This is our second year of doing thinning. Last year, we covered an area of about 10ha, and for this year, we are scheduled to do about 15ha. This year, we will also be involving volunteers. We are the pioneer organization to conduct thinning in the area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. As we prioritize the safety of our volunteers, we intend to increase the number of people who can provide guidance and safety management. To make this possible, we organized a training session for leaders on January 21.
We had less than 30 participants, who happened to be mostly locals. The first two hours of the session were classroom-based, wherein Mr. Sasaki, the overall project manager briefed us on the project background, its progress, and its impact on the community. During his lecture, Mr. Sasaki emphasized the need of doing thinning and the importance of volunteers` safety. According to him, more than the number of felled trees, volunteers need to prioritize their safety and the people around them.
I had the opportunity to be part of last year`s thinning. However, unlike last year, I did not do the actual cutting since I do not have a license for using a chainsaw. I just helped carried the felled trees to the dropping point. I remember how it takes some power to be able to carry the cut trees. I had difficulty waking up the next day. It felt like hiking Japan`s Southern Alps while carrying my 15kg camping gear.
This year, equipped with safety gear, including a helmet with goggles, sturdy shoes, and a pair of gloves, I had the chance to do the actual cutting using a saw. There were already assigned areas where to cut to avoid confusion on our part. I have heard that professional forest workers can fall for about a minimum of 220 trees per day using their chainsaws. For us amateurs, for a couple of hours, one person could perhaps fall an average of about 10 trees.
The following factors were also emphasized during the training:
1. It is crucial to the growth of strong and sturdy trunks, as well as the horizontal, and deep-rooting of black pines. As a result, it guarantees an established strong coastal forest that protects local communities from
2. It is more cost-effective to thin out early because it is easier and cheaper to cut and dispose of black pines
while they are still young.
3. Before thinning, black pines were densely planted, and because of this, our forest professional workers
had difficulty managing the site. But after thinning, there are enough spaces for them to move comfortably
which will lessen their burdens. In the long run, it will reduce the overall site`s management cost. Furthermore, controlling vines will be easier. Otherwise, these vines, when they reach the top of the black pines will steal sunlight, and thus will inhibit the growth of the trees, or worse will kill them.
I think that carrying the felled trees to the dropping point is tougher than the actual cutting. One of the local volunteers commented that he cannot imagine how tough the work is if thinning is done in summer under the sweltering heat of the sun.
If the felled trees are too difficult for us to carry, we were advised to cut them into two. Either one felled tree is carried by two members, or it is done in a manner of the relay. Carrying the heavy and newly cut trees may be exhausting, but just thinking of its long-term impact on the coastal forest is all worth it. Moreover, the fact that everybody is doing their part and their best, regardless of age is inspiring.
We are happy to share with you that our project activities are being smoothly implemented. Despite the corona 7th wave in Japan, as well as the extreme summer heat, we have mobilized a total of 577 volunteers.
Because of COVID-19, we assumed early on that we will only have local volunteers and professional workers. However, recently, we also welcomed volunteers from the different prefectures.
For this year, we prioritized digging of canals at sites with poor water drainage. We also removed and uprooted the kuzu grasses. Within 5 months, with the help of volunteers, we finished 100% of the scheduled work which helped guaranteed the growth and survival of the black pines.
During work break, I asked a few local volunteers of why they keep on coming back, despite the hard labor of working an average of 8 hours. One answered that 11 years may have passed since the tsunami, but apparently, Tohoku Region has not fully recovered yet. Engaging into our coastal reforestation project somewhat enables him to be part of the region`s reconstruction and recovery.
Tapping volunteering site to promote our project, as well as constant update of our website and social media accounts helped increased the number of volunteers. It is truly overwhelming. During volunteering days, it is common to see families working together, or loyal volunteers recruiting their friends to be part of the project.
I have been part of the project since its initial stage. I have seen the gradual transition from its devastating state into a promising area for wildlife, as well as a protective barrier for local communities from future disasters. It would be difficult for us to have this progress without the trust and generosity of our donors, and the love and enthusiasm of our volunteers.
Personally, it is inspiring to see the growing number of local volunteer leaders like Mr. Otsuki (80 years old). Regardless of his age, his passion of teaching new volunteers on how to work effectively and efficiently is encouraging. We hope that someday, we could also welcome our GlobalGiving donors in our site. If lucky, maybe we can see the elusive foxes.
We are very grateful for your continued support to our Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture in Tohoku Region.
The project started in March 2011, and from 2014 through 2020, we were able to plant a total of 370,000 black-pine seedlings along the coastline of Natori City. The project is now on its second-phase, focusing on post-planting management, which is crucial for the growth and survival of the black-pines. The sub-contracted forest workers and mobilized volunteers from all over Japan are working hard to maintain the site including, grass cutting, controlling of kuzu and Fuji vines, digging drainage, and other reforestation related management.
Due to corona, we had to limit the number of participating volunteers to those who are living in the Tohoku Region. Now that the corona situation is getting much better, we received volunteer requests from different companies and organizations.
