Incorporating Green Energy into Smart Agriculture to Create Regional Circular and Ecological Spheres (R-CES)
OTHER CONTRIBUTING ORGANIZATIONS
DATE OF SUBMISSION
Chao-Wen Wang, Kuang-Chung Lee, Hsin-Hsun Huang, Ding-Wun Chen
1. Wenteng Technology Consultrants Co.Ltd
2. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, National Dong Hwa University, Hualien County, Chinese Taipei
3. Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei
4. Agriculture Department, New Taipei City Government
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area
The Datun Mountain System is the only active volcano on the main island of Taiwan. The landscape is composed of traditional mountain settlements on the west side of the Datun Mountains. There are many hills and forests, with abundant rainfall. Most of the rural communities under the Datun Mountain System rely on primary industries as their main source of income, and they also make good use of the landscape to promote eco-tourism, attracting many young farmers to return to their hometowns. Furthermore, residents use the hilly terrain to develop terraced fields and create bio-friendly habitats; rich in biodiversity has also become an important resource for environmental education and ecological tours, such as the practice of environmentally friendly and circular agriculture in the Zhongliao community of Tamsui District, the use of the advantageous surrounding mountain scenery in the Zhongshan community, the operation and management of smart tea gardens in the Shuxing community, the inheritance and utilization of terraced fields and stone masonry in the Songshan community of Shimen District, and the landscape culture of Sanban Bridge in the Letian community of Sanzhi District, etc.
Among them, the Zhongliao community is located at the foot of the Datun Mountain, in the north-central mountainous area east of Tamsui, Taiwan. The community is surrounded by mountains on the east, south, and north sides, forming a mountainous valley terrain. Its altitude is about 70-130 m, and the total population is about 1,300 people, with the elderly population accounting for 23%. The total area of the community is about 313 hectares. The water system of the community originates from the Datun Volcano Group, and the Gongsitian Rivier, the largest river in Tamsui, runs through the whole community. The Gongsitian Rivier is about 13.5 km long and passes through Gangzihping before entering the Taiwan Strait. In addition, there are two large springs under Beixin Road on the east side of the community, which have been developed into irrigation channels and merged into the Gongsitian River from the south side. Its branched canals are mainly used for irrigation, providing high-quality irrigation water for many farmlands along the River.
The farmland area of the Zhongliao community is 131.87 hectares, accounting for 42.36% of the community area (the largest in the community), followed by secondary forest area of 121.51 hectares, accounting for 39.03% of the community area, while the settlement area is 34.72 hectares, accounting for 11.15% of the community area. The industry of the area is currently dominated by primary industry, which mainly focuses on the planting of water bamboo and organic vegetables. In recent years, the community has actively promoted eco-friendly farming, organic vegetable and fruit cultivation, quality agriculture, and agricultural product processing (such as kale leaves, pumpkins, lotus roots, and sesame seeds). Moreover, terraced fields have been utilized to develop leisure agriculture based on the theme of rural recreation. The community is also close to protected areas, such as the Yangmingshan National Park and slopeland conservation area, that give rise to rich biological and cultural diversity and foster several low- and middle-altitude animals and plants, becoming an important ecological site in northern Taiwan.
The Residents used hilly terrain to develop terraced fields for growing crops. In the past decade, they have been engaged in the ecological restoration of paddy field habitats. In addition to dredging the water source of the farmland, they also use aquatic plants to purify part of the discharge water prior to releasing it into the river, so that the water quality in the lower reaches of the river can be improved, reducing eutrophication, and providing a good habitat for animals. The rich ecological diversity has also become an important resource for environmental education and ecological tour.
The Zhongliao community is also rich in biodiversity. According to the “Blueprint and Development Plan of the National Ecological Green Network”, conducting a value-added analysis of 5 taxonomical groups of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and butterflies in the community, and deleting the alien species or naturalized species, it was found that among the 42 species of mammals in Taiwan, 21 species were found in the community, such as pangolin and crab-eating mongoose, etc. Among the total 110 species of birds in Taiwan, 49 species were found in the community, such as the crested serpent eagle, black kite, gray-faced buzzard, etc. Among the total 25 species of amphibians in Taiwan, 18 species were found in the community, such as the small tree frog and the rice field frog, etc. Among the total 48 species of reptiles in Taiwan, 21 species were found in the community, such as brown spotted pitviper and striped water snake. Among the total 82 species of butterflies in Taiwan, 39 species were found in the community, such as Indian Cabbage White butterfly and pea blue butterfly.
