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NPO Partner Project - Realizing the SDGs from the Affected Area

A place called Mountain’s Farm sits in Ose in central Fukushima. This month, 20 people from the local community and across Japan gathered for an outdoor event picking  vegetables, cooking, and making home-made pizza.

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The farm has a wide range of produce from carrots, green peppers, and sweet potatoes to blueberries. The seasonal vegetables, fruits, and rice are cultivated by 11 people with disabilities. Prior to March 11, 2021, farming was their main livelihood, however, they were forced to flee their homes after the nuclear disaster. They are hoping to someday return to their hometown to farm again.

Mountain’s Farm is run by a non-profit organization called Shinsei, one of the 21 founding members of JDF Disaster Area Assistance Center for Persons With Disabilities Fukushima. In October 2011, Shinsei began creating an activity space for persons with disabilities who fled their homes after the disaster. In 2013, Shinsei started to focus on employment opportunities and operated a marketplace to sell baked goods and crafts.  In recent years, however, with the decreased momentum for reconstruction projects, sales have decreased.

“We need a new initiative without relying on reconstruction projects,” said Ms. Miho Tominaga, the head of Shinsei. She decided to bring together her network of private sector entities, NGOs, and researchers and launched Mountain’s Farm in Ose which had been facing increasingly unused lots in their community. Mountain’s Farm tackles this challenge while creating a space for persons with disabilities to contribute to the community instead of only receiving assistance.

Ms. Tominaga and her team are focusing on nature, creating a sustainable project model, and building a welcoming environment for visitors. The Mountain’s Farm team has carried a variety of pilot projects to achieve sustainability. To share their experience with others, Mountain’s Farm hosts Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) workshops. Participants get to make fires, cook, and experience a self-sufficient lifestyle.

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In 2020, the workshops saw a decline in participants from outside of Fukushima amidst the pandemic, but local residents began to join more. 

Mr. Atsushi Onodera, owner of organic agriculture company, Agrity.

“I grew up in Ose and wanted to revitalize my hometown with organic farming. Collaboration with Shinsei is critical. I hope Shinsei thinks of Ose as its second hometown.”

Mr. Masahiro Kurosawa, owner of a local architecture studio in Koriyama, who supports the design and construction of workshop spaces in Mountain’s Farm.

“I was drawn to the artwork crafted by the members of Shinsei.”

A group of local high school students participated in mowing the grass and building a pizza oven. International study tours and club activities have been suspended during the pandemic and so this opportunity with Mountain’s Farm provided valuable learning moments for the students.

“We have been working on human rights within the SDGs but the environment component has been overlooked. I would like to continue our activities to create a hub for the community and build a sustainable society for future generations,” said Ms. Tominaga. In the evening, an online information sharing session was organized and participated by corporate partners, NGOs, and researchers. Participants shared their advice on managing farms and gave feedback.

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Ms. Tominaga was relieved to see the turnout, “I was thinking this would be an inspiring opportunity with different participants. At the same time, I was also worried that this gathering would be too much for our team members.” Her worries were soon forgotten after seeing her team members growing into their roles as hosts.

Over a decade later, persons with disabilities who were forced to flee their hometown still do not know when they may return. However, a new chapter in their lives to immerse in the local community has just begun.

Civic Force is supporting Shinsei through the Great East Japan Earthquake NPO Partner Projects. 

Link to Shinsei’s website.

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