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.