Agroforestry as Sustainable Agriculture

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  • Title: Agroforestry as Sustainable Agriculture: An Observation of Tayal Indigenous People’s Collective Action in Taiwan
  • Author(s): Ai-Ching Yen, Yin-An Chen
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: On Sustainability
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability
  • Keywords: Gaga, Collective Action, Agroforestry, Sustainable Agriculture, Organic Farming
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2016
  • ISSN: 2325-1077 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1085 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Yen, Ai-Ching, and Yin-An Chen. 2016. "Agroforestry as Sustainable Agriculture: An Observation of Tayal Indigenous People’s Collective Action in Taiwan." The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability 13 (1): 1-16. doi:10.18848/2325-1077/CGP/v13i01/1-16.


Agroforestry is one way to coexist within the milieu of a mountainous area. With minimum disturbance of the natural environment, forest-farmers grow mushrooms, fruits, and other forest products (e.g., nuts, edible forest insects, etc.) or functions (e.g., nitrogen-fixing plants) for a livelihood on the limited and scattered slopelands. These cultivation techniques exist in many regions where people use their own traditional knowledge to utilize the land. This case study explores Tayal indigenous communities in high mountain areas in Hsinchu, Taiwan. This study utilizes participatory observation and in-depth interviews to directly communicate with local people. The Tayal community, as a basic unit, self-governs not only its livelihood but also acts collectively to achieve the common goal of sustainable agriculture. In this case, the Tayal indigenous people adopt organic farming to cultivate crops within the forest as agroforestry. Such techniques have been carried on for a thousand years and are now reappearing. Through the efforts of community residents, the farmers collectively practice their ancestors’ knowledge and Gaga principles to earn their living. Community farmers started to grow trees along field ridges to maintain water and soil. The community elders’ wisdom forms a treasured social capital that pushes community members to respect and pursue their heritage. Although the businesses of community members are not identical, to some extent, their collective action has been able to build up robust, stable networks and trusting relationships. We find that social capital (defined as a fair institution and regulations that lead community members to follow and benefit from them) is cumulating the community members’ trust and willingness to collaborate, which leads the whole community to an organic and sustainable future.