Description of human-nature interactions in the area
The Zhongliao community near the Gongsitian Rivier under the Datun Mountain System used to have beautiful mountain scenery and good quality water. The streams were clean and rich in fish and shrimp. In the past, the ancestors who developed the area made good use of the springs and streams under the Datun Mountain to build drinking water as well as irrigation systems and ponds, allowing the fields and slopes to be abundant in rice, vegetables, fruits, tea, etc., to feed future generations. However, with the impact of urbanization and industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, the young population in the community started to move out to places with convenient transportation, the farming population gradually aged, and the labor force declined. In addition, due to the wide use of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, the original fertile land became a “nonpoint source” pollution, which caused the water quality of the Gongsitian Rivier to deteriorate. Moreover, the establishment of aquaculture farms, copper manufacturing factories and pig farms also affected air quality and generated wastewater as well as waste in rivers to gradually destroy the ecological environment and water resources in the community, slowly expanding the area of fallow land.
In order to maintain the community’s environmental ecology and to protect the health of the residents, the community began to establish a platform with various ministries and councils of the government to jointly formulate related plans in 2013. Under the guidance of the Satoyama Initiative, the Agriculture Bureau of New Taipei City, the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau and the community residents worked together to spread knowledge through educational courses and visits. The Agriculture Bureau of New Taipei City has gradually introduced new agricultural knowledge to farmers in the community, allowing the residents to build a consensus on the protection of the community environment, changing the deeply rooted conventional farming to eco-friendly farming year by year and expanding its area. At the same time, they develop quality agriculture and eco-tourism to promote urban-rural exchanges, utilize smart green energy, and create niches for young people to return to their hometowns. Furthermore, a circular economy model was introduced to improve the benefits of the community and ecology, create a healthier living environment, and restore abundant biodiversity.
The Zhongliao Community aims to achieve the goal of “conserving and utilizing socio-ecological production landscape resources”, and move towards the vision of “harmonious coexistence between man and nature” through the following four strategic orientations:
1. Establishing community partnerships, cultivating local talents and developing cross-domain cooperation.
2. Helping young people who return to their hometowns utilize terraced wetlands and implement circular agriculture.
3. Transforming abandoned fields into technological farms and renting them out to urban residents for cultivation to promote mutually benefit between urban and rural areas.
4. Using renewable energy to develop smart green energy communities, promoting carbon reduction and smart agriculture.
Activities and/or practices employed
1.Establishing community partnerships, cultivating local talents and developing cross-domain cooperation
The Zhongliao community has participated in the Rural Rejuvenation Project since 2013, and holds weekly community meetings to examine potential problems in the living circle. In 2021, through the Ecology and Resilience Assessment Workshop based on the Satoyama Initiative, discussions were made on how to combine resources and engage in effectively, so that the community can better implement the concept of the Satoyama Initiative. During the period, experts on the Satoyama Initiative, Agricultural Bureau, enterprises and other relevant units were invited to conduct in-depth on-site visits for guidance and diagnosis and provide improvement suggestions, jointly promoting the community to carry out ecological conservation and other related practical actions. Furthermore, ecological conservation combined with diverse educational concepts were adopted to offer jointly educational courses with surrounding schools, develop local characteristic diverse courses, and lead the children to tour the community through the complete process of planting and experiencing the local ingredients.
2.Helping young people who return to their hometowns utilize terraced wetlands and implement circular agriculture.
