Welfare farmland helps change lives of disadvantaged people

A "welfare farmland" project launched to help disadvantaged people learn farming skills celebrated harvest day on Tuesday, with the farmers expressing excitement at the results of their hard work.

The project, jointly initiated by the Pingtung County government and local charity groups in July, teaches homeless, disabled and other disadvantaged people to farm on a 9.6 acre farmland in Pingtung County's Yenpu Township.

The student farmers learn to grow such vegetables as okra, eggplant, sponge gourd, pumpkin and corn, and receive an hourly wage or supplies for their work.

"It feels so great to be able to grow vegetables successfully and earn some money," said Afa, one of the farmers who once worked on a boat but became homeless after he fell seriously ill and did not have family members to take care of him.

Seeing his vegetables grow day by day gave him a great sense of accomplishment, Afa said, even if he was exposed to intense sun and heat and had to clear the land of rocks, fertilize the land with chicken manure, and pull weeds.

Huang Hsiu-chin (???), who is also homeless, said she had a feeling of hopelessness in the past but no longer felt that way after a few months of labor and after harvesting her okra and corn.

Huang San-ho (???), the project's foreman, said the people who participated in the project all seemed lethargic when they first began to grow the vegetables, but they now looked much happier.

Pingtung County Deputy Magistrate Wu Li-hsueh (???) said her government hopes to increase the income of the program's participants and help them regain confidence through the project.

If it were to expand in the future, the "welfare farmland" project could help alleviate the serious manpower shortage in farming, Wu said.

People interested in purchasing vegetables from the farmers can call 08-7364699 or 08-7320415 (#5337) to place orders.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel