The present study aimed to explore traditional farming and its role in sustainable development of the mountainous area based on the indigenous community of Wutai in Taiwan as a case study. It adopted qualitative methods with an ethnographic orientation, to conduct in-depth interviews, participant observation, and focus groups as an integral component of public participation geographic information system (PPGIS), and aerial photo analysis to collect and analyze field data, mainly in 2013 and 2017. The results revealed the continuation of traditional farming practices guided by the traditional farming calendar and characterized by mixed cropping, inter cropping, and rotation, which optimized the use of limited arable lands in the area. These practices also contributed to maximizing and securing local food supply, and maintaining endemic crop varieties. The results suggested that traditional farming offered a way to overcome the limitation of modern agriculture and support ecotourism as a sustainable alternative to mass tourism, by preserving crop diversity, social institutions and cultural traditions, and stabilizing the local environment. Furthermore, our findings showed that traditional farming, in keeping with local capacity, was adaptable to the impacts of climate change. In the last two decades, a returning tide of young residents and retired people involved in traditional farming might play a key role in the slowing down of the loss of agricultural lands in Wutai, influenced by the fashion of healthy foods and environments, as well as development of local ecotourism industry. Learned from this study, while there would be some opportunity for traditional farming to be recognized as one of the key components to promote the sustainable development of indigenous villages in mountain areas, more policy incentives might be considered.
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