- Posted January 7, 2013 by
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The Economic Value of the Water Terraces in Hualien and New Taipei City Worth More Than 5 Hundred Millions Per Year
Author: Jing-Huei, Liao / Translator: Yu-Ching, Wang / Photo Provided: Jing-Huei, Liao via flickr
Water terraces are located in the buffer zones between cities and forests. Different ecosystems meet at water terraces, which cultivates abundant biodiversity. In recent years, the Forestry Bureau has been assisting some communities to conserve the water terraces. However, little attention has been put because the value of the water terraces is not yet monetized. According to the estimation done by the research team of professor Hong-Zhi Hong, the economic value of the water terraces in Hualien and New Taipei city worth about 513,600,000 NTD per year.
Monetization Facilitates Communications toward the Public
“For political communications, all the costs and benefits should be able to be calculated. The values must be monetized so that the public can understand and communicate.” said Hong-Zhi Hong, the professor of the department of Real Estate and Built Environment at National Taipei University. This year, his research team have used the Contingent Valuation Method to assess the values of cultural landscapes and ecosystems on the water terraces.
The study may provide some policy directions for the agricultural departments. During the surveys, some interviewees have never seen water terraces and didn’t understand the importance, so background information was needed. “This is like the conservation polar bears. Since it’s an environmental indicator, you have to protect it even if you have never seen it. The importance does not change.” stated Hong-Zhi Hong. Based on the surveys carried out in Hualien and in New Taipei city, the interviewees think that the agricultural multifunctionality of water terraces is very important. They also agree that the conservation of water terraces would be beneficial for individuals, communities and future generations. The results showed that the interviewees would be willing to pay 318 NTD per year to conserve the water terraces. That is, the total value worth about 513,600,000 NTD per year.
“The factors that influence the interviewees’ willingness to pay for the conservation include age, sex, education, income, residential area, understanding of water terraces, satisfactory with the conservation results and recognition of ecosystem values.” Said Hong-Zhi Hong.
Disregard for Agricultural Multifunctionality
Although different countries have different interpretations of agricultural multifunctionality, most countries put emphasis on its meaning for the society, culture and environment. Water terraces are the common field landscapes and shared memories for farmers in Taiwan as well as in other southeast asian countries.
Since the rotational farming is conducted and different crops are cultivated, special cultural landscapes and wedlands are formed on the water terraces. Thus, water terraces have specific social and environmental values for biodiversity maintenance, ecosystems conservation and cultural landscapes.
“The role of agricultural field ecosystems is often neglected and underestimated. It’s not always good to avoid man-made interferences. For instance, artificial secondary forests can provide habitats for small rodents and mammals. Today, however, agricultural scientist put more emphasis on the production role of the fields than on the ecosystems.” said Hua-Qing Lin, the technical specialist of the Forestry Bureau.
Restore the Water Terraces and Maintain the Biodiversity
Lack of competitiveness of agricultural production and labor force, water terraces no longer play the role of crop production. However, little by little, more attentions are put on the ecosystems and cultural landscapes.
In cooperation with local governments and organizations, since 2009 the Forestry Bureau has been promoting ecosystem restoration of water terraces and stimulating economic recovery in Bayian village, Jilin Village and Shitiping. The dried-out terraces are full of water again, and wetland ecosystems and cultural landscapes are rebuilt. In addition, this project has encouraged farmers to conduct eco-friendly farming and to participate in conservation works.
Light the Fire of Restoration
“After joining the WTO, Taiwanese government has provided a lot of subsidies on the agricultural fields” stated Hong-Zhi Hong. “Price support is not allowed, but currently the fallow sudsidy implemented have caused land damages. The budget should be used to subsidize eco-friendly farmlands.”
Although restoration results are shown on some water terraces, the speed is still too slow to be popularized. Hong-Zhi Hong believes that the restoration counts on the integration of farmers, communities and environmental conditions.