Due to the effect of urbanization that leads to serious out-migration of community population and the impact of climate change, the community realized the importance of protecting the environment and the impact on rivers. Therefore, the community association helped attract young people to return to their hometowns and engage in agriculture, guiding them to develop towards organic and eco-friendly farming. Among them, the young farmers of the Yuanfeng Organic Farm not only grow organic vegetables and maintain ecological habitats but also actively tries experiments on crops and soil, hoping to improve the condition of soil acidification caused by farming. The organic waste produced by animal husbandry is fermented and used as organic fertilizer for farm planting and feed for laying hens, so that the process of organic planting and organic animal husbandry can form a cycle of its own, thereby creating a new type of eco-friendly farming. Since 2016, the community has worked hard to implement the concept of Aquaponics, a food production system that couples aquaculture with the hydroponics. In this concept, the wastewater from the upstream fish farms is introduced into the adjacent fields for irrigation. The growth characteristics of Gramineae (mainly planting water bamboo) are used to purify wastewater, and the excretion of fish is the best source of nitrogen fertilizer for plants. The purified water is then introduced into the adjacent Gongsitian River, allowing other species to survive, and achieving a living environment of ecological harmony and coexistence with practical actions.
3.Transforming abandoned fields into technological farms and renting them out to urban residents for cultivation to promote mutually benefit between urban and rural areas. Through concept communication, the community encouraged the elderly to accept the outsource farming and renting model of farmland. The local farmland that has been abandoned due to lack of manpower was revitalized with more than 180 units of land per hectare; farms were rented out to urban residents, shortening the distance between urban and rural areas. Farming was carried out in a eco-friendly way without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Currently, 180 urban residents have participated in event, using their holidays to experience farming life. Earnings of more than NT$ 500,000 were made each year to gave back to the community, and more than a hundred catties of the harvested vegetables were donated to the North Coast Social Welfare Center. In recent years, farms have adopted smart remote climate monitoring technology. City residents can remotely and effectively grasp the field climate and crop growth images, digitize and visualize the field environment to effectively manage farmland, and make farming more precise and efficient.
4.Using renewable energy to develop smart green energy communities, promoting carbon reduction and smart agriculture. In order to respond to the government’s energy conservation, carbon reduction and green energy policies and to properly solve the water quality problems of streams, after communicating and coordinating with the Agriculture Bureau of New Taipei City, the Community Development Association and the fishery industry, the preliminary idea was to divert the upstream fish pond bottom sludge to the downstream water bamboo field for purification. Furthermore, in response to the policy of green energy development promoted by the government, the purified sludge is pumped out by a pumping system powered by solar energy, and used by local farmers as fertilizers, achieving the benefits of integrating green energy technology with circular agricultural applications. Such circular-economy based agricultural model that turns bottom sludge into farmland fertilizer takes into account water source protection, ecological conservation and sustainability, air purification and improvement of local residents’ quality of life. Through this project, practical actions were taken to achieve a living environment that harmoniously co-exist with the ecology, assisting the community in promoting wetland improvement. Furthermore, by harvesting and selling the produced healthy vegetables, water bamboo and calla taro, the community can earn additional income. Through the community discussions on giving back the benefits of eco-friendly farming to public welfare, the returning youths are willing to initially provide some of the agricultural products from eco-friendly farming to the community for agri-food education or making meals for elders in the community, so as to bring social welfare and feedback mechanism into full play. This protects local water resources and creates sustainable agriculture with natural resource circulation as well as local characteristics to achieve the goal of maintaining harmony between nature conservation and local economy based on the Satoyama Initiative. In 2020, community members and the Tamsui Cultural Foundation established the “New Taipei City Smart Green Energy Community Cooperation” to jointly promote citizen power plants and utilize green energy resources. Moreover, to avoid affecting the ecological environment and the existing industries in the local community, the solar panels in the area are all installed on the roofs of houses and buildings, rather than on farmland and flat land. Since the concept and achievements of the community are gradually recognized by government agencies and enterprises in the community, they also join the team to promote green energy, expanding the spread and benefits of green energy. It is hoped that citizen power plant can be expanded to other communities, and traditional knowledge can be combined with smart energy technology to shape the resilient rural area, adding value to community development and ecological conservation to practice the spirit of the Satoyama Initiative.
