Over the years, many countries in the Asia and Pacific region have made remarkable progress in economic growth. However, the gap between urban and rural development has expanded. As such, growth has benefited mainly the urban population and has hardly trickled down to rural areas where the poverty rate remains high and job opportunities remain scarce. This trend, if not corrected, will lead to a continuous exodus of the population from rural to urban areas. Rural areas will become more unproductive, while urban areas will be affected by overpopulation that could lead to breakdowns in social services. It is critical to promote inclusive growth and development through accelerating the revitalization of rural economies.
Revitalization of rural economies is required for maintaining and revitalizing local communities, conservation of natural resources and environment, sustainable food production, protection of natural landscapes, maintenance of biodiversity, and preservation of wildlife. The main challenges in revitalizing rural economies are dwindling manpower, degradation of natural resources, a widening technology divide, poor infrastructure, weak farm-market linkages, land access and rights issues, limited access to affordable credit, and effects of climate change and associated natural disasters. There is a growing need for the revitalization of rural economies to promote inclusive growth in the region.
In many developing countries, the status of revitalization of the rural economy is far from satisfactory but countries like the Republic of China have undertaken successful initiatives in this area. Many lessons can be learned from the achievements of the host country, which can serve as a valuable reference for countries interested in promoting revitalization of rural economies and inclusive growth.
OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION
M. Membrere, DTI Region I
• To gain knowledge on how Taiwan is implementing its Rural Revitalizing/ Regeneration Program and what is the framework for its implementation;
• To learn or gain insights on the different approaches and strategies Taiwan is using to effectively carry-out its Rural Regeneration Program (RRP) and how this could also be implemented in the rural areas in my region;
• As member of the Regional Poverty Action Team of Region 1, I want to observe and study how the bottom-up approach is being use as an effective tool in the successful implementation of Taiwan’s Rural Revitalization Program.
The APO in collaboration with the Council of Agriculture (COA) Executive Yuan, China Productivity Center, and National 4-H Club Association organized the Multicountry Observational Study Mission on Revitalizing Rural Economies for More Inclusive Development in Taipei, the Republic of China, 14-18 September 2015. Hon. Minister, COA Executive Yuan Dr. Bao-Ji Chen delivered the inaugural address. APO Secretary-General Mari Amano delivered welcome remarks through the video link.
Twenty-four (24) participants from fourteen (14) member countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Republic of China, India, Indonesia, IR Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand) and five observers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, who represented the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), attended.
The two participants from the Philippines are both from the National Government Agency:
Atty. Raul S. Anlocotan
Assitant Regional Director
National Economic and Development Authority- Region 6
Ms. Merlie D. Membrere
Department of Trade and Industry – Region I
SCOPE, CONTENT, METHODOLOGY
Four (4) resource persons from the Republic of China and Germany shared their expertise through thematic presentations on topics related to the Revitalization of Rural Economies. The study mission consisted of visits to and interactive sessions with six local communities which were successfully engaged in rural revitalization, thematic presentations, and breakout sessions.
Five (5) Presentations were made on the first day prior to the field visits, they are as follows :
Presentation 1: Revitalization of Rural Economies to achieve inclusive growth: An Overview by Mr. Etienne Dustin Salborn, Founder and Lead Facilitator, Social Innovation Academy (SINA), Uganda;
Presentation 2: Social enterprise for revitalization of rural communities by Mr. Etienne Dustin Salborn, Founder and Lead Facilitator, Social Innovation Academy(SINA), Uganda;
Presentation 3: Initiatives to revitalize rural economies: experience of the Republic of China by Prof. Hung Hao Chang, Professor Department of Agricultural Economics, National Taiwan University, ROC
Presentation 4: Legislation, policy and institutional arrangements for revitalizing rural economies by Dr. Tsu-Lung Chou , Professor Graduate Institute for Urban Planning , National Taipei University, ROC
Presentation 5: Entrepreneurship and creative and value-added businesses for revitalizing rural economies by Mr. chin-Hui Wang, Director, Taitung Branch of Soil and Water Conservation Bureau, COA, Executive Huan, ROC
It is noteworthy to note that during the site visits, all the 6 communities that were visited has its own Rural Regeneration Theme and embraces an ecosystem environment, as follows :
- Nanpu Community: Rice ears, Tangerine and the Sunset , the Golden Village of Canals;
- Zhaomen Community: A Community with Ecological Beauty;
- Jietoufen Community: The Birthplace of Taiwanese Opera;
- Neicheng Community: Metal Ox, Water Buffalo and the Organic Natural Farming Village;
- Gongrong Community: Tightly Related to Our life – Balian River;
- Green Bamboo Community: A Livable Community in a Green Bamboo Forest;
M. Membrere, DTI Region I
One important outcome of the study mission was the widespread view among the experts and participants that accelerating the revitalization of rural economies is required for maintaining and regenerating local communities, conservation of natural resources and environment, sustainable food production, protection of natural landscapes, and maintenance of biodiversity. Thus it can be one important option to help APO countries to promote inclusive development. Additionally, experts shared experience in the effective strategies, approaches, and successful models of revitalization of rural economies.
The following findings and observations were also noted during the 5 days attendance to the aforementioned program.
