JICA－Sponsored Foreign Forestry Officials Inspected Natori Coastal Forest Restoration Project Site
On September 27, an 8-member group of foreign government officials in charge of forestry administration made a half-day observation tour at the OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project site in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The group members came from 5 different countries (Macedonia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea) who were invited by JICA for a 3-week training program in Japan. The Japan Forest Technology Association (JAFTA) was commissioned to organize and carry out the training course.
The group first visited the OISCA nursery where black pine and red pine species have been raised by a group of disaster-affected local farmers who comprise the Association for the Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City. Mr. Koichi Sasaki, Overall Field Manager at the project site explained in details the process of seed sowing started in March 2012, raising seedlings in pot and forwarding seedlings for planting. Mr. Sasaki emphasized the low-cost merit of home produced seedlings.
Afterwards, the group moved by chartered bus to inspect the planting site where a total of 265,522 seedlings have been planted by professional forestry workers, disaster-hit local farmers and hundreds of volunteers in 4 years since 2014. They were strongly surprised upon learning that the planted seedlings marked an average survival rate of over 98% in the first three years and reached as high as 99.8% this year despite the severe natural conditions of the Natori coastal area.
Back to the OISCA field office, the group held discussions with Mr. Sasaki and other OISCA officials including Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, Director for Coastal Forest Project, and Ms. Ma. Grazen Acerit, Staff of International Cooperation Division.
A participant from the landlocked Nepal asked a basic question as to why mainly black pine seedlings, and not broad-leaved species, have been planted at the OISCA site. Mr. Sasaki pointed out the harsh natural conditions of the coastal area which hinder normal growth of trees and affirmed that the survival rate of black pine species proved to be the highest. He also added that seedlings of broad-leaved species were planted in some sections of the inland site.
Another Nepalese participant questioned if OISCA is not willing to share with other Japanese groups and foreign organizations the outstanding skills and experiences such as producing seedlings at a low cost, attaining an astonishingly high survival rate of over 98% or efficient public and private sector partnership. Mr. Sasaki responded that the OISCA people have no intention of monopolizing or hiding the technical knowhow and experiences gained, but are widely disseminating the relevant information through forestry journals and other publications or on line.
Meanwhile, a lady participant from Papua New Guinea raised a gender-related question if special consideration by gender is given in allocating field work among the members of the Association for the Restoration of Coastal Forest. In reply to this question, Mr. Sasaki said: “What is important is who can do which job. We do not distinguish between men and women when it comes to assigning work. Of course, we do not let women carry particularly heavy stuff.”
One-man TV filming crew from a local TV station: Miyagi TV came over to conduct on-site coverage of the JICA group. He closely followed the activities of the group members during the whole site tour. He held individual interviews with a Macedonian and a Nicaraguan, respectively on their personal impressions about the visit.