On 16 May 2020, the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Ishikawa/Kanazawa Operating Unit (UNU-IAS OUIK) held an online symposium to commemorate the UN Decade on Biodiversity, Ishikawa, Kanazawa: 10 Years of Initiatives and the Next 10 Years on Sustainable Biodiversity. Approximately 280 people participated in the event and had an opportunity to brainstorm ideas relating to biodiversity conservation and sustainable societies for the next 10 years.
In the keynote speech, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) President and Senior Visiting Professor of UNU Kazuhiko Takeuchi reviewed the activities of the UN Decade on Biodiversity based on the report published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services （IPBES) and spoke about the necessity for “Transformative Change” to achieve global initiatives, such as the Aichi Targets and SDGs.
UNU-IAS OUIK Research Associate Sayako Koyama introduced an activity called Notojima Shizen no Sato Nagasaki in the Nagasaki area of Noto-jima, Ishikawa Prefecture, as a concrete example of local conservation of biodiversity. She mentioned that community-based efforts are essential to continue research, protection and monitoring of an environment in which all life can grow.
Kaori Fujita, Nikkei Environment Social Governance (ESG) Senior Editor and Nikkei ESG Management Forum Producer spoke about the outlook from the business sector including recent trends in ESG investment and initiatives by major companies and local business owners.
The panel session ‘Looking Back on the Past 10 Years and Talking about the Next 10 Years’ was moderated by UNU-IAS OUIK Director Tsunao Watanabe, who was joined by Japan committee for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-J) Director General Teppei Michie, Director General of the Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of the Environment, Japan, Toshio Torii and UNU-IAS OUIK Researcher Evonne Yiu. Each panelist provided insights on the future direction from the viewpoint of citizen groups, society, national policy and planning, and international organisations.
Final discussions concluded that it is essential to promote multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation to encourage knowledge and information sharing. The panelists hoped that more people would understand the multifaceted value of biodiversity and identify potential solutions. Furthermore, the current situation related to COVID-19 was explored as a catalyst for transformative change.
Here is the statement by Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention Biological Diversity Elizabeth Maruma Mrema for International Day for Biological Diversity -22 May
OUIK is mapping information for understanding the relationship between regional nature and culture. We have published the booklets “Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi Maps” and “Kanazawa Nature and Culture Maps”.
We are collecting map information at different levels of prefectures and municipalities in the Hokuriku Region. With a focus on the keywords of biological diversity, cultural diversity and ecosystem service, we are creating tools for learning and information dissemination that meet regional needs.
After one year since the 1st Asian Conference on Biocultural Diversity, a series of 2 inernational forums were held to explore the measurements to further promote the Ishikawa Declaration with international initiatives and East Asian partner.
International Forum Series 1 (4/10/2017)
Biocultural diversity & satoyama: Effort towards societies in harmony with nature around the world.
International Forum Series 2 (15/10/2017)
Preserving Biocultural Diversity for Future Generations:Partnarship of East Aisan Countries.
The SDGs Mii’s Gottzo Project, launched in May 2019, has been conducting field learning programmes around Mii town, Wajima City. On the 26th of November, the 7th event in the series was a roundup of learning about international food issues, tasting food from various countries, and desalinating “Warabi no Shiozuke” (salted warabi) which were made in the spring.
First, Ms. Tomita from UNU OUIK talked about the food issues that the world is facing from the perspective of the SDGs. In response to the question “In the 17 SDGs, which one is related to food?”, students answered “There is a food mark (Zero Hunger), but what is hunger?” “Goal 14 (Life Below Water) or 15 (Life on Land)” “We eat fish so Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation)” “We drink water, and use it for agriculture too” “Goal 16 (Climate Action) is also related“. Students seemed to deepen their understanding of the SDGs by linking goals and problems.
Next, we focused on the “hunger issue”, one that we don’t often hear living in Japan. We checked the UN WFP hunger map and had a discussion. Currently, there are 812 million people on the planet, and about 1 in 9 people are “undernourished”. “Eliminating Hunger,” which is Goal 2 of the SDGs, is often seen as a problem specific to developing countries. However, climate change and the economic activities of developed countries contribute to the hunger issues. We who live in developed countries should take this matter seriously. We also looked at food loss issues and future agriculture as related topics.
