Landcare in Japan

Tomomi Maekawa

Tomomi Maekawa from Tokyo Institute of Technology

The Institute is playing a role in helping introduce Australia’s highly successful Landcare movement to Japan. Currently it is hosting a Japanese student scholar, Tomomi Maekawa, a PhD student with Tokyo Institute of Technology, who is studying Landcare in Australia. Tomomi is based at the Albury-Wodonga campus. She arrived in Australia at the beginning of June and will be here for a year during which time she will be mentored by Prof Allan Curtis, who has done a lot of research on Landcare.

Last month she was joined by her supervisor Professor Toshio Kuwako from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Professor Michael Seigel and Dr  Kazuki Kagohashi, from Nanzan University. While here Prof Seigel and Dr Kagoshi  made two visits to the University: one on August 26 with a group of eight undergraduate students from Nanzan University studying environmental  decision making and policy to hear a presentation from A/Prof Robyn Watts on water diversions, environmental flows and sustainability; and a second, on  September 16,together with the chair of Australian Landcare International  Rob Youl and Prof Kuwako , to meet with Prof Curtis.

Dr Kagohashi, whose PhD was on water management in a drought-prone area in Japan and in particular how local farmers have traditionally adapted their farming methods to drought, is now researching environmental governance and was in Australia to learn more about Landcare..

“Prof Seigel and I are trying to clarify the cause of modern environmental problems,” said Dr Kagohashi. “Our hypothesis is that the cause is rooted in the industrial revolution.”

Rob Youl, a retired forester, chairs Australian Landcare International, a not-for-profit organisation which officially began in 2008. Its main aim is to use its collective Landcare experience to help people in other countries manage their land and water resources more sustainably. It is able to offer small amounts of funding (up to $500) to help with Landcare-type projects overseas.

“For example, we were able to give Dr Jo Millar [who leads the Institute’s Improving Rural Livelihoods and Environments in Developing Countries SRA] $500 for a wetlands project in Laos,” said Mr Youl.

Landcare is now in about 25 countries overseas with countries like Japan now looking at how to embrace and adopt/adapt the Landcare concept.

Mr Youl has been involved in three of the four study tours in Australia for Japanese students that  Prof Seigel has led over the past four years. While here the students get to meet with local Landcare groups and stay on farms.

“For some time I’d been thinking that Landcare would have a role in Japan,” said Prof Seigel, who,  while originally from Barooga, NSW, has lived in Japan since 1973.  In 2011, while on a six month sabbatical from Nanzan University, he had the opportunity to look more thoroughly into Landcare in Australia which convinced him that establishing Landcare in Japan would be both feasible and beneficial.

Currently he is the chairperson of the Secretariat to Promote the Establishment of Landcare in Japan (SPELJ).

His connection with Prof Toshio Kuwako, who had written a lot of papers about consensus building, goes back to 2010 when he invited Prof Kuwako to Nanzan University to give a presentation on his research. Prof Seigel has also published a paper (2012)  ‘Consensus building revisited: lessons from a Japanese Experience,’ in Global Change, Peace & Security, 24:3, 331-349.

“I realized that a lot of what Prof Kuwako was writing about is ‘care for commons’ which is very close to what Landcare is about,” said Prof Seigel. “I see his work as the bridge between Landcare in Australia and Landcare in Japan as does Prof Kuwako…..which is where the idea came for Tomomi, who was just beginning her PhD program, to come here.”

(Tomomi  had been one of the students on the undergraduates tour last year and had shown an interest in researching Landcare.)

Prof Kuwako, a professor of the Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology, is a special advisor to SPELJ. He has developed effective strategies both for consensus building and for having people explore and understand their own local environment, and come up with their own goals for achieving both community well-being and environmental sustainability.

This visit was his first to Australia.

As he said: “Firstly, the landscape in Australia is very different to that of Japan and secondly I was very impressed, when I met people involved in Landcare, by their enthusiasm, the willingness to do volunteer work, how they value the environment and their communities and the relationship between the two.”

Tomomi, who began her academic career studying law with a focus on litigation in landscape issues, is now doing her PhD thesis on Landcare, social justice and consensus building.

While in Australia she is meeting with members of various Landcare groups and researching what has already been written about Landcare.

“What I’d like to see is more local environmental activity, not only in Japan, but in other countries around the world,” said Tomomi.”Whether it is called Landcare or not, doesn’t really matter.”

About ilwscsu
The Institute for Land, Water and Society is one of four Centres of Research Excellence within Charles Sturt University, Australia. Its principal focus is on integrated research which contributes to improved social and environmental sustainability in rural and regional areas.

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