Timber poachers transition to sustainable forest management in central Taiwan

Timber poachers transition to sustainable forest management in central Taiwan
撰文: Sean Scanlan, Taiwan News, Staff Writer     分類:SDGs     圖檔來源:鄭鴻達攝影、林務局提供 日期:2023-07-18

The Saisiyat indigenous group in Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County has put aside decades of conflict with government authorities over issues such as hunting and timber poaching.

An elder from the indigenous group said the village used to be hostile to the Forestry Bureau, regarding staff as the devil due to invasive actions and frequent confrontations. However, the bureau is now part of the "family," the elder said.

In 2018, both sides signed a contract for forestry management, providing indigenous people jobs conducting mountain patrols and engaging in sustainable timber harvesting. The partnership also includes initiatives to preserve indigenous culture, per Business Today.

In line with the partnership, the Council of Agriculture (COA) established Taiwan’s first forestry co-management and resource recycling demonstration site, including sustainable forest management such as thinning forests for usable timber, composting branches and leaves, and turning other forest waste into fuel sources, essential oils, and biochar. The cooperation has received international accreditation through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), making this state-owned forest a good example of government cooperation with indigenous peoples.


COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said the project was also important in terms of reducing carbon emissions and encouraging sustainability. He said that 97% of the timber in Taiwan is imported from abroad, but if domestic forests can provide enough timber, this can greatly reduce foreign deforestation.


Saisiyat indigenous group elders said past conflicts were due to ignorance and multiple misunderstandings within government policies controlling mountainous areas. The government appeared to show little regard for local ethnic groups inhabiting those areas, according to the elders.


One elder added that poverty has caused many past problems such as timber poaching and illegal hunting. For example, he says his nephew felt helpless because of a lack of income and resorted to timber poaching to support his family.


Fortunately, the same individual now has a stable job working in the forests and does not need to resort to illegal means to make an income.