Next, we looked into “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats – In Pictures” by Peter Menzel and discussed what students noticed. There seem to be many foods that they had never seen before, with different types and amounts of food, as well as diverse family atmospheres depending on the country and region. Ingredients on our table may seem strange to the people living in other parts of the world.
Ms. Hagino taught us how to desalinate “Warabi no Shiozuke” in a traditional way using a bronze pot so that the vegetable’s colour stays as it is. It is interesting to find the chemistry hidden in everyday life.
At the end of the class, it was time to taste some international food. Mr. Suzuki cooked a dish called “Toh” which he often ate in Burkina Faso, OUIK’s intern Felix cooked “Rosti” from Switzerland, and Ms. Tomita prepared toast with Vegemite, which is very popular and often eaten as breakfast in the UK or Australia. They seemed to enjoy most of the food they had, except for the Vegemite toast. It was probably a bit too salty and bitter for elementary school students.
Ms. Hagino commented “The food is very diverse. In modern days, you can eat dishes from various regions wherever you are. But please don’t forget the taste of the local treats you grew up with.”
This is a report on the 2nd GIAHS Academic Programme, a 3 day academic trip to the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, held from November 9th to 11th, 2019. The purpose of the trip was to allow participants to experience the Satoyama and Satoumi agricultural areas first-hand through activities focused on the sustainable use of local resources.
Sustainable land-use in these regions is being affected by social issues such as depopulation, an aging population, and low birth rates, trends which continue to endanger future development of the region. Even so, the Noto GIAHS region has the potential for sustainable community building, although it will require a sensitive strategy of revitalization. These topics and more were covered in group discussions held on the last day of the trip, where several stakeholders from the Noto region shared their views.
The trip was co-organized by UNU-IAS OUIK and the Satoyama Promotion Department of the Ishikawa Prefectural Government, and co-funded by Ishikawa Prefecture and the United Nations University. 17 international students from 13 countries –South and North America, Europe, Asia and Africa–came together to participate. Among them were 6 students from various Japanese Universities, 11 of whom came from the United Nations University, accompanied by their professor, Dr. Saito.
On the morning of the 9th, participants met at Kanazawa Station to board a chartered coach, which then headed North into the Noto Peninsula following the coastline. After picking up students from UNU-IAS at Noto Airpor, their first destination was the village of Mii in Wajima City, where a local association called Maruyama Group has been working to maintain the Satoyama ecosystem and promote awareness through educational workshops.
The group was welcomed by Mr. Hagino, a professor, architect, and volunteer worker deeply engaged in sustainable community and lifestyle building. Hagino was accompanied by his colleague Mr. Hosokawa, who is, among other things, a Shinto priest who performs the local agricultural ritual “Aenokoto”, in which the deity of the rice field is invited into the house to be venerated in a ritualized manner.
Mr. Hagino explained how he relocated from Tokyo to Noto, after having spent several years in the United States. His reasons were ideological in nature, as he had grown critical of industrialized consumerist society, and decided to develop a lifestyle which seamlessly fits within the cycles of nature. Team Maruyama is a project which hosts a variety of activities based on mutual learning (e.g. plant observation or cooking workshops) in and around Mister Hagino’s house and the surrounding Satoyama area. He also addressed the difficulties that accompany his activities, such as the harsh weather conditions, the aforementioned social issues, and his struggles to be accepted among the locals, many of whom continue to perceive him as a stranger.
The group then moved to a nearby restaurant operating out of a restored thatched-roof farmhouse, where they enjoyed a lunch made entirely from local goods. The young owner introduced each of the delicately-prepared dishes, which were made using a variety of edible wild plants. The owner operates a variety of small businesses centered around slow-tourism in the region, such as bicycle tours and overnight stays in traditional farm-houses. Much like Mr. Hagino, he also moved from a bigger city to the Noto Peninsula a few years ago in order to pursue a more natural lifestyle.
After lunch, they visited a silvergrass field nearby the restaurant, where volunteer workers were harvesting the grass to be used to repair the thatched roofs of nearby houses. Ishikawa Prefecture developed this volunteer matching system where people who need help in farming/ agriculture and people who are willing to contribute can match up. Some volunteers suggested that this kind of volunteering could advance regional revitalization by giving city people the opportunity to come out to the countryside on their days off in order to contribute in collective projects, while also being exposed to a healthy natural environment. “We are very grateful to have volunteers coming to help us. All the houses in this area had thatched roofs back in the day but there are only 2 now. We want to protect these 2 for the future generation.” said the local farmer Mr. Nishityama.
