Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network—“Rebuilding Fukushima Ties” Recovery Project
Location: Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture
Grant: ¥8,000,000 (approx. US$99,000; 2-year grant)
(BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award)
Even prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake, farming communities in Fukushima Prefecture faced a number of challenges. In January 2009, a conference was held in Fukushima to consider ways in which farmers, consumers, researchers, farm organizations, and local government could collaborate to promote the further development of organic farming in the region. As a result, the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network (FOAN) was founded in Nihonmatsu to bolster local communities by strengthening ties among family farmers in Fukushima and to disseminate information on sustainable agricultural practices.
The 3/11 disaster, however, presented a new series of problems for these communities—displacement of farm families, loss of jobs, disruption of communities, and fears about the safety of agricultural products from the region in light of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. As the agricultural community faced a great deal of uncertainty about the future, FOAN stepped up to create a space for dialogue among the farmers in the area, many of whom are senior citizens. In order to address some of these issues, the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund made a two-year grant of ¥8 million to FOAN for its “Rebuilding Fukushima Ties” Recovery Project. The grant was made possible thanks to the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award and other funders.
Because of the disaster, approximately 3,000 residents of the farming community of Namie-cho, located close to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, had to be relocated to Nihonmatsu. FOAN launched a project to help integrate them into the local community by matching evacuee farmers who lost their land with local farmers who need employees, as well as through a series of other activities. For example, as a result of the difficulty of rice paddy decontamination efforts in the spring of 2011, many farmers gave up on their rice paddies and other fields that year. But the longer the fields are untended, the harder it becomes to resume cultivation later. The project therefore also employed the Namie-cho farmers in the restoration of these fields.
FOAN is also working to combat consumer fears about agricultural goods labeled “Fukushima produce” (even produce grown far away from the areas affected by the nuclear accident) by distributing accurate information on Fukushima produce and safety checks to consumers to help them better evaluate local agricultural goods. It is teaching safer farming techniques and helping create alternative markets for local organic produce through online purchasing schemes, food fairs, and other venues.