From December 5-11, a delegation of Chinese farmers visited Japan to observe and share experiences of organic, eco-friendly farming in the two countries. The study tour was jointly organized by Daichi (Tokyo) and Fuping Development Institute(Beijing) as an important step towards a joint-venture initiative in China. As a partner and coordinator of the initiative, three members from GLI joined the tour.
27 farmers and rural leaders from Sichuan, Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, Xinjiang, Beijing and three media representatives joined the delegation. All the farmer participants are the leaders of regional farmers’ group of over thousands of members; most of them had never been abroad before. Daichi warmly welcomed the delegation with a full schedule. The Chinese delegation visited contract farmers of Daichi in three prefectures and featured intense interactions and discussions. The study tour was a big success: Chinese farmers achieved a first-hand understanding of the model and concept of Daichi, as well as the current status of organic farming in Japan. At the same time, Japanese farmers were surprised and impressed to realize they share far more common values with Chinese farmers than they expected. The study tour further confirmed the possibility and importance of joint efforts between leading social enterprises such as Daichi and FDI.
The Chinese delegation started the tour with a visit to Daichi’s headquarters in Chiba on December 6. After listening to a lecture on Daichi’s history, development and its production standards, the delegation was guided to Daichi’s logistics center. Chinese delegates observed the processes of sample testing and packaging with great interest. The manager of the logistics center explained that the Center is one of the most important parts of Daichi’s quality control management.
On December 7, the delegation arrived in Gunma Prefecture to visit the ‘Kusabuchi farmers group’ in Kusabuchi city. The Kusabuchi farmers group was established in 1988 by three farmers who wanted to practice “no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers” farming. In 2000, the group established a business partnership with several consumers group and organic companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area. In 2001, the group was the winner of an environment-friendly agriculture competition sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture. The group has promoted the organic JAS certification system among its members for ten years. The delegation was guided to spinach farms as well as operation rooms where spinach was examined and packed for next day delivery. Later, Chinese farmers enjoyed dinner with core members of the Kusabuchi group. Both sides commented that the aging problem in rural areas is becoming a big issue for China and Japan. There is an emerging need to encourage young people from cities to explore agriculture as a new lifestyle.
The next day, the Chinese delegation traveled to Kanraku city to meet with a local organic farming group. The group was formed in 1986 with 28 participating farmers. In 1989, the group started organic product delivery services to Tokyo. In 1996, the group also launched a recycling project with primary schools in Kita-ku, Tokyo. Leftover food and other waste were collected and made into organic compost. The delegation visited kiwi and green vegetable farms owned by the group members. Later, officers from the local county offices joined the delegation and introduced a new initiative, a weekend farm project. The idea is to encourage people who live in the cities to rent a small piece of land in Kanraku and to experience farming and enjoy the natural beauty of rural Kanraku over the weekend.
That evening, Daichi hosted the delegation at its own restaurant located in Roppongi. The delegation enjoyed great Yunnan food with staff members and board members of Daichi.
On December 9, the delegation paid a visit to the Sangbu Vegetable Network in Chiba Prefecture. The network has 48 farmer members and its annual revenue reached 4 million pounds in 2009. The principles of the Sangbu network are:
1. No use of herbicides or soil fumigation machines.
2. Use compost from mother natural instead of chemical fertilizers.
3. Promote crop rotation to protect the soil.
4. Members of network must work together on the planting plan.
5. Food safety and the relationship with consumers are the two most important priorities.
A round table meeting was arranged at the end of this exchange visit at Daichi’s headquarters. Three members from the Board of Directors of Daichi, including Mr. Fujita, attended. The Chinese delegation expressed its great gratitude to Daichi for the hospitality and excellent arrangements. The tour and exchanges with Japanese farmers helped Chinese farmers understand the core values of ‘the Daichi model’, that organic farming reflects a long commitment to honest farming, care for the environment and responsibility for the health of farmers and consumers.
Improving the quality of soil is a key element of organic farming that requires hard work for years, if not decades. Chinese farmers were deeply impressed by the detailed quality control throughout the farming process. All of them promised to share their learning with other farmer groups in China. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Fujita, founder and CEO of Daichi, expressed his wish to improve the living standard of Chinese farmers and to narrow the wealth gap in China through Sino-Japanese cooperation in organic agriculture.
On the last day of our visit to Japan, the delegation visited Daichi’s shop and Deli in the famous Ginza Mitsukoshi department store. The shop and Deli were opened only two months ago as the first step of Daichi’s new business strategy.