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Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest

by OISCA International
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest
Restore 100 Hectares of the Miyagi Coastal Forest

Every year, there are a great number of Japanese and foreigner visitors who come to OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project site located on the coastal area of Natori City. Among them, there is one group of foreigners who are quite different from the other visitors. They are all government specialists in forestry administration and disaster risk reduction and management in their respective countries. They are invited by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for 3-weeks study program entitled “Ecosystem-based Solution for Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR)” consisting of class room lectures and on-site tours in various parts of Japan.

There are of course many other disaster-hit areas in Tohoku Region where the national government, local government bodies and citizens’ groups are actively conducting tree-planting and promoting various measures for reducing disaster risk and mitigating damage. But why OISCA project has been chosen for their on-site tour? I personally assume it is because OISCA is the only NGO which is successfully implementing an integrated approach starting from fund-raising, seedling production, tree planting and up to post-planting maintenance and management of the site. It has been made possible by generous financial support from many private companies and organizations including the Global Giving.

On September 26, 7 officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Iraq, Myanmar, Thailand, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Vietnam came over to the Natori site on a half-day observation tour. Earlier in the morning, they visited the ruins of Arahama Elementary School in Sendai City which was devastated by the tsunami disaster in March 2011 and fully realized the immense destructive power of the natural calamity.

After arriving in Natori, the group first went up to the coastal disaster embankment to have the whole view of the OISCA reforestation site. It was a sunny day. Looking at the calm sea, they could not simply believe that the unprecedented scale of tidal waves swept through the entire area wiping out the original seashore forest and nearby community. Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, Director for Coastal Forest Restoration Project, gave a general briefing on the project. He told that the project was originally conceived just a few days following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster. Looking out over the disaster-affected area on a helicopter, he thought that it would be possible for OISCA to utilize in one way or another the rich experiences and expertise previously gained in other projects overseas for restoring the destroyed coastal forest in Natori. He emphasized the salient features of the project, specifically the production of 500,000 black pine seedlings by disaster-hit local farmers, creation of job opportunities for the local community, active participation of Japanese and foreign volunteers in the field work such as tree planting and weeding, close collaboration with the public sector and full utilization of private fund.

Then, the group visited the OISCA nursery where the members of the Association for the Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City, an organization formed by the disaster victim farmers, have been raising in pots black pine and red pine species. Mr. Koichi Sasaki who is responsible for the overall field operations of the project explained about seed sowing since March 2012 and the subsequent production of seedlings and actual planting at the site since 2014. When he revealed that on the average the germination rate marked 95% and the survival rate of the planted seedlings recorded 98%, respectively, the visiting specialists all showed a big surprise reaction. They commented that normally, if the figures were something like 60%, it would be quite satisfactory.

Finally, they moved to the planting site where by June 2018, a total of 346,248 black pine seedlings were planted over an area of 66.71 hectares. In a Q & A session following the field observation, a participant from Bosnia and Herzegovina raised a question about the appropriates of planting only black pine species citing the statement of a lecturer of the JICA-organized class room lecture to the effect that it would be advisable to carry out mixed planting of black pine and broad-leaved species for coastal forestation. Mr. Sasaki replied; “Under the extremely severe natural conditions of the coastal areas, it has been proven by experience that only black pine species can take firm roots and manage to survive.” To follow up his explanation, he brought the group to a planting area located just adjacent to the OISCA site where another NPO planted a combination of black pines and broad-leaved species of trees. They clearly noticed the poor growth condition of the broad-leaved seedlings while the black pine species were showing normal growth.

To conclude the on-site tour, they were asked for personal impressions and observations. The participants unanimously expressed deep admiration that the 10-year project is entirely financed by donations and subsidies from private companies and organizations as well as individual supporters without depending on government money at all. Also, they were impressed that the planted seedlings are well maintained by the hands of professional forestry workers and volunteers. We are always appreciative for the continued and generous support from the Global Giving.

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Following the devastating damage to the Natori City coastal area in Miyagi Prefecture from a massive tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earth of March 2011, OISCA joined forces with a group of local victims to begin a coastal forest restoration project. Under that initiative, now in its eight year, through the end of May of this year, the area on which black pines and other tree species have been planted had reached 66.71 hectares.

