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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
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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Project briefing among the visiting students
Project briefing among the visiting students

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the generous support that you have extended to our project since 2011.

 It has been 6 years since we started our project in Tohoku Region. This year, we have covered an area of 16.66 hectares with 71,945 black pine seedlings. Two months after planting, we have achieved so far, the highest survival rate of 99.8%. It means that out of 500 planted seedlings, only 1 has withered. The result was attributed from the accumulated experience of the disaster survivors of growing excellent quality of seedlings; improved planting skills of the forestry workers; and the moderate rainfalls after planting.

Annually, we are accepting about 2,000 volunteers who are mostly repeaters, are helping us in the maintenance of the project site. This year, it was first time for us to accept two groups of foreign volunteers who are not residents of Japan. First group has 10 members from Thailand led by Mr. Khayai Thongnunui, in-charge of the 1,900 hectares mangrove reforestation project of OISCA in Surin Province, Thailand.

On June 8, Volunteers from Thailand also joined the organized talk show on Coastal Forest Restoration wherein they discussed their experiences in managing mangrove forests. After the show, local residents have commented that since the growth of black pine trees is slower than mangroves, it is really important to give priorities to involve the locals in the implementation of the project.

Meanwhile, a group of 22 senior high school students and accompanying teachers from California, USA visited the project and carried out half-day weeding work. The students are participants in the “TOMODACHI Initiative”, an international exchange program born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and conducted by the US Embassy in Japan and the US-Japan Council, a non-profit educational organization. Despite the rain, the students using unfamiliar sickles, toiled hard in removing vines and other weeds thriving around the planted seedlings. 

Abigail, 17-years old from Santa Monica, commented that although it was her first time to work in the disaster-hit area, she was very proud to contribute in a small way to the recovery work. 

Briefing prior to the actual work.
Briefing prior to the actual work.
Maintenance of the project by the students
Maintenance of the project by the students
Members of the OISCA Thailand after the activity.
Members of the OISCA Thailand after the activity.
Talk Show on the importance of Coastal Restoration
Talk Show on the importance of Coastal Restoration
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Aerial picture of the planting site.
Aerial picture of the planting site.

It has been 6 years since the Coastal Forest Restoration Project started in 2011. With the generous support of many people worldwide, including the Global Giving donors, we have finished 75% of the tree planting work over 65 hectares. As of the end of April 2017, we have raised the 53% of our target budget of 12 million dollars. Here, we would like to express our deep gratitude to a great number of donors all over the world.

The Japanese Government announced on April 28 the recipients of the “1st Infrastructure Maintenance Grand Award” newly established to commend groups and individuals who carried out outstanding approaches and technological development related to the infrastructural maintenance. From among 248 applicants nationwide, the OISCA project was selected as one of the awardees of the “Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award”. We believe that our project was highly valued for having garnered strong support from private corporations, organizations and individuals and also for active participation of thousands of volunteers yearly in the field work. We take pride and gained confidence in the appreciation by the national government. We think that all the stakeholders as a whole received this prestigious award.

On May 20, the “4th Tree Planting Ceremony” was held at the project site in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, and a total of 530 people ranging from the age of 2 years to 85 years took part. Although there are many supporters both at home and overseas who want to plant trees on site, those who live in Miyagi Prefecture were given priority because we think that it is the locals who would protect and develop the coastal forest in the future, and we would like to make the forest to be loved by the locals.

Meanwhile, during the initial stages of the project, we have been exploring ways to involve the youths but we could not get exemplary results. However, last January, the principal of Natori Kita Senior High School, a school several km away from the planting site, requested OISCA to make remarkable speech to the students about the disaster. Toshimichi Yoshida, Project Manager of OISCA mentioned about the following “You may help us once a year or once in three years. When you feel like doing something, please do give us a helping hand. The power of one person is small, but we want to increase the number of those who would like to utilize their power.” Two months later, 100 students joined the tree planting ceremony

“Although it was my first time to participate in volunteer activities with such a large number of people, I have felt that the atmosphere is good and have fully realized the tremendous power of the people who gathered for one future. I want to unite the wish of many people and turn into a greater power for one goal”, commented by one of the volunteer students.

Another participant said: “I have realized for the first time that tree planting activity is not just planting trees but the subsequent caring work is very important.”

The maintenance work after planting trees is crucial. We would like to request for your continued support until the donations reach the targeted amount of one billion yen.

High School students planting seedlings
High School students planting seedlings
100 students after the tree planting activity
100 students after the tree planting activity
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Involvement with the actual tree planting
Involvement with the actual tree planting

My absolute favorite NGO is OISCA. The focus of this organization is to rebuild forests worldwide. In that way communities devastated by wars or natural disasters can get their feet back on the ground and eventually thrive. Because of this noble purpose, wherever there is a need, when asked, OISCA is happy to offer its expertise.

I first met OISCA completely by chance. It was soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. I was rushing through Sendai Station on my way home from work. Unexpectedly, a stunning photo of a tree seedling caught my eye. That baby tree, with its life-promising gentleness, touched me deeply. So, I stopped and soon became immersed in images of OISCA’s fine work, both here in Tohoku and elsewhere.

OISCA is special because it works very closely with locals. Its personnel realize local inhabitants know their area better than anyone. In fact, OISCA members believe locals are the experts, and they (OISCA) are there to lend a hand.

OISCA personnel start by respectfully asking permission to assist in places needing help. From there they meet with locals, listen, learn, and work closely together as a team.

Another way that OISCA is special is the attentive care it gives to trees both before and after planting. Seedlings are kept in green houses and patiently attended to, given just the right amount of water, sunlight, and time before planting. Once in the earth, the trees are protected and nurtured with TLC. (Tender Loving Care) Soon the trees grow bigger, becoming strong, healthy and proud. In fact, more than 95% of OISCA trees survive.

One of the happiest days in the entire year for me is when I am an OISCA volunteer. I love joining with friendly OISCA personnel, local farmers, and other volunteers for the yearly forest-making day along the coast of Natori, near Sendai Airport.

Everything is well planned. When we arrive, we are divided into groups, given speeches and demonstrations, and then head out to our sections to begin work. It is also very encouraging to see trees from the years before with their branches spread wide, stretching tall and happily to the sky.

It is also a real joy being outside, immerse in the rhythm of planting beside others, and knowing our work will last for hundreds of years. In fact, I love being part of that long stretch of time, knowing that future generations will benefit from what we do that day. And very importantly, I am always deeply humbled by the opportunity that I, as a foreigner, can express my gratitude to Japan, and to Life itself, in such a long-term, life-enhancing way.

Without the help of Global Giving donors, none of this would be possible. So, I bow deeply to you, too, as I express thanks from the bottom of my heart.

During the panel exhibition at Sendai Station.
During the panel exhibition at Sendai Station.
Some of the seedlings have grown into 2 meters.
Some of the seedlings have grown into 2 meters.
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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
$14,282 raised of $25,000 goal
 
83 donations
$10,718 to go
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