Taiwan’s ‘King of the Trees’ fights for forests



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Tuesday 12 February 2013

Last update 11 February 2013 9:09 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

With his blue stetson and thick grey jacket, Lai Pei-yuan looks like a modern-day cowboy, but rather than raising cattle, he grows trees.
The 57-year-old Taiwanese entrepreneur made his fortune in transportation and property, but his real mission in life is to reinstate at least some of the forests that once covered most of the island.
“It was just a simple idea I had,” said Lai, meeting AFP on a hillside near his native Taichung city in central Taiwan. “If I was to safeguard Taiwan, I would have to plant trees.”
For the past three decades, Lai has bought and planted thousands of trees every year, often with his own hands.
Today his efforts can be seen in the form of 130 hectares (320 acres) of mountainsides near Taichung covered with 270,000 deep-rooted trees, representing indigenous species such as Taiwan incense cedar and cinnamomum micranthum.
“He’s a legendary person,” President Ma Ying-jeou said during a recent visit to Taichung, when he met and sipped coffee with Lai. “No one else in Taiwan has planted so many trees.”
It is an endeavour that has cost him hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars (millions of US dollars), but it has helped him achieve fame as “King of the Trees.”
He says he was inspired by seeing how rapid industrialization laid waste to Taiwan in the post-war era of super-high growth.
“Many, many trees growing in the mountains were cut down and exported,” Lai said.
It had begun under Japanese colonial rule from 1895 to 1945, when ancient trees were cut down in the name of progress, a process that continued until the closing years of the 20th century. Only in 1989 did the Taiwanese authorities ban the logging of primeval forests, but by that time it was almost too late.
The results were devastating. In the course of the 20th century, forest coverage fell from 90 percent to 55 percent, according to one government survey. Lai nevertheless saw it as an opportunity to build something that would leave a legacy for posterity.
“I had seen how companies prospered and declined. I felt I wanted to do something which could last for generations to come,” he said.
Lai began his crusade for the trees when he was about 30, setting out every morning to plant trees on plots of land that he owned. Often his family would only see him after sunset. His children were puzzled.
“When my brother and I were young, we had no idea what Dad was doing. Our impression was that he was on the mountains all the time,” his elder son Lai Chien-chung said.
Today Lai Chien-chung sells coffee beans, grown in his father’s forests, under the brandname “Coffee & Tree.” He also opened his first coffee shop in downtown Taichung last year.
Around 95 percent of the profits from the coffee sales have been used to finance the maintenance of the forests and the planting of trees, Lai Chien-chung said.
To ensure sustainable management of his forests, Lai Pei-yuan pledges no deforestation and sell-off. Nor will he give the forests to his family after his death, he said. They will instead be managed by a non-profit foundation set up by Lai.
Meanwhile, he can take pleasure in the fact that others are following in his footsteps.
Since 2008, Taiwanese individuals, companies and government bodies have jointly planted more than 23,000 hectares of trees, according to Taiwan’s forestry bureau as part of President Ma’s iTaiwan projects launched in 2009.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Ministry of Education (MoE) has allocated over 180 clinics for schools in Riyadh and directed all its departments across the Kingdom to recruit health advisers at schools with more than 100 students.Work has already started on introducing...
RIYADH: The Moroccan experience in desert tourism is largely similar to that of Saudi Arabia, which boasts of a unique diversity in culture in its different regions, Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National...
JAZAN: Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the advanced field hospital of the Armed Forces in Jazan on Tuesday.He was reassured about the injured in the ongoing battle. He conveyed the greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King S...
JEDDAH: The planned “North Thunder” military exercise is a clear message to Iran and the countries in the region it supports that any hostile intentions and actions will be firmly dealt with, an expert has said.The military drill is scheduled to be h...
RIYADH: Syrian conjoined twins will be separated at the King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital at the King Abdul Aziz Medical City (KAMC) in Riyadh on Sunday.According to a KAMC spokesman, the forthcoming surgery will be the fourth and final st...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Ahmed Al-Issa has issued an order to establish a department for school security. It will be be linked organizationally to the general supervisor of school safety and security at the ministry.According to the decision, schoo...
JEDDAH: From delivering mails for Saudi Aramco to captaining Saudi Arabian Airlines’ first flight to New York, Jazza Al-Shammari’s career story is unique.“I started my career as a postman with Saudi Aramco in 1959 and continued the primary studies at...
RIYADH: A team of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center (KFSHRC) has identified a gene responsible for cardiomyopathy.Dr. Zuhair bin Nasser Al-Hasnan, KFSHRC medical genetics consultant, said the team conducted a study on a Saudi...
JEDDAH: The Pakistan Welfare Society (PWS) organized a free medical camp and discussion on health for women at the Pakistani Consulate recently.Doctors and specialists diagnosed patients and distributed free medicines to needy patients, and arranged...
JEDDAH: Yemen Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah has thanked Saudi Arabia for standing by his country during tough times.Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Tuesday, he said: “Our GCC brothers, particularly Saudi Arabia, s...
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia joined the rest of the world in intensifying public awareness on cancer with activities spread over the week supporting the global cause that aims to save millions of lives every year by raising awareness and education about the...
RIYADH: Chairman of ACWA Power International Mohammed Abu Nayyan thanked King Mohammed VI of Morocco for personally inaugurating Morocco’s first solar power plant, Noor1, built by an international consortium led by his company.“We were extremely priv...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Health is considering imposing an asset declaration as well as an absence of interest conflict testimony on its employees as a measure in fighting corruption.Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih made the announcement at a one-day f...
DAMMAM: Abdussalam Kanniyan, chairman of the International Indian School in Dammam (IISD), has been honored with the “Person of the Year 2015” award by Vatakara NRI Forum, a community group in the Eastern Province.The award was based on his outstandi...
RIYADH: Andrej Plenkovic, the leader of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee delegation, on Tuesday hailed Saudi Arabia for its yeoman services in looking after the displaced Syrians in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.“We fu...

Stay Connected

Facebook