One step ahead of the global trend to earmark priority budgets for disaster prevention and damage control, OISCA has long worked through mangrove planting, coral reef protection and other endeavors with such goals keenly in mind, primarily in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The Natori project is also rooted in the experience and lessons emerging from these track records.

Successful schemes in this pattern are characterized by:

  1. Close collaboration with national and regional governments
  2. Adoption of the resident-citizen participation format; and
  3. Consignment of work to professional forestation operators to help create jobs and other key points.

OISCA has been autonomously carrying out the project with donations and subsidies from private companies, organizations and individual supporters.

The actual tree-planting phase of this effort will conclude in 2020. OISCA, however, is determined to carry on the necessary weeding, cutting and other vital forest support and nurturing work as well.

Thanks to the generous support from, not only the Japanese but also a great number of people worldwide, including the Global Giving donors. We are deeply grateful for the donations. We do request for your continued cooperation.

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Briefing prior to the tree planting.
Briefing prior to the tree planting.

We started tree planting in 2014 at the project site located along the coastal area of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. This year, it marks the 5th tree planting time. On the morning of April 16, the first day of tree planting, forestry workers from the Miyagi Central Forestry Cooperatives and Matsushima Shinrin Sougou, a local forestry company, gathered from seven 7 o’clock, one hour and a half ahead of the official work start time. It is the first reunion in a year since the tree planting work last year.

Shortly after the workers rejoiced the reunion, an afforestation training session commenced. The training session is held on the first day every year for the participating workers. The way of planting varies depending on tree species and also whether we plant in the mountains or coastal areas. During the session, even veteran workers who experienced tree planting last year attentively listen to briefing by Mr. Koichi Sasaki, Field Manager at the Natori project site. It is primarily intended to explain techniques of afforestation to the workers, but also serves as an opportunity to tell the thought of OISCA on this project. We think that they tackle the work more seriously as their own task because we tell them our basic thought.

This year, one third of the 20 members of the planting group are new participants. They plant seedlings in receiving guidance from the veteran workers. While experienced workers can plant 300 seedlings in half a day, new ones manage 90 at the utmost. The project site is also the place for inheriting techniques from the veteran workers to the new comers. In the Japanese forestry work site, the main job of workers is forest maintenance such as weeding, thinning and pruning, and planting opportunities are rare. So, the site where they can actually plant trees is valuable. That’s why they are concerned about the growth of black pine trees which they planted by themselves. When we tell them that some black pine trees planted four years ago have now grown into an average of 3.3 meters in height, we can notice that they are very encouraged.

This year we intend to plant 85,000 black pine seedlings over 17 hectares of land. This is the record high number of planting. The workers just silently plant the prepared seedlings. The seedling planting work will last until the middle of May.

Thanks to the generous support from, not only the Japanese but also a great number of people worldwide, the amount of donations exceeded 600 million yen against the target amount of one billion yen as of the end of March 2018. We are deeply grateful for the donations. We do request for your continued cooperation.

Tree planting by the sub-contracted forest workers
Tree planting by the sub-contracted forest workers
3-year old pines have grown into 3-4 meters high.
3-year old pines have grown into 3-4 meters high.
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With the student volunteers from the US.
With the student volunteers from the US.

Almost 7 years have passed since the Coastal Forest Restoration Project was launched in 2011. By the end of 2017, about 265,000 seedlings of black pine and other tree species have been planted over 50.29 hectares of land by professional forestry workers, disaster-hit local farmers and volunteers from many parts of Japan and also foreign countries. Tree planting work over 70% of the land available for the project was completed thanks to the generous financial supports of Japanese and foreign companies and individuals including the GlobalGiving donors.

My first involvement in the Coastal Forest Rehabilitation Project started when this project was just in the stage of concept, in other words, still an “unknown quantity”. A few months after the earthquake and tsunami disaster inflicted devastating damage in the Pacific Coastal area of the Tohoku Region, I was asked to join a small team of OISCA to conduct an on-site survey at the disaster-damaged coastal area in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. At that time, I was a new comer to OISCA, almost unfamiliar with the OISCA objective and functions. When the survey team visited Natori, the affected area was in terrible conditions: an enormous amount of debris such as destroyed trees and residential houses, fishing boats, automobiles, agricultural equipment and electric appliances were scattered all over. I was really shocked to witness the awesome power of the natural disaster. The team members stayed for a few nights at a deserted private house without electricity and running water near the coast and carried out the on-site inspection.

