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At first glance, the Satoyama initiative seems like a simple concept conjuring images of picture perfect mountains, streams and wildflowers as its principles emphasize the harmonious co-existence of human welfare enhancement and natural environment improvement. Satoyama, a Japanese concept stemming from two Japanese words—“Sato” which means village and “yama” which means hill or mountain is a concept developed through centuries of small-scale agricultural and forestry use, focusing on the spirit of preservation and utilization.

Complex web

However, in today’s modern world, the “Satoyama Initiative” has become a more complex web of a concept, embracing and cross cutting the principles of  biodiversity, conservation, sustainable management, use of natural resources, agricultural technologies, governance, properly functioning ecosystems, etc. 

Recently, FFTC, together with the Hualien District Agricultural Research Extension Station (HDARES), the Forestry Bureau (FB), the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) and the International Partnership of Satoyama Inititative (IPSI) organized a symposium on “Implementing the Satoyama Initiative for the Benefit of Biodiversity and Human Well-Being.” Attended by 14 speakers from seven countries (India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand), the said symposium aims to share the ideas of rural resource management and ecosystem service, exchange experiences in the application of the Satoyama Initiative and strengthen international cooperation among regional agricultural institutions, NGOs and experts.

“This symposium is actually part of the five program themes of FFTC’s Strategic Action Plan for 2019-2020,” says FFTC Director Dr. Kuo-Ching Lin, during his welcome remarks at the Hualien DARES International Conference Room. “In particular, it addresses our theme number 5, which is on rural resource management covering the management of mountains and farmlands, irrigation, environment, organic resources and rural community.”

The two-day symposium, was divided into four sessions: 1) knowledge enhancement to share the traditional ecological knowledge system and related modern science technologies; 2) policy research and capacity building, to exchange the idea of policy implementation and the local communities’ self-supply capacity building; 3) country reports, to share the examples and experiences in the region; and 4) policy forum, to open an interdisciplinary dialogue to search for solution for policy making.

In two days, speakers, all of whom are Satoyama advocates like Dr. Evonne Yiu, a keynote speaker who is a Research Fellow of the United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, talked about changing mindsets in order for people to progress and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. She said the key elements of transformative change are addressing climate change and biodiversity together, tackling the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, replicating and scaling successful policies and projects, coordinating and integrating cross-sectoral actions, evolving economic and financial systems for sustainability, and ensuring inclusive governance structures.

Traditional knowledge and modern science

Experts from different countries also shared their experiences on working with people in rural areas, particularly those close to mountains and slopelands, and how they consolidated the wisdom of traditional knowledge and modern science. Topics like biodiversity conservation, economic forest plantation, community reserved areas, environmentally friendly agricultural technologies, ecological engineering, knowledge sharing on Socio-ecological Production of Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) were discussed lengthily bringing out important issues mostly connected to governance and public policies.

Some of the recommendations generated from the discussion and policy forum include the following: 1) Strengthen the role of government as facilitators to continue the Satoyama initiative promotion; 2) Emphasize livelihoods to get equal balance in rural management; 3) Consider SEPLS as a corridor that links rural areas and nature; 4) Consider the landscape approach for sustainable use and sharing while making policies; 5) Embrace all kinds of diversity; 6) Disseminate rural management policies to all stakeholders at all levels to connect all sectors with policy cohesion; 7) Listen, understand, learn and use government resources to improve the Satoyama Initiative implementation; 8) Identify the optimal indicators and conduct investigations on which measurements are appropriate for evaluation; 9) Encourage farmers to follow and educate consumers; and 10) Continue to seek ways to improve the environment and increase biodiversity to let people notice the benefits of environmentally friendly actions.

After the symposium, the speakers and participants had an educational trip to different sites in Hualien to observe the various cases of Satoyama Initiatives in Taiwan. These are the Matai’an Wetland, an ecological fishing village, the Cilamitay tribe where they observed the rice paddy cultural practices, Loshan village, where they witnessed the production of mud volcano organic tofu, the Manna Cooperative and the Jia-ming tea garden.


From left to right: Dr. Kuang Chung Lee, Associate Professor of NDHU; Mr. Wen-Long Lo, Director of Agriculture Bureau, Hualien County Gov.; Dr. Hwa-Ching Lin, Director General, FB; Dr. Chin-Cheng Huang, Deputy Minister, COA; Dr. Kou-Ching Lin, Director, FFTC; Mr. Bin Chang, Director General, TFRI; Ms. Li-Hwa Du, Director, HDARES; Dr. Ling-Ling Lee, Professor, NTU.


FFTC Director Dr. Kuo-Ching Lin is the chairman of the Policy Forum, an interdisciplinary dialogue to search for possible solutions to the problems faced by Satoyama advocates.


Dr. Evonne Yiu, Research Fellow of the United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, delivers the keynote address on “Conserving Biodiversity for Sustainable Futures - Perspectives from the International Satoyama Initiative.” She introduce the meaning of SEPLS (landscapes altered by and with communities over time) and the platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing on SEPLS: IPSI (International Partnership of Satoyama Initiative).


The Satoyama Policy Forum, which is moderated by FFTC Director Dr. Kuo-Ching Lin (5th from left), has the following Satoyama experts as panelists: (From L to R) Ms. Rong-Sheng Sha; Dr. Ling-Ling Lee; Dr. Kuang-Chung Lee; Mr. Yasuo Takahashi, Dr. Evonne Yiu; Dr. Ta-Chi Yang, and Dr. Wan-Yu Liu.


There are around 250 participants who attend the Satoyama Initiative symposium at the Hualien DARES. This group photo is taken after the opening ceremonies.


The speakers and participants visit the Cilamitay Tribe to observe and learn about the farmers’ practices on a rice paddy cultural landscape.