The Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake on 23 October 2004 resulted in devastating statistics: 5,000 people died or were wounded; 120,123 homes destroyed; 127,635 displaced families.
The city of Tokamachi in the Chuetsu region of Nigata Prefecture was facing regular shortage of manpower to do farm and communal work, due to depopulation and an ageing population. The Chuetsu earthquake that hit Tokamachi under these conditions caused further devastation to people's houses and farms. The earthquake has precipitated the outflow of people, causing great fears that the forests and farms will be dilapidated, and village culture may well disappear. Based on these reasons, in collaboration with the Tokamachi Development Committee, a volunteer association of the village people, JEN has been recruiting agricultural volunteers.
“Village Revitalization Volunteer” is a continued and developed activity from our previous “Agricultural Volunteer” and “Snow-removal Volunteer”. Since the earthquakes, we have been dispatching volunteers to work cooperatively with the local villagers, as part of a village revitalization project to bring the depopulation to a halt. There are around 10 dispatching events throughout one year. These events include snow-removal in snowy winter, agricultural work in the summer, road cleaning, cleaning of woods and forests, and harvest celebration in fall.
Despite the short and limited time during the events, Iketani becomes a second home to those that visit. There are increasing repeaters that join our events as volunteers. The local villagers are more than happy to receive and welcome the volunteers. JEN strives to build the capacity and system of the village, to increase Iketani ‘fans', and to strengthen ties between individuals and the village through these volunteer dispatch events.
JEN has organized 19 volunteer dispatches from August 3rd until October 14th to assist the aged population living in Betsuyama area. This project was implemented with the assistance of USAID/Japan Platform, UBS Securities Japan and Yomiuri Light and Humanity Association. We have dispatched 97 volunteers in total, visited 258 houses, and assisted 932 aged affected persons in total.
The dispatched volunteers assisted in activities such as cleaning up the aftermath of the earthquake, moving to temporary accommodation, reparation of cracks on the ground, and reparation of Japanese paper sliding doors. These activities are difficult for the aged persons to do by themselves. Through these activities, the volunteers and the affected people could exchange talks, which led to psychosocial care.
The senior population could regain optimistic thinking for reconstruction from the earthquake by working together with the volunteers that regularly visited their homes. By cooperating with the community and helping the reparation of community facilities and organization of workshops, the whole community revitalized, and the senior population could engage themselves in the reconstruction.
On the last day of our assistance, JEN has organized an exchange event with the Tokamachi Development Committee, an organization that JEN has been assisting since three years ago. There were more than 120 participants from each side, both the affected persons and volunteers, and could deepen the link between each other. To realize further reconstruction by using the villagers' own network, through this exchange event we deepened the cooperation between the villagers, local authority and community groups. This signifies the sustainability of activities in the future by villagers themselves.
From April to November 2005 JEN had organized numerous agricultural volunteer programs (cleaning/rehabilitating closed schools; the maintenance of roads; sowing paddy fields; revitalizing agriculture; and, reestablishing agricultural waterways) to revive Iketani, Toka-machi in a depopulated region in Niigata.
It is difficult to conclude that local people of the village are sufficiently assisted by JEN because of time-constrained dates for on-going projects. Regardless, villages are enlivened and local people express satisfaction with our assistance. JEN is creating a system so that more local residents' needs are met, through the renovation of the Iketani School; by extending the volunteer period; and building cooperative relationships with other organizations.
Snow in Niigata is heavy and has high moisture content. In 2005, there was heavy snowfall, reaching over 2 meters in some places. Erosion has been commonplace since the earthquake and people are anxious about their homes collapsing. JEN has dispatched snow removal volunteers (JEN snow busters) to remove snow under the supervision of local residents in the areas in Toka-machi where many elderly people reside.
The Chuetsu-oki Earthquake of magnitude 6.8 of July 16th 2007, caused 11 deaths, 1,454 injuries, 30,086 destroyed homes, and 11,229 evacuees, in Kariwa-gun, Kashiwazaki City.
JEN has conducted needs assessment in the town of Nishiyama and assisted the establishment and management of Nishiyama Volunteer Center. From the assessment, it was found that the especially senior population of the affected people is experiencing shocks, emotional difficulties and worries for the future.
|Production age 63.9%, Children 14.8%, the Elderly Population 21.3%|
|Ratio of farmers||27.4%|
|Ratio of farmers
(More than 65 years old)