As part of our effort to maintain our project site, last January, we thinned out/removed black-pines to allow the remaining trees to have horizontal and deep rooting, as well as to grow taller and develop sturdy tree trunks. These factors help guarantee having a strong and resilient coastal forest that will protect local communities and their source living from future disasters. Following the advice of forest experts, over the next 30 years, we will continue reducing the number of trees, from the initial number of 5,000 trees per hectare into about 800-1,000 trees per hectare.
Meanwhile, we are working on to minimize the damage caused by pine weevils (enemies of pine trees), by seeking the help of local communities. We give value for their active participation in terms of monitoring/keeping an eye on any unusual changes in our project site that might be caused by pine weevils. With an objective to involve as many locals as possible, as well as instill a sense ownership towards the project, we are collaborating with the city government of Natori to revitalize their coastal area.
In March, a disaster prevention park developed by Natori City was completed at a location adjacent to the planting site. Within the park, a "Kitagama Area Memorial Zone" was established to preserve the life history of the people of the Kitagama area, which has a 400-year history of life protected by coastal forests. In addition to panels introducing life in the Kitagama area, panels describing the history, role, and restoration of the coastal forest were also installed in the zone. As the park is located close to Sendai Airport and is visited by many parents and children, we hope that the importance of coastal disaster prevention forests will be conveyed to the next generation.
With your generous support, we will continue to make efforts to guarantee that the coastal forest will function as a natural barrier that will help protect people`s lives.
We are thankful to all our GlobalGiving donors for supporting our project. It is now on its second phase wherein activities mostly focus on site maintenance- improvement of site water drainage, weeding (kuzu, nise acacia and fuji tsuru), and thinning. The thinning process is crucial for the growth of broad, tall, and sturdy tree trunks, promotes the horizontal and deep rooting of black-pines, and to prevent the withering of the lower branches of black-pines. These factors guarantee the creation of a strong and resilient forest (different from the pre-tsunami coastal forest) that will protect local communities from disasters.
According to the experts, pre-tsunami coastal forests were congested with almost 10,000 standing black-pines per hectare. Without any thinning, the trees were weak with no sturdy trunks, and since they were planted closely, the trees were not able to expand their roots both horizontally and vertically. Moreover, as a result of not doing any thinning, lower branches of pre-tsunami black-pines have withered.
We are the pioneer organization to do thinning the coastal forests of Japan. We officially started the thinning process early January through March this year. We will be removing 1,650 trees or 33% of the 5,000 standing trees per hectare. As we are targeting to do it in an area of 10 hectares, a total of 16,500 black-pines will be cut. We will do the same process for 7 straight years. We will be needing the amount of 170,000 USD per year (just for thinning and the sustainable disposal of the thinned trees). The central and prefectural government of Japan committed to shoulder the 50% cost for this year and next year.
Meanwhile, due to corona, there was a decline in the number of volunteers from outside Miyagi Prefecture. We received several requests expressing their intention to help, but we have no choice but to decline to comply with the government`s safety protocols. In spite of this, the increase in the number of local volunteers compensated the absence of outside volunteers. Equipped with strong volunteer spirit and deep understanding of how meaningful their contributions are, local volunteers are willing to volunteer for an average of 8 hours to help us maintain our project site. While other organizations are struggling from engaging volunteers (both local and outside volunteers), our group of volunteers keeps on getting bigger and it is heartwarming because they keep on returning. We were able to mobilize 237 volunteers this year, which is almost 8 times lower than the 1,800 average of volunteers that we have before corona. Under much safer condition, we are looking forward to working with the volunteers from the different parts of Japan or from abroad.
It has been 10 years since we started our Coastal Forest Restoration in March 2011 with the support of many people around the world. All 370,000 Japanese black pine trees were planted on 100ha of land, and the larger ones are over 6m long, and strong pine trees with thick trunks are growing. Since ancient times, it was always believed that the quality of seedlings is crucial to the growth and survival of the planted crops. This is similar with the Japanese black pines. The Natori Coastal Forest Regeneration Association, responsible in growing good seedlings that are 30 cm tall, have thick roots, and have well-developed roots. The last 10 years haven't always been good from start to finish. At the beginning of raising seedlings, it was a series of trial and error, such as when to sow seeds, the composition and amount of fertilizer in the soil of the nursery, and the timing of disinfection. In addition, many members of the Association are self-employed and experienced farmers, and some of them did not agree with the process of growing the seedlings. Thus, stopped participating along the way. Under such circumstances, the unveiling ceremony of the stone monument was held on the 21st of July. Due to the corona disaster, the ceremony was forced to be held on a smaller scale. There were 40 people present during the ceremony including, the members of the Association responsible in growing seedlings, the professional forest workers in charge in planting and management, and OISCA staff. The former members of the Association who stopped participating in the work along the way were deeply moved by the fact that all the people involved were able to celebrate the construction of the monument. The 1,400 characters engraved in the monument are about the situation at the time of the earthquake, how OISCA became involved in coastal forest restoration, who was responsible for raising seedlings, planting, and managing. The last engraved characters convey the unprecedented great earthquake, its restoration and reconstruction, and the restoration of coastal forests to posterity. Thinning work will begin in December. All the staff will continue to make efforts to create a strong and thick coastal disaster prevention forest.
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