July 20, 2005



The 19th ICA-Japan Training Course on 'Strengthening Management of Agri Coops in Asia'

This annual training course was the 19th running this year. The participants had finished a study of selected topics in their home countries. After that, they had attended a two-month management and administration seminar in India and then made a weeklong tour of agricultural cooperatives in Indonesia before arriving in Japan on March 13. Altogether 12 middle-management cooperative officials from 10 countriesムCambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnamムstayed in Japan for 42 days.
For the first time ever the course let the participants stay with Japanese farming families for some nights, a program proved to be highly popular among the participants, who had an opportunity to see the real lives of Japanese farmers.
Field Study Part 1 took them to Iwate Prefecture, a province in the northeastern (Tohoku) district where they visited two JAsムJA Iwate Chuoh and JA Iwate-Hanamaki.
At JA Iwate Chuoh, a director of the JA spoke on how their cooperatives tackled challenges, mainly on their efforts to align cooperative members in the cause of cooperation and to construct marketing strategies for agricultural products. At Iwate-Hanamaki, already familiar to the study visits of IDACA training courses, they studied diversified business a multipurpose cooperative society could venture into outside its core business. They were taken to a winery, an ice cream plant as well as a funeral service center, all run by the JA.
The first-round field study destinations included the Iwate Prefecture Agricultural Research Center, where they studied its current experiments and how it disseminate the results of experiments among the farming population.
Later, the participants went on a two-day trip to JA Sawada in Gunma Prefecture, some 150 km from Tokyo. There, they saw for themselves how the farmers in the hilly area, in spite of the disadvantage, successfully pursue agriculture and produce processed agri products by themselves. The farmers' cooperation has helped the Sawada community to improve its quality of life.
Field Study Part 2 was held in Shimane Prefecture, a province located in the southwestern region of Japan geographically wide apart from Iwate. According to the Japanese mythology, Shimane is Japan's birthplace, symbolized by the Izumo Grand Shrine. The shrine, known as enshrining a god of match-making, attracts a steady stream of worshippers, among them many young men and women.
In order to avoid duplication with Part 1, IDACA made sure that Part 2 visits were as far as possible to the kinds of places not covered in the Part 1 program. JA Shimane Prefectural Union was visited to study the functions and the role of a prefectural union in general. The prefectual HQ of JA Zen-noh provided an opportunity for the course participants to learn commercial undertakings affiliated JA group have been promoting. These ranged from "Rice Center" to "A Coop Enterprise," and wholesale marketing of flowers and saplings.
They were introduced to JA Kunibiki and as they did in their Part 1 field study tour saw JAs' pro-community operations. Of particular interest to the visitors were a mobile dental clinic that cruises the community, the processing of the udon noodle made of home-grown ingredients as well as the planting of flowers along the roads and collection of assorted waste under a "Environmentally friendly" campaign.
The environmentally conscious JA Kunibiki has been certified by the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as having cleared the ISO standards on environmental consideration. The participants took a special interest in the cooperative's efforts to save resources. JA Kunibiki most thoroughly assort waste items to recover from them as much recyclable material as possible.
Apart from visits to JA facilities, the Part 2 program included a visit to the Izumo Grand Shrine and world-famous Hiroshima in the hope of having the course participants know more about Japanese culture.
In those two study visits, they lodged in farmers' houses and went to a spa, experiences they thought to be very valuable as a way of getting to know Japanese culture and customs better.