He asked farmers in Japan a simple question after an earthquake.

This is Hirose. He is the director of OISCA Nishinippon in Fukuoka prefecture, Japan. The team’s mission is to empower young volunteers from around the world through training in agriculture, home economics, and technical skills. In Hirose’s words:

“We are trying to mould them to become the future leaders of their community.”

In 2016, their neighbouring prefecture, Kumamoto, experienced a devastating earthquake that caused significant damage to the lives of thousands. Homes, roads and communities were destroyed, displacing more than 100,000 people.

For the farmers of Nishihara village, the earthquake took more than homes. Their only source of livelihood was also destroyed. The earthquake caused significant cracks on the land surface and the dam that supplied water to their rice fields burst, leaving 95% of their land uncultivable.

After the earthquake, Hirose wanted to provide assistance anyway he could.

“I asked them, ‘How can we help? What could we do?’ They said they would be grateful if we could help maintain their rice lands because weeds and grasses would grow.”

While farmers continue to recover from the disaster and slowly rebuild their homes, Hirose and his team of agricultural experts are on ground, ensuring their rice fields are maintained until the farmers are back on their feet and ready to work. OISCA now helps to maintain 11 hectares of rice fields and is the only organization in the area offering their technical expertise in grass cutting.

Apart from the technical help OISCA offers, they also provide emotional support. Hirose says:

“We give importance to human to human interactions. Yes, the volunteer’s work will be done now but the relationships they make will last forever. Talking with them is a good catalyst for change. It helps them realise that life goes on and not to get stuck in self pity. For the survivors, the volunteers are there to listen. For the volunteers, it’s a great way to inspire them to reach out whenever their help is needed.”

Support recovering farmers in Japan with a donation to OISCA.

Story and photo by Shreya Nambiar of the GlobalGiving Field Program

This is a story from GlobalGiving’s Voices from the Crowd series.