1. Establish community partnerships, cultivate local talents and develop cross-domain cooperation
The Zhongliao community has participated in the Rural Rejuvenation Project since 2013, and established a seven-member task force to hold community affair promotion meetings every week. After one year, more than 30 people participated in the meetings. In 2021, through the Ecology and ResilienceAssessment Workshop based on the Satoyama Initiative, the community combined resources, carried out investment effectively, perform diagnosis gradually to find out improvement countermeasures, and linked with industries (Tamsui Cultural Foundation, Green Energy Cooperation and Hui Wei Leisure Agriculture Park), government agencies (Agriculture Bureau of New Taipei City, and Soil and Water
Conservation Bureau of Council of Agriculture), schools (Shuiyuan Elementary School, Jhongshan Experimental Elementary School, Mackay Junior College of Medicine, Nursing and Management, and St. John’s University) and the resources of organizational units to jointly promote practical actions, such as ecological conservation, in the community. In addition, the community also organizes 3 hours of diverse-education courses in conjunction with surrounding schools every week, guiding students to personally experience and participate in the agri-food education of eco-friendly farming, ecological education in the native plant area of Kouhuzai Bridge, cultural conservation education and experiencing
activities on earth house, and touring the community through the complete process of planting and experiencing the local ingredients. In recent years, the neighboring Jhongshan Experimental Elementary School has also used the community as a teaching resource, and jointly organized activities such as firefly season and beetle season with the community, allowing the students to tour the community in person. Furthermore,
community facilities and ideas, such as the aquaponics system and the operation of solar panels, etc., were introduced through the integration of community and education, allowing the protection of ecological environment and the virtues of civic literacy to take root.
2. Utilizing terraced wetlands to implement circular agriculture
The community residents realized the environmental impact of conventional farming and fallowing in the past; therefore they voluntarily set up aquatic plant areas (wetlands) at the bottom of the arable land to decompose and absorb residual fertilizers and then discharge them into streams to achieve water purification and conservation, form a dragonfly breeding site. Currently, 16 wetlands have been formed to restore abundant ecological resources. Due to the active promotion and implementation of ecofriendly farming by various organizations in the community, 10 local farm households have carried out compost of chicken manure to promote eco-friendly farming, which drove the establishment of 2 organic certified farms, 3 agritourism farms and 5 farms with green conservation label, enriching the diversity of ecological species and creating an environmentally friendly habitat. In addition, farmers were guided to plant vegetables in screen houses, or plant non-food crops. The long-term effect is remarkable. Through the natural compost required for eco-friendly farming, rhinoceros beetles and stag
beetles are indirectly restored. After 10 years of hard work, the biodiversity in the community has become more abundant; the iconic species, “Pyrops watanabei”, has been restored, and the eco-friendly farming area has increased from 2 hectares to 13 hectares. Moreover, the number of enterprises and schools participating in community environmental education held annually reached an average of more than 2,000 people, creating 16,000 leisure tour visits per year and an average annual agricultural output value of more than NT$ 12.85 million.
3. Helping young people return home to participate in eco-friendly farming
The community engaged in agricultural and leisure tourism industries for sustainable development. In recent years, more than 30 volunteers, 2 environmental education lecturers, and 2 Satoyama seed teachers in the community have been engaged in local agriculture-related work, and have continuously collaborated with the surrounding 2 elementary schools and 1 high school to carry out conservation education. Based on the creation of common good, the Zhongliao community will be expanded into a large-scale circular economy demonstration zone based on the current achievements, allowing more people to understand the essence of sustainable development. According to the statistics, from 2013 to 2021, a total of 43 people were employed locally, and 6 young farmers returned to their hometowns to engage in eco-friendly farming and organic agriculture, such as short-term leafy vegetables, cabbages, root & stem vegetables, fruit vegetables, miscellaneous grains, others (roselle, water mint), creating a variety of habitats and achieving a natural ecological cycle and balance. In addition, through the Rural Rejuvenation Project, agri food educational site was created for the collaboration with universities to develop pumpkin curry, pumpkin egg rolls, sweet potato swiss roll and other secondary processed products. Moreover, a short cultural tour of the Yanlou historical site was incorporated to offer a full range of rural cultural experience.