1.Setting clear visions and goals together with communities for revitalizing approaches and strategies based on local needs, indigenous knowledge and skills, culture and available resources while protecting the local environment, culture, heritage, and values;
2. Fostering creativity and sustainability were on top of the agenda for the community development;
3. Each community had a unique regeneration theme to promote hope, happiness, well being, and sustainability in their community. For example: promotion of local culture and heritage, selling of local products and local brands, use of local raw materials for making products, environmentally-friendly farming, Eco-tourism, or attracting youth to rural areas and agriculture. They revived their cultural heritage to attract people to go back to their rural villages;
4. Revitalization efforts included the production and promotion of niche products (e.g., organic/Eco-friendly rice or tangerine), local consumption (e.g., green bamboo), and effectively addressing the local problems (e.g., decline in population, low productivity, fixing embankments, providing basic amenities of life to senior citizens, etc.) through shared values and a common vision for improvement;
5. The communities worked hand in hand together with the government’s rural regeneration approach in order to set visions and long-term action plans with yearly steps. The national 4-H club association is tasked by the government to look into the Rural Regeneration Program;
6. The remarkable success of local communities in revitalizing themselves was due largely to the horizontal strategy and bottom-up participatory approach of Taiwan for its rural regeneration. As compared to the BuB approach that we are having in the Philippines, the RRP in Taiwan focused more on capacitating the local residents and identifying empowerment program to guide the community in proposing sustainable project of the community or village;
7. Educated, committed, dedicated and confident community leadership was able to create consensus among members of each community to set a vision and a step-by-step revitalization plan;
8. Most community leaders returned to their native communities after quitting their urban jobs or retiring from the jobs;
9. Close cooperation between the community leaders and the government officers with strong government support were successful instruments in executing the revitalization plans;
10. Development of value-added products and promotion of Agro/Eco-tourism were critical to increase incomes of community members;
11. Community’s awareness of their strengths and the effective use of available resources in their area were obvious;
12. Participation and integration of young people in the activities for revitalization of local communities;
14. Rehabilitation and conservation of natural resources (land, water, biodiversity, etc.) and sustainable green productivity were an integral part of the process of revitalization of rural communities;
15. Good connectivity of rural communities with urban areas through sophisticated infrastructure such as roads, railways, and information and communication technologies was helping the revitalization of communities through attracting more tourists and easy market access;
16. Creating a community asset inventory ranked according to importance is a meaningful step in the process to revitalize a rural economy;
RECOMMENDATION AND ACTION STEPS
M. Membrere, DTI Region I
1. To optimize the use of limited resources, different options for revitalization of rural economies and communities need to be identified, prioritized and shall follow a systematic approach to formulating situation-specific and need-based appropriate revitalization policies;
2. To promote preservation and rehabilitation of locally available natural resources, policies to compensate the communities for provision of public goods and services are needed;
3. For an effective implementation of rural revitalization plans, integration of policies and programs for revitalization of rural economies and communities into the general policy framework for rural development which involves multiple sectors and a close cooperation among the key stakeholders are required. These are communities, the government, private sector, NGOs, and civil society organizations;
4. To transform natural potential of local communities into economic opportunities, diversification in rural economic activities needs to be promoted. Examples among others can be recreation Eco-parks, Eco-tourism, farm/home stay, natural and organic products or local brands. Such policies and approaches should enable the rural economy to become the engine of a sustainable revitalization of the area;
5. It is crucial to build capacity of local communities to think outside-the-box and identify and assess strengths and available assets (e.g., capacities of individuals, institutions and organizations or physical resources). Education, entrepreneurial mind-sets and capacity building are essential components to enable communities to actively participate in the process of local revitalization through creating new opportunities, innovative products and processes, and value-added businesses;
6. Governments should encourage participation of rural communities in the development of their own local revitalization plans, assist in their making and provide support on implementing initiatives of rural revitalization which are planned through the bottom-up approach;
7. There is need to promote local brands and products through electronic and print media and e-marketing;
8. Best practices in the revitalization process should be documented in English and to be shared to allow for learning from each other across countries;
9. APO should organize more multicountry programs in different member countries, as well as non-member countries to learn from successful initiatives undertaken;
10. APO should provide consultancy in member countries through experts. APO should also support the follow-up of national programs in member countries if they express keen interest in building capacity of their key stakeholders for the revitalization of rural areas;
11. There is need to undertake initiatives for attracting youth to agriculture and agribusiness, to conserve and rehabilitate natural resources, to bridge technology gaps between the rural and urban areas, to improve physical and social infrastructure, to foster entrepreneurship, to strengthen farm-market linkages, to address land access/rights issues, to enhance access to affordable credit, and to promote farming systems and rural development resilient to climate change and the associated natural disasters;
12. A network of key stakeholders in APO member countries should be established to share best practices of revitalization of rural economies;
13. Impact assessment before and after introducing the best practices of revitalization of rural economies and rural communities including all processes that they have, should be documented in English, in addition to the social benefit cost analyses and opportunities to share such best practices among all member countries be provided.
M. Membrere, DTI Region I
- Plan for a meeting with the NAPC and DILG Region 1 on how I can share the knowledge and insights gained in this Multi- Country Observational Study Mission on Revitalizing Rural Economies for Inclusive Development to the 3 LGU alliances in Region 1 and also the Magnificent Magic 7 LGU alliance of Ilocos Sur. We will discuss how they can strengthen their alliances by adopting the Taiwanese Model of Rural Regeneration and also asking these LGUs to lobby government support for a similar Rural Regeneration Program in the region or in the country at large. This is intended to be conducted before the end of 2015;
- Prepare an article/news item on the subject for publication in DTI newsletter or website; ( October 2015);
- Prepare and consolidate materials on Rural Regeneration Program and make myself available as part of the NPO pool of productivity experts.( October 2015);
MERLIE D. MEMBRERE
Chief Trade and Industry Development Specialist
Department of Trade and Industry – Region I