harvest time, farmers travel far up to the mountains to pick bamboo shoots and carry them to markets for sale or home for self-consumption, thus it is believed that they are also pesticide-free. (e)Others including sweet peaches, persimmons, oranges, grafted pears, betel nuts are produced through a non-organic way of farming as herbicides are applied.

Picture 2 Besides of certified organic farming, natural farming is expanding

Rice production marketing

Fengnan has a clean water and natural environment to grow organic crops, however; traffic is quite inconvenient, thus sales can only to be made through food dealers. Organic rice, for example, has a better market price, but its relatively higher cost and manpower problems stop farmers from growing, therefore; not all farmer households are involved. Still, around a half number of rice farmers adopt non-organic farming. As for organic rice, most farmers who have taken part in local organic rice production and marketing class sell their crops at Yinchuan Sustainable Farm whereas those who have not sell their crops to Jicheng Rice Company. Besides, the Fengnan Community Development Association organizes cultural and eco-tourism activities for tourists from time to time, so farmers have another source of income.

Fruit production marketing

(a)Plums: Organic plums being purchased by Yinchuan Sustainable Farm and non-organic plums being bought by merchants at market price which is subject to change with the size of the fruit. The fact is the larger the fruit, the higher the price; and the closer to the early period of purchase, the higher the price. The price can go down so much at the end that farmers simply give up picking; (b)Coffee. One household who planted rice three years ago started harvesting in the year of 2012 and planned to switch to homegrown organic coffee for self-marketing in Ciharaay (Stonehouse Ravine) in the future; (c)Sweet peaches, persimmons, oranges and grafted pears: Because planting takes place very close to mountainous regions inhabited with numerous groups of monkeys, they are usually the very first ones to enjoy ripe fruits, with very few left for farmers; (d)Betel nuts, bamboo shoots: They are usually purchased by merchants at higher prices compared to those grown on flatlands because wild grown bamboo shoots have more texture to them.


The project, first, learnt from the landscape approach of IUCN protected landscape and the Satoyama Initiative and, second, explored opportunities of relevant national legal instruments for application. A collaborative planning process was facilitated to involve multi-stakeholder participation in designation of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape and formulation of its Management Plan (Fig 1). Drawing on a theory of collaborative planning advanced by Healey (1997), this research sees a planning and management process as a social process that helps to build up knowledge resources, relational resources and mobilization capacity among all stakeholders (Fig 2).

Fig 1 Research Flow Chart

Fig 2 Theory of Collaborative Planning (Healey 1997)

A pilot study area of a rice paddy production landscape in the indigenous Cihalaay village, Hualien County in eastern rural Taiwan was selected as a potential Cultural Landscape site. The study employed a watershed-based approach to assisting stakeholders to designate a protected landscape which covers nearly 1000 hectares and comprises mosaic landscapes of an indigenous village of 25 households, 20 hectare rice terraces, 6 irrigation canals, orchards, secondary forest, nature forests and streams. Five steps of a participatory planning process (including preparation, discussion, consensus-building, action planning, implementation and monitoring) were facilitated by the research team of National Dong Hwa University in light of the collaborative planning theory and qualitative methods (participant observation, interviewing and group discussions) from May 2011 to Jun 2013 to enhance partnership among stakeholders (Fig 3).

Fig 3 Steps of the Participatory Planning Process

Identification of values of the Ciharaay cultural landscape

Showing positive significance of human interaction with nature

Landscapes including rice terraces, irrigation canals and tribes in Ciharaay are situated on sloping hills at downstream of Stonehouse Ravine Stream. It is the fruit of the Amis tribe, Ciharaay’s continuing cultivation, sustainable use and maintenance. Sloping hills at midstream of Stonehouse Ravine Stream are secondary forests, mostly planted with fruit trees and bamboo while the natural integrity of mountainous forest area upstream is largely preserved the natural integrity. In terms of the whole landscape, from natural forests upstream of Stonehouse Stream catchment to secondary forests and rice terraces used and maintained midstream and downstream, the presentation is so well-structured that it serves a clear evidence of harmonious interaction among people, land and nature, and reveals an opportunity for sustainable land use. The designated area complies with the ‘continuing landscape’ in terms of UNESCO’s World Heritage cultural landscape categories.

Representative and historical value

Stone Gate Canal being the first reclamation example of non-governmental Chinese-aboriginal cooperation was built between 1926 and 1928 to supply irrigation water to 20 hectares of rice paddies in Cilamitay area of Fengnan village up until today. It has been of great benefit to the village and local economic value. In addition, the design and application process of Stone Gate Canal were recorded in historical documents in the Japanese colonial period which in turn supports the authenticity of the Canal. The other five irrigation canals upstream were built by Ciharaay indigenous people with their bare hands and simple tools. The canals go past several steep slopes and cliffs and it can still be imagined how difficult the construction works were. All the above reflects the developing patterns and features of irrigation canals and rice paddies in early Taiwan which is considered having representative and memorial history and cultural value.

Picture 3 Stone gate irrigation canal was built in the 1920s

Picture 4 Interviewing with a local elder about the history of chanal building

Social value

In Taiwan, the amendments to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act and its implementation rules were made in 2005 and 2006, for the first time bringing cultural landscapes into cultural heritage preservation. However, due to the fact that many cultural landscapes are where local people live, planning and management of cultural landscapes are closely related to local residents’ production activities, customs, use and conservation of natural resources. The process for registration of rice terraces and irrigation canals in Ciharaay of Fengnan Village as a cultural landscape adopting a collaborative planning approach has successfully incorporated local knowledge, promoted mutual communication between relevant authorities and local people. The process stimulated the establishment of tribal autonomous Cultural Landscape Management Committee and Tribal Code of Conduct for the cultural landscape. Thanks to all the work done, the planning process of the Ciharaay cultural landscape has become a good example.