4.Using renewable energy to promote smart green energy community, realizing carbon reduction and smart agriculture
Under the guidance of the Chairman, the community promoted the development of green energy through the cooperation of local residents, and at the same time shared the benefits of green electricity, aiming at achieving the goal of energy transition. In view of this, the community set up its citizen power plant in July 2020, and the landowners in the community agreed to provide the land free of charge for the investment in green energy. Up to now, there are 7 power plants that are in operation, producing a total of 416,911 kWh of power generation. The produced electricity was sold to Taipower, and 5% of the revenue from the power generation were allocated as the community development fund for elderly care. Moreover, through the conversion of ecosystem service value, a total of 264,812.1 kg of CO2 emissions have been reduced, which is equivalent to saving 22,939 trees. The development of green energy is relatively friendly to the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The Smart Agricultural Circular Economy Demonstration Zone has been implemented to solve the water quality problem in streams, hoping to reduce the amount of ammonia nitrogen and eliminate eutrophication in water sources. In addition, according to the results of the ecological survey for the sampling area near the Zhongtianliao No. 2 canal, a total of 70 species and 842 birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, shrimps, crabs and butterflies were observed, including 3 rare protected wild species (Crested myna, Collared scops owl, Crested serpent eagle), 9 endemic species of Taiwan (Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, Streakbreasted scimitar babbler, Muller’s barbet, Swinhoe’s japalura, Rana longicrus, Taiwan giant grouper, Taiwan shovel jaw carp, Candidia barbata, and Rhinogobius candidianus) and 9 endemic subspecies of Taiwan (Black drongo, Apus nipalensis, Prinia inornata, Crested myna, Dendrocitta formosae, Collared 20 scops owl, Chinese bulbul, Crested serpent eagle, and Chinese skink). The cycle of nature is utilized to generate endless energy to provide safe life for the community and to purify streams. In the future, it is hoped that more people will pay attention to the environment and foster the value of ecological conservation, make use of natural resources in a more eco-friendly approach and create production value based on ecological sustainability.
1. Effective reutilization of water resources is an important issue worldwide. The Zhongliao community applied traditional wisdom and eco-friendly farming to revitalize the traditional Satoyama production landscape resources, which not only increased the income of the community,
but also restored the natural ecology. At the same time, modern technology of smart agriculture was combined with green photovoltaic electricity to move towards the goal of low-carbon living circle. The combination of smart green energy and wetland construction was adopted to optimize the water quality of streams and promote circular agriculture, demonstrating the new style of the Satoyama landscape, and shaping the future of harmonious coexistence with nature.
2. The concept of the Satoyama Initiative emphasizes that people’s lives are interdependent withnature, and that the use of natural resources does not exceed the capacity and resilience of the environment. The Zhongliao community used management knowledge to restore farm wetlands and develop circular economy based agriculture to meet the goals of increasing biodiversity, improving microclimate farmland, and implementing ecological resource recycling, achieving conservation, utilization and sustainable operation of “socio-ecological production landscapes”.
3. Local participation and community interaction will make impact on the Satoyama Initiative. The Zhongliao community has formed an important social network through the return of young farmers. By combining local traditional technology with wetland restoration, the community has developed a sustainable management approach on how to effectively recycle natural resources, while conserving and utilizing the local cultural value, achieve the protection of production landscape in the Satoyama Initiative.
4. The promotion of ecological tours by the community can connect recreational points into lines or
even planes, creating a new direction for the development of rural leisure agriculture, and building
a vision together with the use of land and environmental ecology.
It is hoped that in the future, the experience of this community accumulated can be shared with people in Taiwan and around the world. Furthermore, online and on-site exchanges between communities in Taiwan and around the world can be carried out, so that we can learn from each other on how to face and overcome the challenges, and pass on our successful experiences to young people in future generations.
Relationship to other IPSI activities
1. Soil and Water Conservation Bureau, Agriculture Committee, Executive Yuan. Rural Regeneration Project
2. Visit and learn from the Gongrong Community in Sanzhi District of New Taipei City. Rural Regeneration Development Plan
Agriculture Department, New Taipei City Government
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