The Tokyo-Suginami convivium has sprung into action to support farmers affected by the foot-and-mouth epidemic that has struck the Miyazaki prefecture of the country, Japan’s second largest growing region. The convivium joined forces with other organizations and groups of youth agriculture activists to organize the event, “Gotta do something, Miyazaki!” The occasion featured traditional dances, Miyazaki products, fundraising and the creation of photo-messages to send to the farmers (pictured). The revenues, along with donations and the messages, were all sent to farmers in Miyazaki.
In April, the first infections of the contagious disease were confirmed, and the outbreak soon spread throughout the prefecture in southern Japan. Within the space of four months, the government ordered Miyazaki farmers to slaughter more than 280,000 of their animals, making it the biggest cull in the history of Japanese stockbreeding and 100 times larger than that during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2000.
“At first the situation was overlooked by media, the problem was underestimated and intervention was delayed,” said Tokyo-Suginami convivium leader, Toshiya Sasaki. “But as the number of the animals infected grew, the news made it to the front page of all the national newspapers. Consumers panicked, but of course, the people most affected are the small-scale farmers.”
“By the end of July, control of the situation had tightened, but for the farmers, the real challenge was just beginning. Now, even with some economic support from the government, it is not easy to start production from scratch and to regain consumers’ trust.”
“In May we published a message on our convivium website for the farmers who were hit, to show our solidarity. But as the situation worsened, we wanted to do something more substantial, to be able to help them in a more practical way. So we decided to hold this event, not only to bring attention amongst other to the situation that they are facing, but to raise funds that can help them get back on their feet.”
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Slow Food Tokyo-Suginami Convivium (Japanese only)
Meanwhile further west in the country, Terra Madre delegates and students of Doushisha University’s School for Organic Agriculture celebrated summer produce with a “Summer Harvest Festival” in late July.
The school was originally founded in 2008 through collaboration between the university and Gen’ichi Nagasawa, Terra Madre 2004 delegate and pioneer of organic agriculture in Japan. Located in a picturesque rural suburb of Kyoto, the school welcomes many full-time workers, prospective farmers and people that would simply like to know more about agriculture or begin home gardening. Over fifty people have already graduated the course and 30 more are enrolled this year. Six graduates have already gone on to become professional farmers, in a sector with an aging workforce and that employs less and less people each year.
The event included a blind tasting to choose the best vegetable grown by former students, and a meal based around fresh vegetables from the school’s gardens, grilled and cooked in various manners. Organizers held the event to promote the exchange between former and present students and facilitate and exchange of learning.
A number of students and teachers from the school will also be participating in the Terra Madre world meeting of food communities in October this year.
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