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Fukushima town holds farming trials as part of community rejuvenation

Residents of the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, plant crops during this year's farming trials in the town's reopened Ogawara district, on May 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

OKUMA, Fukushima -- Farming trials were carried out here on May 13 as part of the community's regeneration, eight years after the town was evacuated amid the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster caused by the March 2011 earthquakes and tsunamis.

With evacuation orders lifted for parts of Okuma in April 2019, the town's agricultural commission and other employees have planted crops, including sticky glutinous rice and premium quality koshihikari rice, across 1,600 square meters of paddy fields.

May 2019 saw the reopening of Okuma's municipal government building, and public housing for disaster victims is expected to open in the town's Ogawara district in June. Cultivation tests to assess a return to farming's viability have been taking place since 2014. Farming trials began last year on rice which can be shipped after all test crops showed they were fit for consumption. The green-lighted produce was given out at special events to promote local recovery.

From the first test, levels of the radioactive cesium were 66 becquerels -- well below the national standard of 100 becquerels per 1 kilogram. Values have continued to fall with subsequent tests each year, with last year's inspection showing just 2 becquerels in some produce. The local government will continue farming trials until next year and also has plans to create a manual for people restarting agricultural activities in the town.

(Japanese original by Daisuke Wada, Photo Group)

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