My name is Toshimichi Yoshida. I am Deputy Director in charge of the 10-Year Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture which OISCA launched immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who have generously supported our Project following the disaster. Here, I am going to report on the latest development of the Project.
In the disaster-hit area, it is now in midsummer with the daily temperature exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. It has been 4 and half years since the disaster, but we can still hear the sound of heavy machineries operating from the early morning and see many people working for the disaster recovery project under the scorching heat of the sun.
In May 2011, the disaster-affected farmers in Natori appealed to OISCA for helping in the restoration of the coastal forest indispensable for the revival of agriculture. OISCA and the local farmers have steadily been carrying out the Project in collaboration with the national and local government agencies, a large number of local residents and also volunteers from the various parts of the country.
The years up to 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics will be held, are the target period set by the government for achieving the disaster recovery. In our Project, the local farmers by themselves will produce 500,000 seedlings necessary for restoring 100 hectares of forest, and we plan to complete tree planting by 2020 but will continue the forest management up until 2033. In implementing the Project, we have decided, not to depend on public fund but to utilize private donations putting emphasis on self-reliant efforts. We intend to support the local employment and livelihood improvement by creating over 11,000 job opportunities in the area by 2033.
In March 2012, the OISCA staff and local farmers obtained qualifications in accordance with the law on raising seedlings, and conducted the first sowing of black pine seeds. In April 2014, we carried out the first planting of 80,000 seedlings raised over the previous two years and in April, 2015, also planted 50,000 new seedlings. So far, we have planted a total of 130,000 seedlings over 26 hectares of land in the two years. Although the project site is in the severe environment, right behind the tide embankment which is exposed to the sea breeze, dry and cold wind, the survival rate of seedlings is fortunately maintained almost 100%.
We have created 1,400 employment opportunities a year, and the number of volunteers who do weeding work for 8 hours a day has marked 1,400 persons. We have annually organized 30 report meetings and seminars, and more than 4,500 people have attended.
Both the government and the private sector have been working very hard for the disaster recovery based on the overall recovery plan. But there are a number of areas which are not recovering as have been expected. There are such problems as a serious shortage of skilled personnel, soaring labor costs and lack of construction materials.
Furthermore, there are now noticeable disparities of lifestyle between those who have been hit by the disaster and those who have not been affected, and between those who moved to new houses leaving temporary housing facilities and those who are still staying at temporary shelters. The traditional communities have collapsed, and those economically vulnerable such as elderly people are particularly isolated in the society. The locals all have the same feeling for recovery, but the actual situation is not simple at all.
Many of those who survived in the devastating tsunami still do not feel like going to the seaside. I know a number of people who have abstained from their favorite fishing in the sea.
Against this background, we are determined to accomplish the restoration of coastal forest, the old Japanese crystal of wisdom, which protects agriculture and living from the sea breeze, thereby playing a part in the creative recovery of the Tohoku Region.
We will make the Project a success by all means.
Once again, we thank you for your cooperation and are requesting anew for your continued support.
OISCA and the tsunami survivors wish to extend our deepest and sincerest gratitude to the donors who have helped materialized the reforestation activities along the coastline of Natori City in Miyagi, Japan which was damaged by the March 11, 2011 tsunami.
Last year, we have successfully covered an area of 15.67 hectares with 80,182 black pine seedlings; employed 1,402 tsunami survivors and forest workers; mobilized 1,500 volunteers; and educated 5,000 people through the organized symposiums and photo exhibits.
Based on the conducted monitoring and evaluation by our forest experts, the survival rate of the planted seedlings is 98.4% attributed from having a good weather, careful planning prior to the actual tree planting activities as well as the expertise and strong commitment of the people who are involved into the project.
This year, we intend to maintain and even surpass the survival rate of last year`s tree planting activities. With the help of tsunami survivors, 90,000 pieces of black pine seeds were sown and scheduled to be transplanted in the project site in two years. A total of 49,822 black pine seedlings were planted in 9.74 hectares while less than 500 broad leaf species of seedlings were also planted by volunteers. We are also maintaining the 130,000 black pine seedlings grown in our two nurseries to be transplanted next year.
Meanwhile, the organization`s efforts in the disaster recovery work is now gradually recognized within and outside Japan as manifested by the “Good Life Award” from the Ministry of Environment and “Japan Resilience Award” from the Association for Resilience Japan during the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) which was held from March 14 to 18 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.
In the span of 10 years, we intend to rehabilitate a total of 100 hectares of coastal forest. Considered as a green infrastructure project due to its scope, timeline and objective to establish a natural barrier to help mitigate the impact of natural disasters; OISCA needs to raise a total of 12,000,000 USD to guarantee the successful implementation of the project. So far we have raised only 30% of the total budget and we are still working on massive lobbying to gain support and assistance in any form from various sectors of society.
To our dear friends worldwide,
Our life changed drastically due to the tsunami at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. We were living in a coastal village named Kitakama, located in the east of Sendai Airport, in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. About 400 people, mostly farmers, were living in 100 residential houses. 55 residents lost their lives in the tsunami disaster. We lost all of a sudden our living just in one day.
