Nga'ay ho! I am Kung, an Amis from Taiwan. It is my pleasure to share my story with you . As the youth of Amis people, I work with my family to preserve our land and traditional food culture. From grow rice to promote slow food with my community. I hope it can inspire more youth to involve!
Kung, an Amis, who has roots in Sikihiki in Hualien in Eastern Taiwan blessed with abundant nature, and currently lives in Taipei. What kind of challenges is this 27-year-old taking on, involving many people in the crops and culture of her hometown with her family? We will introduce her challenges.
<Name> Kung-lien XU <Community/Country> AMIS people / TAIWAN <Where I currently live> Taipei City / Hualien City <Age> 27 years old <Current Initiatives/Title> Owner, Amis Ugoods, Slow Food International Contacter in Taiwan
What is the Amis Tribe?
The Amis are the largest indigenous people in Taiwan, with a population of 214,737 (according to August 2020 statistics). There are 16 government-recognized ethnic groups and 3 local government-recognized ethnic groups in Taiwan, including the Amis. Of the 22.34 million people in Taiwanese society, indigenous people make up about 1.9%, while the majority of the rest are Han Chinese. In Taiwan, the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act was promulgated and enforced in 2005, which led to the establishment of the Indigenous Peoples Committee, a government organization that provides support for the indigenous peoples.
Safeguard the Heritage from Grandmother
and Make a Living
I was born and raised in Taipei, but now I have a base in Hualien, where I have my roots, and I have taken over the land that my grandmother has been protecting and farming. For us Amis, millet, quinoa, taro, red rice, and glutinous rice were the main crops, but about 60 years ago, rice farming became a major industry in the mountainous areas of Hualien and a source of income for many families. With rice farming as the main crop, the food produced here is named "Amis Ugoods" and is operated and sold together with the mother. The main purpose of this project is to let more people know about the Amis farmers who live here, and to protect the lifestyle and food culture that remains here.
Encounter with Slow Food
Joy of Connecting with People around the World
Going back a bit, I spent 2019~2020 at UNISG* in Italy. During my time at school in Taipei, I had a number of chances to get in touch with the culture of Slow Food,
and I also found that its philosophy is very close to our indigenous living culture. This also led me to apply for an internship with Slow Food International.
During my internship, I worked for ITMAPP (Indigenous Terra Madre Asia and Pan-Pacific in Ainu Mosir) in Japan in 2019. I was responsible for contacting the various Slow Food communities that would be participating in this event. It was then that I realized the strong network of Slow Food. Actually participating in ITMAPP also gave me a strong sense that it is a global network for sharing, dialogues, and friendship.
After participating in ITMAPP, I was able to collaborate with the Slow Food Community in Hualien to organize the first ITM Forum in Taiwan (December 2019). Through these experiences, I decided to return to my hometown of Hualien, where I conducted field research on indigenous agriculture and food.
*UNISG...Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (abbreviated as UNISG) is a university founded by Slow Food in the suburbs of Bra in Piedmont, Italy. It is also known as the University of Food Science.
Tackling Issues by Connecting Dots
When I returned to my hometown, I encountered three major obstacles.
The first was the gradual loss of many of the plants and varieties of grains that were once commonplace in the area.
Secondly, as farmers, the Amis can only sell their grain to large corporations, so they are unable to stabilize their income on their own. Furthermore, the cultural values that we want to preserve cannot be expressed in the way that we want. Finally, the exodus of young people from the cities is also a major problem. "Young people are not interested in farming because it is hard, hot, and unprofitable, and they are migrating to cities at an accelerating pace. In order to face these barriers, we have decided to launch a variety of projects.
In June 2020, Amis Ugoods (the official name of the farm) officially transitioned from a farm to a cooperative, and has been joined by fellow Amis people. In October 2020, we opened a flagship Ugoods store in Taipei. In October 2020, we opened a flagship Ugoods store in Taipei, providing urban residents with the opportunity to experience Amis culture. The goal of this store is to connect more urban consumers directly with indigenous food and farmers.
Challenges Beyond the Boarders
Now, as a contact point for the Slow Food movement in Taiwan, we have created the ground for active Slow Food activities. In cooperation with the Hualien City Government, we have been able to conduct various projects with the Hualien Slow Food Community, which includes the Amis and other indigenous people.
The Slow Food community in Hualien is very active, and many great initiatives have started with the World Café program held in 2020. in December 2020, a wild vegetable center will be opened in Hualien, and an education system will be established to promote the wild vegetable culture of the Amis people. In March 2021, the leader of Slow Food Hualien published a book introducing the Amis' collection of wild plants. In May 2021, Slow Food Hualien started the "Ark of Taste" project, a food world heritage project that Slow Food has been working on for more than 15 years to protect food that would otherwise become extinct.
We started with the ITM Forum held in Taiwan in 2019 to let many people know about Slow Food and our indigenous culture, focusing on three areas: Chef = cooks, Travel = tourism, and Farmers = farmers, and working with the indigenous people to dig deeper into their strategies. I believe that this is the reason why we are here today.
Currently, we are supporting the launch of two other Slow Food communities in Taiwan outside of Hualien (the Tianmu community, which promotes urban agriculture, and the Taoyuan community, which is a group of young farmers), and we are gradually expanding the Slow Food movement. For the local community of Tianmu, we support the organization of sharing sessions, workshops, and tree planting events at the Amis Ugoods store.
Through these projects, more and more indigenous people, young people, and government officials are becoming aware of the importance of preserving their own culture and the concept of slow food.
With a Strong Will ...
Although the activities seem to be going well, there are still many problems. The most serious problem is the water shortage in agriculture. The second is the impact of the new coronavirus. The second is the impact of the new coronavirus, which means that even if we want to connect consumers and farmers through events and travel, we cannot do so. Finally, there is the issue of youth migration. There are always not enough young people to participate in the various activities. This is probably due to the fact that no one wants to do the hard work. We are continuing to reach out to the youth by making films and running social networks.
In the future, we would like to create a platform for young people to participate in agriculture and preserve the indigenous food culture through community cooperation.
The biodiversity of our indigenous farming and food culture is quite different from that of China. We still have many traditional techniques, recipes, and seeds, but these will disappear from the earth if we don't do something about it. They are our treasures and we need to protect them with our own hands.
We need to be more aware of our culture, and we need to make an effort to fight for it. We need to continue to communicate in different ways to those who do not know much about us. To do this, we need to network, work together across various borders, and share ideas and experiences.
My "Pride Food"
For example, SIRAW, fermented pork. This is a traditional food eaten by the Amis people with wild vegetables. The saltiness of the SIRAW is well balanced with the bitterness of the wild vegetables, an important part of the Amis diet. It can also be used to make soup. I would also like to recommend the traditional millet wine made from Taiwan's indigenous millet. According to research, each tribe has many native millet species. Whenever there is a festival, people make millet wine to pray and share.
Kung’s personal history
1993 Born in Taipei 2013 Found out that there was a land of her grandmother in Hualien, who had passed away in 2010. 2014 Kung's mother returned to Hualien and started farming. Kung, a college student at the time, went to Hualien on weekends and helped with online sales. 2017 After graduating college, Kung did an internship at a furniture company in Italy. 2018 Started working at an event company and organized events related to art, music, food etc. When she was in charge of an event in Taitung, she learned about University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG). 2018-2019 Attended UNISG and did an internship at Slow Food International 2019 Participated in Indigenous Terra Madre Asia & Pan-Pacific in Hokkaido, Japan.