Volunteers come together to get co-operatives back on track

As we gave serious thought what we could do for the regions hit by the disaster, we recruited volunteers from the JA Group to undertake recovery efforts and...

As we gave serious thought what we could do for the regions hit by the disaster, we recruited volunteers from the JA Group to undertake recovery efforts and organized JA Group Assistance Teams for dispatch to afflicted areas in accordance with their particular needs.

On April 19 the first batch of volunteers enrolled from among the officials and employees of JAs and prefectural unions and associations nationwide were dispatched, Assistance teams totalling 1,885 partiCipants subsequently put in 9,703 man-days through the end of September,

This endeavor earned praise from the devastated areas, which lauded "the JA Group's distinctive grass-roots assistance and its recognition of agriculture's importance," JA-Zenchu extended the dispatch period, initially scheduled to conclude at the end of July, until the end of October,

Shortly after the disaster, head offices and branches of JAs in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and other disaster-affected prefectures discovered that the tsunami and rubble had washed into their offices, thoroughly soaking all the documents therein, The initial dispatch of assistance teams thus focused primarily on clearing away this rubble, cleaning up the offices, and sorting out documents, These were labor intensive tasks, and the helping hands lent by Group personnel well-acquainted with the situation faced by JAs were very welcome,

Carefully-stacked piles of rice bags stored in depots in Miyagi Prefecture and elsewhere had been knocked over in the earthquake, pulling their commercial value at risk, but assistance teams made up of personnel from JA Zen-Noh and other organizations restocked the stored rice.

In areas where farmers' greenhouses had collapsed or rubble had been washed inside, these teams also cleared away the rubble and mud in and around the facilities, We could hear voices from producers whose greenhouses had been restored by the assistance teams declared: "I'm now willing to give farming another try."

The tsunami had rolled into paddy fields in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, bringing with sea sand, seawater, rubble, household items, etc, Removal efforts by the Self-Defense Forces and others only went so far as to clear the large wreckage from paddy fields, leaving behind small pieces of rubble and trash stuck in the paddy fields that would hinder any attempt to cultivate the land.
If the drainage ditches were not cleared before the rainy season, rein water would remain standing in the paddy fields and pose a risk of overflow, For that reason, the assistance teams primarily devoted their efforts from June to July to removing rubble and mud from drainage ditches.

An example of the gratitude expressed is this by one JA member: "Some people not aware of the importance of drainage ditches had piled up rubble that blocked up these ditches, JA Group personnel know all about paddy fields, though, and having JA Group personnel familiar with agriculture come to help me out was a real life-saver." 

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