Rarity value

First, the range of Ciharaay cultural landscape includes the entire Stonehouse Ravine Stream watershed in which natural forests, streams, secondary forests, orchards, rice terraces, irrigation canals, ponds and settlements together construct a dynamic mosaic of social-ecological production landscapes. The Ciharaay cultural landscape is the only one, among 42 designated cultural landscapes of Taiwan, which employs a landscape and collaborative approach to the planning process. Second, rice terraces in eastern Taiwan are mostly located on alluvial plains or river terraces whereas the rice terraces in the Ciharaay cultural landscape are distributed down along sloping hills, and thus is a rarity. Third, some of the early reclaimed fields have been abandoned for 20-30 years, and thus can still be seen that small-scaled terraces and walling stone structures have remained intact. Also, large stones along original side slopes can be found in the fields. Such small and irregular-sized reclaimed terraces conforming to nature environment slowly vanished at a later time due to mechanized leveling and combining. Luckily, some spots of the designated cultural landscape have been brought under preservation and therefore have made its way to become an example of “fossil cultural landscape” of early rice terraces in eastern mountainous areas. Fourth,

Indigenous cultural value

‘Ciharaay’ in Amis language refers to two kinds of stream fish, Taitung river loach and Japanese monk goby, which are discovered in streams by Amis ancestors migrating from Taitung coast. Amis in east part of Taiwan is in their custom to name places after living things, mostly plants, with some after animals. However, to name a place after a species of fish is quite rare and that is why the discussed cultural landscape here has a high possibility to be a unique case, which may be associated with background of tribal migration from the coastal areas.

Challenges and Progresses

1)   Challenge 1 (feasible framework and institutional arrangements for application): Designation of Cultural Landscapes under newly amended Cultural Preservation Law provides opportunities for satoyama-like rural landscape conservation. However, most designated cultural landscapes are about historical architecture preservation. None employs an integrated landscape and community-based approach to benefiting both local people and their living landscapes. Progress of the case study: A mutually beneficial linkage between the local community and the local authority was suggested based on an analysis of feasible legal and administrative arrangements (Fig 4). The bottom-up Code of Conduct proposed by the Local Management Committee was deliberatively infused into the top-down Management Principles and Plan through a series of local stakeholder meetings and official meetings. The three-fold approach of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape (Fig 5) in light of the Satoyama Initiative was developed and agreed by all stakeholders to be the framework of the Mid-term Management Plan.

Fig 4 Mutually beneficial linkages between local community and local authority

Picture 5 PPGIS workshops were held for mapping production landscapes

Picture 6 A Local Management Committee meeting of Cihalaay Culture Landscape

Fig 5 Cihalaay three-fold approach to satoyama initiative

2)   Challenge 2 (design and exercise of a collaborative planning process): A satoyama-like cultural landscape is the outcome of a long-term interaction of local people and the rural environment. To sustain a satoyama-like landscape in an aging and declining rural area, a collaborative governance needs to be fostered to empower the local community while involving all stakeholders in the planning process. In Taiwan there is a lack of community-based case studies on the Satoyama Initiative to be learned from. Progress of the case study: In this project the research team employed Healey’s theory of collaborative planning to design and evaluate the multi-stakeholder participation processes. Knowledge resources for investigation and conservation of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape were created through active dialogue among the local community, experts and officials (Fig 6). With the help of the research team of National Dong Hwa University, a multi-stakeholder partnership platform composed of the Local Management Committee, the Cultural Landscape authorities and other relevant authorities was developed to enhance social capital among stakeholders (Fig 7). Seven formal stakeholder partnership platform meetings were conducted in the local village from July 2011 to March 2013 to help stakeholders discuss issues of the cultural landscape designation and reach consensus on the Management Plan. The Mid-term Management Plan of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape (Fig 8) comprises 6 elements including vision, legal basis, five strategies for action (see Fig 5), work tasks according to the strategies, time table and input of stakeholders (possible sources of funding and projects). Indicators for evaluating future outcomes have not yet been developed. The SEPLs indicator development and evaluation will be the next research topic of the case study.

Fig 6 Dialogue between expert knowledge and local knowledge to increase knowledge resources

Fig 7 Stakeholder Partnership Platform to build up social capital

Fig 8 Formulation of Management Plan to enhance mobilization capacity

Picture 7 Most multi-stakeholder platform meetings were held in the local village


The two-year action research projects have successfully introduced the Satoyama Initiative’s three-fold approach into formulation of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape Management Plan through a multi-stakeholder participation process. Based on an analysis of the legal and administrative arrangements, the projects facilitated dialogue between the local community and the governmental authorities and helped to transform the local code of conduct for Cihalaay Cultural Landscape into its formal Management Principles. The project helped the cultural landscape authority to conduct a series of stakeholder partnership platform meetings to reach consensus on the designation and the Management Plan of the Cihalaay Cultural Landscape. The case study shows that the landscape approach in light of the Satoyama Initiative can help to create a new style of protected areas (IUCN protected area category V) into Taiwan’s national protected area system. The Satoyama Initiative can be applied not only beyond but also within protected areas.

Picture 8 College students worked with local youth on rice transplanting

Picture 9 Geo- and Eco-tourism can contribute local economy