The technology to fully decontaminate a contaminated land has not yet been invented. Despite of all their efforts and hopes, those farmers’ struggle is just beginning and will last for ages…
Farmers in Fukushima are struggling to revive their livelihoods. The 2011 nuclear accident and subsequent evacuation devastated farms — the area’s main source of jobs.
Some areas, like the village of Iitate, have lifted most of their evacuation orders. But getting back to normal is taking some time.
More than 200 farmers used to raise cows in this region. But 2 months after authorities lifted their evacuation order, few farmers have tried to return to raising animals.
Six cows were released into a paddy field to graze. It’s a step to revive the farm work that was widely seen in Iitate village.
One farmer is using his cows as an experiment that could bring hope to others.
After the animals eat these fields for 2 months, they’ll have their blood tested to check if they have been influenced in any way by radioactive material.
“It’s finally starting. For those who are worried or not confident about resuming cattle raising, I hope what I’m doing will encourage them,” says the farmer, Takeshi Yamada.
Before the accident, farmers in Iitate used to cultivate some 2,300 hectares of land. But this year, only 20 are being used to grow rice and buckwheat.
Some 60 farmers plan to resume farming this year — a small fraction of the previous total.
A major concern behind the slow uptake is the uncertainty farmers have about being able to sell their produce. Surface soil in the area was removed to help decontaminate the ground, but doing that also lowered its fertility.
Another challenge according to farmers is weakened community bonds.
“We used to work together. We were ready to take on whatever tasks we had. But it’s been 6 years, and the motivation to work is low. Nobody now says ‘let’s work together,'” says farmer Koichi Aoki.
To counter their plight, farmers are doing small things.
They formed a group of volunteers to remove weeds. They’re planting flower seeds to beautify the land and keep weeds from coming back. And there’s an even bigger benefit.
“We’ve been protecting our farmland. We want to keep it from turning to wasteland. And by working together, we’ll be able to form human bonds again. That’s our main goal,” says farmer Masuo Nagasho.
It will take time, but people here are hopeful these small steps are just the beginning.