On 26 and 27 May, ECOPLUS conducted “a weekend farming workshop; rice planting” in Tochikubo village in Niigata Japan. Under the limitation of lodging space, we had eight participants from Niigata city and Metropolitan area.
We had water shortage caused by extremely small snow in previous winter in 2016, and low temperature and wet condition in 2017. This year we had enough snow as same as usual years but temperatures went up after March and it melted snow substantially. Farmers are worrying again the shortage of water.
On Saturday, we started planting seedlings in a smaller paddy which has around 800 square meters. Those paddies which have been growing rice without any chemical materials, the area was filled with so many creatures, like tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies.
Thanks to the strong sunshine, surface of the mud is very warm. We set 4-6 seedlings in one position 1 centimeter under the surface.
One of the participants was came from Thailand but she was from the central part of big city, Bangkok. She and his Japanese husband were so good at planting works although it was the first time for them.
At the dinner so many dishes using wild vegetables just harvested by the chef from their hills were appeared. Some were boiled and mixed with sesame source or vinegar source, some were fried as “Templa”. We enjoyed the gorgeousness of the life in the mountain.
It was also very nice weather on Sunday and one of the participants succeeded to see the beautiful sunrise at 4 o’clock in the morning.
After finishing rice planting using one hour and so, we had open air lecture from Mr. FUEKI Akira, a veteran farmer. He explained that in old days when the paddies were much smaller and narrow, they conducted rice plantings one paddy to next one moving water from upper paddy to lower one. He also taught that normally 20 pesticides, weed killers or other chemicals were used for rice growing in one season but for this totally organic rice paddy he uses no chemicals. Because of this, he needs to weed by hands at least three times before harvest in each paddies.
A reflection session by volunteers for “Welcome Yap” Project in past two weeks was held in Waseda University in Tokyo in the evening of Friday, 23 March. Among eleven volunteers, eight persons and a videographer who had been with us almost the period joined the meeting.
They donated their time and money for the project heavily since the first meeting in last November accumulating meetings and site visits to identify the most ideal places for the Yapese students. All of activities of each day was organized by responsible team members of the day. One of volunteers was an IT engineer who took days off for this project and joined almost entire period.
During the meeting, they exchange comments and fanny stories during the time, watching photos of Yapese students during the project. Many commented they will come back to Yap to see students they spent time together this time.
The project was supported by so many students, families, ex-participants of ECOPLUS’s program in Yap, and organizations, like Keidanren Nature Reserve Fund, United Airlines, Patagonia, Minamiuonuma City Board of Education.
Today, we went back from Niigata to Tokyo by bus. It was impressive that the students from Yap tried to see out of the window not to forget the scenery of Niigata. In the bus, they reflected what they had done in these nine days with the pictures.
After arrived at Tokyo, they deepened their learnings during this program and discussed what kind of future did they want in Yap. Then, they considered what they could do by themselves to make it happen.
During a farewell party in the evening, the students from Yap gave a presentation about their desired future of Yap and their learnings. Many people came and joined the farewell party including our supporters, host families and the people who had been to Yap. Thanks to them, it was a worm and wonderful party.
After the Yapese students gathered with their host families in the morning 18th March, they had a social gathering. We saw their big smiles in the pictures during homestay, so that we could immediately find they had a wonderful time. Also, Yapese students gave a presentation and introduced about Yap, and their host families listened carefully.
After that, they enjoyed making ice-cream by making good use of snow, and playing with snow. Then, they had a reflection session about these days, and shared their findings and thoughts from their own perspectives.
For dinner, they ate more than the first day. We kept laughing during dinner and seemed to get to know well each other through these eight days.夕食では初日より食べる量が増えていたり、笑いが絶えなかったり、8日間もの間一緒に過ごしてきたことを実感しました。