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'Rice Bomber' turns to water buffaloes to promote agriculture

2013/02/20 14:09:24

Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) He is known as the "Rice Bomber" for planting rice-filled explosive devices in Taiwan in 2003 and 2004 to protest the government's neglect of farmers.

But Yang Ju-men has now adopted a much more peaceful approach to revitalizing and promoting his vision -- bringing water buffaloes to a bustling shopping district in Taipei.

"To Taiwanese, water buffaloes used to be important family members, and this sense of family could remind us what agriculture is all about," said the 35-year-old, who was pardoned in 2007 after spending some 16 months in jail.

Having met the two animals, named "Rice Rice" and "Little Rice," even the most frigid city slickers will pause and ponder "what has been going wrong in their lives," Yang said.

Starting this Saturday, Yang will introduce the water buffaloes on a 1,000 square meter plot of farmland as part of the "Lead Jade Seed Project" museum near Songshan High School of Agriculture and Industry at the edge of the Xinyi shopping district.

The Seed Project, now in its fourth year, aspires to regenerate urban communities with more humane and natural designs that blend the old and the new and encourage a greater appreciation of simple aesthetics.

In trying to bring nature into the lives of city dwellers, Yang will complement his introduction of water buffaloes by demonstrating organic farming that anybody can do on their balconies.

He will offer herb growing lessons that he hopes will appeal to busy office workers, who may have only limited amounts of time to get a glimpse of nature by growing such herbs as mint, lavender and basil.

"The idea is to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings," said Yang, who spends most of his day barefoot, working in the paddies and taking some 70 visitors per day on tours through the museum, where an exhibition on grains and vegetables is currently being held.

Yang and the water buffaloes can be seen early in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday in a temporary presale house-style museum sponsored by a local developer.

The buffaloes, which are being trucked in from Hsinchu County, will also appear in Taipei on March 9, 10 and 16 and on April 20.

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(By Lee Hsin-Yin)