The “E-go Shop” Case Study on Reconstructing Indigenous Traditional Food Systems

Contributed by Huei-Wen Chin and Wei-Chi Chang

Indigenous traditional food systems are considered as closely related to ethnobiological knowledge and environmental sustainability. The re-construction of indigenous traditional food systems that connect with ecology and economy has been an important issue in Taiwan.

To that end, the Association of Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples’ Development (a local NGO) has established a platform for cooperative production and marketing called the ‘e-go shop’ since 2005. It has a website and a retail shop for marketing produce and arranging on-site tours for experiencing indigenous villages.

Fig. 1.Platform operation of ‘e-go shop’

Fig. 1.Platform operation of ‘e-go shop’

From the analysis of “e-go shop”, it is regarded as difficult to sustainably operate the indigenous economy by following capitalism logic. Once it enters the capitalistic market, the indigenous economy would be enhanced, but the costs of operation and quality control make it difficult to cope with the diverse requirements of consumers for products. Besides, the more tribes are assisted in marketing, the more pressure appears on operation and profits of the operation are likely to become difficult.

With the example of “e-go shop”, the transformed “e-go shop” reconstructs the relations among production, consumption, exchange, and distribution so that new possibilities appear in the re-production process. Such a model would benefit indigenous peoples’ human rights, health, food sovereignty, and fair share of land, avoid big corporations or financial institutions from controlling the food chain, and preserve the biodiversity.

Such an indigenous economic development could be regarded as indigenous initiative economy, which could re-present the emphases of local knowledge, local ecology, and local identity of producers, encourage indigenous producers to invest in environment-friendly or organic agriculture, and help them become knowing agents, rather than simply labor in the organic production line. For consumers, they are enhanced with the trust in indigenous producers who are participating in organic agricultural activities and this reflection. This study indicates that, in such a risky society, consumers, producers, and sellers could receive the opportunity of sustainable development and co-existence with cooperation.