Under such a situation, we were completely at a loss. In May 2011, staff of OISCA came to visit Natori for an on-site survey of possible restoration of the damaged seashore forest.
Through its long experience of carrying out worldwide activities, OISCA recognized the important role of seashore forests in fighting against natural disasters, for windbreak and prevention of flying sands and tidal waves. Together with us, OISCA launched a project to plant 500,000 black pine trees in an area covering 100 hectares to restore the damaged coastal forest.
Through the twists and turns, we held a tree-planting ceremony in May 2014 and planted about 80,000 black pine seedlings said to be resistant to insects over 15-hectare land. In spite of the severe coastal environment where salty wind constantly blows, the seedlings have been steadily growing thanks to the dedicated efforts of the disaster-affected farmers.
Before the disaster, Kitakama was a melon and Chinese cabbage (qing-geng-cai) producing area. The coastal forest also protects agricultural crops from the cold sea breeze. Since it was started to plant trees for the restoration of the coastal forest indispensable for agriculture, there has been a new momentum for the renaissance of agricultural crop producing area. The improvement and development work of the adjacent agricultural land has made progress and about 300 units of green houses were built. We can finally see a bright light in the development of new infrastructure for our living. This year, we are going to start making preparations for vegetable production.
The Coastal Forest Restoration Project is not only limited to the restoration of the “hardware and functions” such as the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters, salty wind, wind-blown sands and tidal waves, but will also significantly contribute to the restoration of the “heart and mind” to rebuild our community with our own hands.
This is the 4th year since the Coastal Forest Restoration Project was implemented. But black pine trees do not grow in a brief space of time, and sustained efforts are required for a long time to come. We are firmly determined to work very hard for restoring “beautiful stretch of sandy beach dotted with green pine trees”.
We strongly request for your continued support for and participation in our Project.
Eiji SuzukiPresident Association for Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City
"We did not realize how they [the pine trees on the coast] have guarded our lives from the sea - from its wind, tide, and sand - until they were gone" says Mr. Mori, one of the community members of the OISCA's project. The forest, for a long time, had prevented the sea side city from many sea/salt-induced damages that could have occurred, until the Tsunami brutally washed away the people's lives, livelihoods, and most of the forest on the coast. More than 80% of the city formerly had engaged in agriculture. The damage of Tsunami was detrimental for survivors to rebuild their lives on agriculture. In fact Tsunami left sea salt on the ground.
The good news is that the Restoring the Coastal Forest Project has got a great team! It's got a well respected and connected local leader Mr. Suzuki who is a former teacher and owner of a parking lot in Sendai Airport. Mr. Yoshida from OISCA was successful in pulling Mr. Sasaki in, an excellent expert who previously headed the Forestry Management Office of Japan's Forestry Agency in Tohoku region, as a local coordinator. I only met handful members of the community, but I saw vibrant activities through them with trust, care, and efforts being put into the huge 10-year project. I was thanked by the team, so, on behalf of you, GlobalGivers, I received the gratitude.
"The project's job opportunity has helped our lives, and helped becoming reconnected with my former neighbors" says Mr. Otomo, another member of the community. Tsunami displaced survivors who were living the area. Community members learn to raise and take care pine seedlings, and get paid for the time they work. The seedlings of pines are raised with great care so that they could minimize loss/ failure to root. The long term goal they (the members, mostly elderly) see is to start this forest for the next generations to then foster, and to create a disaster resilient community.
I saw the spirit of learning from the failure [past] and being creative on solutions with limited resources, because "it's the nature we are dealing with" as Mr. Sugawara from OISCA put.
A total of 100 volunteers from the different parts of Japan were gathered for the monthly organized activity of maintaining both the nursery and tree planting site in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Izumi Kazuko (45) along with her colleagues travelled all the way from Osaka City to help in the monitoring and evaluation of the planted seedlings as well as in the whole day of uprooting the weeds in the 15 hectares project site.
Izumi Kazuko (center) and her colleagues help in monitoring the growth and survival of the planted black pine seedlings.
Almost four years since the earthquake and tsunami, the presence of volunteers like Izumi has a strong impact among the victims who are feared of being abandoned, ignored and forgotten. “It would be my 10th time to volunteer in Tohoku Region since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Involving in OISCA project is my 3rd time”, said by Izumi.
When asked why she keeps on coming back, Izumi answered that the video showing the houses and Sendai Airport engulfed by tsunami triggered her decision to volunteer in Tohoku. She is grateful that OISCA is organizing events that enable her to mingle and communicate with the local victims. It is ironic that despite the two days of arduous work, she felt energized.
Izumi also mentioned that as a woman, her capacity is very limited but working with the other volunteers could somehow help her contribute in rebuilding the lives of the local victims and for the immediate recovery of Tohoku Region.
Since OISCA will be covering another 15 hectares next year, Izumi is urging other volunteers to echo their experiences through social networks to encourage participation from other people. She also mentioned that there is a need to further promote the project so as to mobilize thousands of volunteers and be involved with the project.
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