At the beginning, the local residents, mostly farmers who were still unrecovered from the consequences of the tsunami disaster, were quite skeptical about the feasibility and viability of the OISCA Project. Thanks to the subsequent tireless efforts by the OISCA staff to involve the local farmers for active participation and also to strongly appeal hundreds of Japanese and foreign private corporations and individuals for financial cooperation, however, the project successfully got on the track, and thereafter, has been steadily promoted though occasionally undergoing difficult trials and errors.

My specific role in the project is to promote international public relations as a volunteer staff. Specifically, I write relevant articles in English about the project for the OISCA website and other publications, help translate various documents from Japanese into English and vice versa and also organize on-site tours for foreign journalists, government officials and volunteers. For that purpose, I go to the project site at least 4 or 5 times a year, and sometimes, actually join in tree planting and weeding work along with Japanese and foreign volunteers on the field. Honestly, performing the field work for a few hours, particularly under the blazing sunshine is very tough to retired people like me. But working for the common objective side by side with young and aged people of different backgrounds is spiritually fulfilling beyond just monetary reward.

I never forget a comment made by one of the senior high school students from California, U.S.A. who visited the project site for volunteer work in September 2016. She said, “although it is my first time to work in the disaster-hit area, I am very proud to contribute in s small way to the recovery work”.

Being one of the members actively involved in the OISCA project, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the GlobalGiving donors for your continued support.

                                                                   

Assisting in the organized tours at the site.
Assisting in the organized tours at the site.
During the ocular observation at the site.
During the ocular observation at the site.
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Shukuko and Koichi tidying the used seedling pots.
Shukuko and Koichi tidying the used seedling pots.

On behalf of the beneficiaries of the Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, I would like to extend my gratitude for the generous support that you have extended into our project since 2011. I am Shota Kobayashi, a former journalist and currently an adviser of OISCA. Please allow me to share with you the conversations that I had with Mr. Koichi (74) and Ms. Shukuko (68). Both are core members of the Association for Rehabilitation of Coastal Forest in Natori City, a group helped formed by OISCA for the rehabilitation of the damaged coastal in Natori by the March 11, 2011 tsunami.

When asked what surprised him most about the project, Koichi answered how troublesome the weeds are. Since most of the seeds are flying from all different directions and are growing so fast, weeding is a bit labor-intensive. What`s more, watering during summer time, the work is not that hard but under the sweltering heat of the sun, it is tough.

Meanwhile, Shukuko, a part-time farmer before tsunami yet had never seed pine seeds mentioned how she was moved upon seeing the first buds of the pine seedlings that they sow. The experience was quite different from raising vegetables as the sowing period of black pines differs depending on the weather condition.

Both Shukuko and Koichi affirmed that seedling production is not that difficult as everything is set according to the plan. It is apparent that their skills have improved over the past few years.

Shukuko said that in spite of being an amateur in growing and raising black pine seedlings, they have been able to come this far because of their commitment to be of help for the future. Shukuko and the other members of the association are hoping that in the near future, their grandchildren will be proud of their work. Meanwhile, Koichi is telling his grandchild that within 10 years, he will be able to enjoy climbing the pine trees his grandfather helped raised.

Koichi lost his wife in the disaster and Shukuko barely escaped from the tsunami and was rescued by a rubber boat the next evening. In their completely changed life, seedling production and involvement into the project became a strong motivation to live.

Indeed, the tsunami have separated the community apart and created a havoc into the lives of a lot of people including Shukuko and Koichi but the established nursery under the project has become a new gathering place for them. The two agreed that working at the site and chatting with the other members were very enjoyable. Everyone may have aged by 5 years and their movement might become sluggish but their spirit and commitment towards the success of the project have not changed.

The Coastal Forest Restoration Project is not possible without the generous support of GlobalGiving donors. Donations are used in paying the daily wages of the members of the Association, including Koichi and Shukuko . 

Project stakeholders at OISCA nursery.
Project stakeholders at OISCA nursery.
The camaraderie developed through the project.
The camaraderie developed through the project.
Author during the tree planting activity.
Author during the tree planting activity.
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Organization Information

OISCA International

Location: Suginami-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ma. Grazen Acerit
Suginami-ku, Tokyo Japan
$14,258 raised of $25,000 goal
 
82 donations
$10,742 to go
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