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Taiwan Technical Aid Programs 15 May 1996

THE EARTH TIMES

May 15 – 29, 1996

TECHNICAL AID FLOWS FROM TAIWAN

By Ashali Varma

TAIPEI—Little is known about the extent of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s assistance programs to developing countries.  According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Taiwan’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is about US $100 million annually, which is 0.6 percent of its GNP.

The World Bank ranks the Republic of China as the 14th largest among trading nations worldwide.  With a GDP of $11,604, Taiwan has one of the world’s strongest economics.

Dr. Hsieh Sung-Ching, who is the Executive Secretary of the Committee of International Technical Cooperation, told The Earth Times,” Taiwan has experienced good economic growth and the purpose of technical cooperation is to share our experience with other countries.  We do this with action and not only with words.”

The Committee was started 30 years ago for the purpose of giving technical assistance to developing countries.  Today, Taiwan has 45 programs in 33 countries in, Africa, Asia Pacific, the Caribbean, Western Asia, Central America and South America.

An island with an area of 14000 square miles with only 30 percent of arable land and a population of over 21 million people, Taiwan developed its expertise in agricultural production out of necessity.  With enough food to feed its people and three crops of rice a year, Taiwan, started sending agricultural missions to Africa, “because we felt that we had the expertise to improve the food production in some of the poorest countries of the world,” Hsieh said.

“Taiwan is very proficient in rice culture.  We have high yielding varieties and use modern techniques to grow rice, similar to Japan,” Hsieh said. This is especially adapted to the small-scale farming systems in Africa, according to Hsieh.

“Our assistance is based on bilateral discussion.  We discuss their needs and how we can help them.  We have rice growing projects in Gambia, the Central African Republic, Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, among others,” Hsieh said.

BURKINA FASO

One of the examples of success Hsieh pointed out was in Burkina Faso.  “Twenty-six years ago we sent a mission of 40 people to this country.  We were able to turn a desert into very fertile paddy fields by establishing an effective irrigation system.”

The government gave each farmer one hectare of land in the Kou River valley.  The equipment was sent from Taiwan and the experts taught the farmers how to grow rice and to sustain the effort.  The question of sustainability is important to Hsieh.  “The farmers were able to grow two rice crops a year.” He said.  The project was so successful that farmers came from all over to learn the technique.

“When we visited the site two years ago we were given a warm welcome by 500 farmers.  The settlement looks like a Taiwanese village because we built up the whole area,” Hsieh said.

“While I was there, I spoke to some USAID officials” said Hsieh.  “They told me they gave money for farming but very often the projects were not sustained.  That is why we think it is important to give aid plus people who can teach the technology to the locals.”

The Burkina Faso Government estimates that the country needs 70,000 metric tons of rice annually and there is a shortfall of 40,000 metric tons.  The Taiwanese have been asked to help boost production elsewhere in the country.

The new area is near the Bagre hydraulic dam which is surrounded by desert. “We have 10 experts working in the area and we are building an irrigation system for 1,000 hectares of land.  This means the construction of a canal which is about a mile long and will be completed in June,” said Hsieh.

Gambia

In Gambia, rice production on 3000 hectares of land in the Jahally Pachar area fell by half when the Colonial Development Corporation left. “The government had to import rice and so they asked us to help them to rehabilitate the land,” Hsieh said. The Taiwanese sent ten experts in agriculture and irrigation along with equipment, tractors and machinery to repair the canal and irrigate the land.

“The problem is always sustainability of project,” Hsieh said, “We train the farmers on newer technologies and better variety of seeds and organize them in cooperatives.”

In the case of Gambia Hseih said they would raise the rice yield from 3.5 tons a hectare to 6 tons a hectare. In addition, the farmers would get two crops per year.

Thailand 

One of the more unusual projects is a joint venture with Thailand. Here technical cooperation meant turning an area larger then Taiwan into forests. “They used to grow opium in the mountains of Northern Thailand. We worked here for 25 years and grew all types of tree from bamboos to fruit trees and ordinary fast growing varieties which would stop soil erosion,” Hseih said.

The project was called “The Royal Project because Prince M.C. Bhisatej Rajani gave his full support and the local people helped. Today, the area is full of fruit trees and bamboo trees and the local inhabitants sell the produce to earn money.

Shrimp farming is also a successful project undertaken by the Taiwanese. Countries that have been helped include Belize, Dominica, Honduras and the Central African Republic.  “We have sent experts to these countries who are proficient in both salt water and fresh water shrimp farming.” Hsieh said.  Shrimps have a high economic value and countries benefit from both domestic consumption and exports.

“The important factor again is to enable the local people to manage the farms so that even after five years, when we leave, the project runs successfully,” he said.  Local people are given training and attend workshops so they can expand the production in other areas.

Apart from assisting in agriculture and fisheries, Taiwan has also helped countries set up clinics and hospitals.

GUINEA BISSAU

In Guinea Bissau, on the coast of West Africa, a medical and dental mission from Taiwan renovated an abandoned hospital in the town of Canchungo.  The clinical units now include out-patient, resident and public health sections.

“We provided the equipment and medicines and also doctors and nurses who train and work with the local staff.  The project started in 1990 and more than 55,000 out-patients, 22,000 emergency cases and 2,850 resident patients were treated in the first year,” Hsieh said.

The medical missions cost 2 million dollars a year.  Burkina Faso, Niger and the Central African Republic also receive medical assistance from the Republic of China, which includes operation equipment, ambulances, medicines and doctors.

Taiwan is also helping the University of Jordan to establish a computer science department.  They have donated equipment and have sent professors to set it up.  “It is a five year project.  In addition, we are helping Jordan with industrial research.” Hsieh said,“just like in the early days the United States helped Taiwan by sending equipment and personnel which enabled us to form a strong economic base.”

Hsieh said that the annual budget for his department of technical cooperation is about US$60 million but is expected to grow in the future as the assistance programs expand.  Other ministers dealing with  economics and trade also have assistance programs in developing countries.