For many fishermen and their families in north-east Japan, the events of 11 March 2011 brought much despair and hardship. When one of the world’s largest earthquakes struck that afternoon and a tsunami was triggered, fishing communities were shattered.
Many lost family members, friends, homes and even their ability to earn an income. However they did not lose their compassion for others.
Working with Kesennuma and Minami Sanriku fishing communities in Miyagi prefecture, World Vision has helped to keep local economies buoyant.
“As the fishing industry is the economic foundation of the community, World Vision sought to assist in this area. By providing assistance to both areas, we have been able to contribute to keeping the economy going, and thus recover livelihood for those who lost their jobs to the tsunami,” said Ryochiro Mochizuki, Livelihoods Team Leader, World Vision Japan.
As World Vision’s ultimate goal is to ensure child wellbeing, it can be achieved only when parents and other members of the community are able to generate adequate income and take good care of their children. This is why the livelihood project is so important in this response.
“In Kesennuma City, it is said that 80% of the people depended on the fishery related industry for their livelihood. The fishing market reopened in June and business has been active since then. However, it is much smaller than before because main facilities for fishing industry have not yet recovered fully.
Restarting the freezer warehouse will be one of the most important steps for the local fishery industry to begin their business in the community. They can again preserve, process, and sell their marine products. And I trust this will ultimately impact the lives of children in the community,” said Mr Mochizuki.
World Vision Japan worked with the Kesennuma City Fishery Cooperatives to rehabilitate the freezer warehouse. The Government of Japan provides five-sixth of the total cost and World Vision provides the balance. The warehouse had a freezing capacity of 60 tonnes and refrigeration capacity of 3,000 tonnes of marine products. In Kesennuma prior to the tsunami, fishermen were able to store and freeze 165,000 tons of marine products in several different freezer facilities. Only 20,000 tonnes has been recovered so far, including the one supported by World Vision. This support is crucial for the local economy for several reasons. First, the co-operatives consist of more than 250 member enterprises and they all benefit from it. Second, the freezer makes fishermen and enterprises do business all around the year because they can store marine products and processed products in stock.
In February 2011, the freezer warehouse facility resumed its operation for the first time since the tsunami.
“Reflecting on the situation right after the tsunami, it is incredible to see how far we have finally reached,” said Ryosuke Saito, Chairman of the Kesennuma City Fishery Co-operatives, at a ceremony to re-open the facility.
“Restarting the freezer facility will lead to a sense of assurance and hope for the people who are associated with the local fishery industry. The local community will be motivated and encouraged by this symbolic event. Without World Vision’s assistance, it might have been impossible to restart this freezer at this period of time. We are deeply thankful to World Vision’s assistance”, said Mr Saito.
Bringing business back to Kesennuma is essential to help fishermen and their families and keep the fishing industry going. As part of a re-branding campaign, World Vision designed and funded 40,000 stickers. Dealers and distributors used the stickers on boxes for fish destined for other cities. The Co-operatives, after working with World Vision staff for months and knowing the organisation’s global activities, decided to sponsor 5 children.Giving Back
“I have been supported by World Vision’s livelihood program as a recipient of a boat. With the support from World Vision I am able to restart my livelihood. My daughter goes to World Vision’s Child Friendly Space, too. As a family we all received supports from World Vision. By showing recovery from the misery, I want to give my deepest thanks to all who have helped us,” said Mr Abe, from the Fishery Co-operative in Minami Sanriku Town.
For Minami Sanriku, a city south of Kesennuma, seaweed cultivation is the major industry. Some 95% of the 1,000 fishing boats in this town were lost to the tsunami. Almost 80% of fisherman interviewed by World Vision lost their homes, the majority of their assets, as well as their income-producing assets. For the majority of children in this community, their parents rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood therefore re-starting the industry was essential for children’s wellbeing.
World Vision provided small boats to ‘wakame’ (seaweed) fishermen in 12 ports in Shizugawa and Tokura districts. As World Vision was able to provide the boats prior to the seaweed planting season, fisherman were able to recommence their livelihoods, and cultivation could take place in the appropriate season; a boost to the fishermen’s income-earning capacity.
In addition, seaweed processing machines were provided to 20 fishermen groups. The machines include boiling tanks and compressors. They used to be owned individually, but most of them were lost to the tsunami. A set of machines, costing between USD$20-30,000 is hardly affordable for a family who lost almost all their property.
By processing the wakame, fishermen can sell the seaweed for up to10 times the regular price. The processing component also provides employment opportunities for many women.
Story by Mitsuko Sobata - Communications Officer