The group then set off South to visit an oyster farm in a small coastal village near the city of Anamizu, where locals explained how to harvest and prepare oysters for market. They learned that oyster farming is highly depending on the weather, and this year was a particularly hot year with little rain. They also interviewed Mr. Saito who moved to Anamizu a few years ago to become a fisherman. Now, not only he does oyster farming, but he also runs a restaurant where people can eat fresh oysters. He said “To have a stable income as a fisherman, it is important to have more than one income sources. I am very busy but also very happy to work as a fisherman which had been my dream since I was young”.
In the morning of the second day, a representative of a local currency system came to talk about his association. The system encourages repurposing leftover timber material from local forests. Once a person registers, they can bring timber material to the “timber station” in exchange for a proprietary local currency which can then be used in registered shops and restaurants. The system is subsidized by the forest and environmental tax, and it serves as an incentive for the revitalization of local economic activity, as well as for better usage of local resources.
A tour bus then took the group to the next destination Shunran no sato in Noto town, an area where currently more than 40 farm inns are located. There the group met their guide for the next 3 hours—an energetic 71 year-old man Mr. Tada who established Shunran no sato to revitalise the area in 1997.
Mr. Tada led them to the nearby Satoyama forest he owned, where they gathered mushrooms to be eaten at lunchtime. They were invited to Mr. Tada’s house to taste local delicacies straight from the mountain, including vegetables, mushrooms, and river fish, as well as locally-brewed sake. Despite his vivacity and his apparent optimism, he also expressed concern about the low birthrates, depopulation, and other challenges involved in making the region flourish once again.
The day’s last stop was at a traditional “washi” (Japanese traditional paper) factory, run by Mr. Toumi and his mother. The plants needed for their paper came directly from their garden and the forents in surrounding area. The students tried their hand at making their own washi by evenly spreading cold water containing cooked pieces of bark in a wooden frame, a task which proved more difficult than it seemed. According to Mr. Toumi, they are offering a greater variety of Washi papers these days then before since the use of Washi as wallpapers, business cards or even Sake rabel is increasing.
The final day of the tour was dedicated to summing up the previous two days in group discussions. After a stroll in the local market of Wajima City in the morning, the group headed back to the Noto Satoyama Airport for a conference with several stakeholders of the Noto region.
Before lunchtime, Professor Ito of Kanazawa University gave an introductory presentation about an educational program called the “Noto Meister Program”, a complementary course with the goal of deepening students’ understanding of local ecosystems and promoting a knowledge-based strategy to revitalize the Satoyama-Satoumi areas of Noto.
In the afternoon, the students of the United Nations University split into 3 groups and gave presentations on their insights on the Noto Satoyama region gained over the past few days, as well as their proposed revitalization strategies to respond to the social and economic issues of the region. The local stakeholders were also invited to comment on the students’ viewpoints.
After several hours of stimulating exchanges, the meeting ended right on time for the UNU-group to board their flight. Following a collective farewell, the remaining group headed back to Kanazawa Station via tour bus.
Five years have passed since “Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi” was designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). OUIK has supported the revision of action plans and monitoring activities after the GIAHS designation.
Biodiversity monitoring activities in Noto, which are carried out in an area that encompasses four cities and five towns, focus on surveys of living creatures conducted independently by municipal governments and private organizations; a unified monitoring system to disseminate information related to biodiversity has not yet been developed.
In response to this situation, “Noto Biodiversity Society” was established by OUIK and Kanazawa University Satoyama-satoumi Project to contribute to Noto GIAHS through monitoring of biodiversity and related activities. The members of this society include people who belong to private organizations that promote the preservation of biodiversity and environmental education in the region, as well as researchers working in laboratories related to biodiversity in Noto.
On January 23, we announced the establishment at a meeting of Noto GIAHS Utilization Executive Committee and Noto GIAHS Promotion Council, in which OUIK participates as an observer. Through surveys of living creatures and related activities, the society will contribute to the preservation and monitoring of biodiversity and dissemination of information, in cooperation with the Council.