September 30, 2001


23rd RECA Seminar Toward better mutual understanding about WTO farm trade talks

The 23rd RECA (A Research and Education Center of AARDO) seminar was held in July. The biennial seminar was inaugurated in 1969 under an agreement between the Afro-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO) and the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu). The AARDO, an international organ made up of government ministries and agencies promotes agricultural and rural development in 28 Afro-Asian countries. For the purpose, it hosts a variety of training programs and facilitates interchange of experiences, technology and knowledge in the regions.

The latest RECA seminar invited public-sector officials in charge of WTO matters to discuss WTO farm trade talks in order for rural communities to better understand points at issue and better coordinate their efforts. The seminar was also intended to have Japan's position better reflected in the talks and forge stronger support networks for the talks.

The seminar drew 14 participants from 11 nationsムBagladesh, Taiwan, Ghana, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria and Yemen. During the period between their arrival in Japan on July 15 and their departure for home July 29, the participants received basic lectures on Japan's agriculture, farming communities and agricultural cooperatives. Another round of lectures focusing on the WTO farm trade talks were also held, such lectures including "Interpretation of the WTO, Agricultural Policy Changes and JapaneseProposals," "Multilateral Functions of Agriculture and Rural Communities" and "Reduction of Poverty in Asia and Establishment of Food Security." These lectures were followed by discussions.

The participants later made a study tour of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where they visited the Prefectural Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and Yamaguchi Agricultural Cooperative Chuo, and related facilities, including processing plants.

At the Prefectural Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, the group was briefed on the outline of local agriculture and agricultural cooperatives, and the problems they have faced. At the Yamaguchi Agricultural Cooperative Chuo, they received explanations about the organization of local cooperatives and their business activities. In addition, the group made an inspection tour of related facilities, including country elevators and seedling-raising facilities. During this time, they had an opportunity to be briefed on the water control situation, upon their request.

Next, the participants visited the Prefectural Agricultural Experimental Station to see how it is contributing to the further advancement of agriculture.

After being briefed on the role and functions of the experimental station, and its recent research activities, the group inspected laboratories, protection-type horticulture and farming complexes. They were attracted to the advanced farming techniques and watched with great interest the information services and farming support activities provided on the Internet by the station.

The study visit enabled the group to have direct access to a facet of Japanese agriculture and cooperatives, but what impressed them more deeply was a visit to a local farm household. They visited only one farm household, but it brought them up to date about the way Japanese farmers live and how they work on their farms, and they learned directly from farm household members about their philosophy on agriculture. To the participants, this was a useful experience in the sense that it drove home to them the objectives of the 23rd RECA seminar, as a result of confirming personally what they had in the past simply heard about indirectly.

During their stay at the farm household in a mountainous area, the group heard from three generations of the family about farming activities and asked them questions. Even children in the neighborhood came and joined in the discussion. Indeed, this visit profoundly impressed the participants with the farm household's determined efforts to keep their rural community viable.

At the end of their program in the prefecture, the group visited Japan Expo Yamaguchi 2001-Yamaguchi Kirara Expo, under way from July 14 to promote greater local development. They toured through a variety of exhibits, including those of local agricultural cooperative groups.

On their way back to Tokyo, they made a stopover in Hiroshima City, where they visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and an atomic bomb archive. They also made sightseeing trips to Kyoto and Nara, which enabled them to observe various facets of Japanese society.