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Church organization helps Fukushima farmers recover

NGO combats toxicity fears by selling accredited safe local produce

Church organization helps Fukushima farmers recover

Fukushima produce for sale at a Tokyo church. reporter, Tokyo

March 10, 2014

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Chikako Yaginuma of Nihonmatsu Catholic Church in Fukushima Prefecture has a problem. When the April and spring growing season arrives, she doesn’t have enough vehicles to haul away all the produce.

As a response to the March 2011 earthquake and nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, Yaginuma founded an organization to assist the region's farmers. Because so many of the area’s residents work in agriculture, Yaginuma believed a crisis for in Fukushima was a crisis for Japan.

In April 2012, she started the nonprofit organization, the "Revival Project" that sells seafood and pesticide-free produce from Fukushima in online shops and at 35 churches in Tokyo and  surrounding areas.

Yoshiyuki Suzuki, one of the organization’s staff members, is still living in temporary housing provided to disaster survivors.

“The people at the churches remember my face and tell me, ‘those vegetables were delicious.’ It gives me a reason to come again. I go back to Fukushima with renewed spirits.”

The goals of the operation are to help farmers hurt by rumors about the effect of the nuclear accident on Fukushima crops and to provide work for those who lost their jobs in the disaster.

Yaginuma and her crew ensure that all the produce they sell meet safety standards for radioactivity, noting that one of the nonprofit's board members is president of a company that manufactures radiation meters.

“There are many people who won’t eat Fukushima vegetables for fear of the effects of radiation,” Yaginuma said. “However, those same people think nothing of eating vegetables grown with large quantities of agricultural chemicals.”

Yaginuma also heads the Fukushima desk at the Sendai Diocese Support Center, which was created by the Japanaese bishops’ conference and Caritas Japan to coordinate relief efforts.

There are 15 Catholic churches in Fukushima Prefecture. Parishioners at each church visit the refugee housing facilities in their area, offering whatever assistance they can.

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