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Foreign Forestry Specialists Visit OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project Site in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture

Nov 30, 2016

On November 24, a group of foreign forestry specialists made a field observation tour at the site of the Coastal Forest Restoration Project currently underway in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The group comprised 7 governmental officials dealing with forestry administration in Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Papua New Guinea. They have been invited by JICA as participants in a 3-week training course entitled “Capacity building for strengthening Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (ECO-DRR) functions including risk reduction functions of forests against natural disasters” which was commissioned to the Japan Forest Technology Association (JAFTA). 

Two days prior to and on the morning of their visit, two fairly strong earthquakes (magnitude 7.4 and 4, respectively) occurred off the coast of Fukushima which was hit by the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. Their on-site visit turned to be of great relevance. 

Under the freezing cold weather, the group first went to the disaster-hit Arahama area in Sendai City where a large-scale coastal forest restoration project has been carried out through government public works and then, visited “Hill of Millenary Hope”, forest embankment being built in Iwanuma City, adjacent to Natori. 

In the afternoon, they moved to the OISCA project site and visited the house of Mr. Eiji Suzuki, President of the Association for Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City, which was the only one remaining in the area, not swept by the tsunami. Through briefing by Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, OISCA Director for Coastal Forest Restoration Project, and looking at the half-destroyed house, the visiting specialists realized the gigantic extent of the 2011 tsunami disaster. 

Afterwards, under the guidance of Mr. Koichi Sasaki, Overall Field Manager of the OISCA Project, the group inspected 36.73 hectares of land where a total of 191, 303 seedlings of black pine trees have been planted by professional forestry workers and volunteers in 3 years since 2014, They showed a surprising expression when told that the planted seedlings recorded a survival rate of 98%. 

Then, the group moved to the nursery where seedlings of black pine and red pine species have been raised by disaster-affected local farmers themselves who underwent special training to obtain an official license for raising seedlings. 

The on-site field tour ended with discussions between the group members and the OISCA officials at the Natori field office. Asked about their impressions on the Project, the participant from Macedonia commented that in his country, NGOs are not actively involved in such a project, and he was very interested in the OISCA’s comprehensive approach including fund-raising, seedling-raising, tree-planting and post-planting caring activities. 

The two Malaysian specialists showed a keen interest in the Japanese legal system: “Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act” which requires any person producing seeds and seedlings of trees to undergo special training and register with the relevant local government. They said they would explore possibilities of learning from the Japanese lesson after going back home. 

The Filipino participant said that basically, the Philippine government agencies give money or distribute seedlings directly to different NGOs and affirmed that the OISCA model is of great interest. 

The Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Natori City has been implemented since 2011 by OISCA and a group of disaster-hit local residents for the purpose of restoring the coastal forest devastated by the earthquake and tsunami disaster. It is aimed at planting 500,000 seedlings of black pine and other tree species over the 100-hectare coastal area in a period of 10 years up until 2020. The total cost of the project estimated to amount one billion yen, is to be financed by donations from Japanese and foreign supporters. By this year-end, the total amount of various donations is expected to reach about 500 million yen.