Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Restoring agriculture and food sector in Japan aftermath Tohoku Earthquake and Fukushima: A thought notes.

Fitting the Radiation Safety Piece into the Jigsaw Puzzle: Restoring Agriculture and Food Sector Aftermath the Great Tohoku Disaster



A Thought Notes: Draft for Comments



SVRK Prabhakar

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Hayama, Japan

August 2011

Important Questions to Ponder

Following are some important questions raised among policy community.

ž  What measures are required to kick-start the agriculture and food sector in the affected areas?

ž  To what extent the civil and nuclear safety authorities are connected at the local level (or how best they can be strengthened)?

ž  What is the level of radiation safety preparedness in prefectures with nuclear power plants? [What level of changes happened in these prefectures before and after the Fukushima?]

ž  How people perceive and rate different aspects of responses by various agencies aftermath of Fukushima?

This thought notes mainly deals with the first question listed above i.e. what measures are required to kick-start agriculture in the affected areas!

Broad Category of Measures Needed: Immediate and Long-term

ž  Immediate measures

     Establish Agricultural and Food Restoration Committees at all levels

     Initiate damage assessment and decision support systems

     Make available information on immediate ‘deployability’ of agriculture in the affected areas (how-soon, how-far, how many, and how farmers can get to their normal lives)

     Enhanced insurance payouts and other relief measures

ž  Long-term measures:

     Strengthening Institutional systems (and farmer support systems)

     Strengthening capacity across the spectrum of stakeholders involved in food production and distribution chain

     Introduction of policies to enable the above


Establishing Agricultural and Food Restoration Committees and Guidelines

ž   Consist of an agricultural technology expert (preferably from a research center or university), radiological food health specialist, and JAs, local administrative representatives. Committees at local level can have farmer representatives.

ž   Would have to be established at the national, provincial (ken) and district (gun) levels anchored within the agricultural department of the prefectural governments and the Ministry of Agriculture at the national level.

ž   Able to engage experts on specific subject matters (e.g. salinity, infrastructure engineers, radiation safety etc) as the need may arise.

ž   Will assist governments at relevant levels in formulating plans for relief and rehabilitation of agriculture and food.

ž   Will come up with guidelines and procedural details for farmers for rejuvenating the agricultural activities and to avail various policy provisions that government has provided for them.


Initiate Damage Assessment and Decision Support Systems

Impacts of the triple-disaster:

ž  Salinization of vast agricultural land along the Northeast coast of Japan

ž  Radiation contamination in areas near Fukushima nuclear power plant

ž  Damage to irrigation and other related agricultural infrastructure due to the earthquake and tsunami

Legend for the Figure 1:

A: refers to areas with all forms of impacts: salinization, radiation and physical damage

B: refers to areas with physical damage and radiation

C: Refers to areas with salinization and radiation

D: refers to areas with salinization and physical damage

E, F, G refers to areas only with radiation, physical damage, and salinization respectively.

ž  Initiate measures to identify and quantify areas and impacts related to radiation, salinization and physical damage (this step spans from short to medium term but should be initiated at early stages of disaster management).

     Damage assessment teams at village and city levels.

     Self-assessment forms wherever possible and through websites if the nature of damage allow.

     Systems to collect soil samples for checking radiation and salinity levels.

     Livelihood and skill mapping to identify means of livelihood diversification for farmers who cannot farm sooner (or never).


Re-deploying Agriculture in Areas with No or Safe Radiation Levels

ž  Salinity could be a potential limitation in these areas. Classify areas with various degree of salinity

ž  Areas with low salinity

     Introduce saline tolerant rice varieties

ž  Areas with medium salinity

     Provide support for reclamation (scraping, leaching, flushing as has been done in Iraq and Australia)

     Introduce saline tolerant rice varieties

ž  Areas with high salinity

     Assess feasibility for reclamation (in addition application of gypsum)

     If no reclamation is feasible, Halophytes can provide alternative here (Science, 2008)

ž  More difficult to restore than areas affected with salinity and hence due care should be taken in finalizing plans for restoration in these areas.

ž  Where remediation is not feasible:

     Consider using land for alternative purposes such as wind-mills, solar power fields etc.

     Establishment of ‘sanctuaries’ in areas with relatively low radiation levels.

     Permanent compensation packages to farmers and others affected due to evacuation and loss of livelihood

ž  Where remediation is feasible:

     Initiate procedures for phytoremediation and other reclamation procedures.

     Continuous monitoring of radiation levels for timely restoration of permissible activities.

The role of JA and other Related Agencies

ž  Strengthen its own staff to provide suitable skills and knowledge to farmers on farming under saline conditions, phytoremediation etc.

ž  Participate and contribute to Agriculture and Food Restoration Committees

ž  Hazen insurance payments to those farmers who obtained crop insurance through JA and associated agencies.

ž  Assess its post-disaster performance and establish its own internal standard operating procedures for quicker response to similar events in the future.

ž  Assist agriculture extension centers to disseminate necessary information and skills to farmers for restoration.


Cooperatives and Extension Departments

ž  Strengthen agricultural cooperatives (especially the nōgyō kyōdō kumiai or JA) and local extension agencies including Japan Agricultural Development and Extension Association (JADEA).

ž  Assess its post-disaster performance and establish standard operating procedures to handle similar events in the future.

ž  Through the above agencies, provide appropriate knowledge and skills to farmers on possible livelihood alternatives in the short-term and long-term.



ž  Integrate radiation hazard and response procedures into community level disaster management plans and response procedures including earthquake emergency kits.

ž  Display of relevant SOPs and standards in community halls where jichikai and other community members meet on regular basis.

ž  Disseminate appropriate FAQs to bust myths and misperceptions related to radiation safety.


Prefectural and National Level Interventions

ž Agriculture and Food Specific Interventions:

     Assess the health impacts of indices proposed by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan and integrate the same into the Food Safety Standards of Japan.

     Integrate radiation standards into major food certifications offered in the country in consultation with Japan Agricultural Standards Association (JAS)

  Review and modify HACCP and TQM standards to accommodate related radiation safety considerations.

  Establish regulations for screening and certification procedures for radiation safety in food.

  Mandatory display of radiation levels in food in retail stores through labeling.

  Mandatory certification of farms for radiation safety in areas affected by radiation.

     Move from the primary responsibility of individual food vendors to check and report radiation safety  towards legally binding and compulsory monitoring and reporting procedures.

     Establish sufficient radiation safety testing equipment for food.

ž  Generic interventions:

     Assess radiation hazard preparedness learning from the Tohoku incident and strengthen the gaps.

     Greater connectivity between civil and radiation safety authorities for better radiation safety preparedness. This should be the priority at the prefectural and local levels and especially in those prefectures where nuclear power plants operate.

     Dissemination of necessary radiation safety information to communities (jichikai), integration with the civil disaster management planning, mock-drills, and other activities carried out as a part of ‘Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act’.

     Assess its post-disaster performance and establish standard operating procedures to handle similar events in the future for all relevant civil emergency management agencies.


Thank You

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