Activity Report

Activity Report of Open Application Course vol.59

Development of human resources related to agribusiness in Laos

Report from Utsunomiya University

I was waiting at Narita Airport Terminal No. 1 around 6:30 am in the early morning on March 4, to receive a party from the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos. They did not show up even after 8 am. Bad feeling! Around 8:20 am, the party finally showed up along with the airline staff. As per the explanation of the staff, it seems that another passenger had taken the suitcase of a student by mistake! Fortunately, it was returned safely after two days, but the drastic change in schedule on that day was unavoidable. I felt that it is important to schedule with some margin considering these risks. At first it was a bad start, but after that it was possible to do good and meaningful training.

The main emphasis of this training was to understand agricultural production sites in Japan, technology development and its mechanism of extension, and actual conditions, and to contribute for the reference of agricultural development in Laos. Hence a schedule was made focusing not only on ①lectures but also on ②field visits. For ①lectures, in addition to recognizing the shortage of Japanese agricultural workers, a lecture was given on the process of globalization of food systems (Agricultural production, Distribution, Food processing, Consumption), and the current state and future prospects of region-specific agriculture and food culture under its influence, based on the theme of traditional agricultural produce like Konnyaku* or tea. For ②field visits, they visited various sites of agricultural production, processing and selling, and even the technical development sites, and could directly experience those facts.

* Konnyaku (or Konjac) is a common name of the Asian plant Amorphophallus konjac, which has an edible corm, and is cooked and consumed primarily in Japan. It is a rubbery and somewhat flavorless food that appears in certain Japanese dishes.

The following is an outline of the field visit:

a) After the lecture on the local food system, they visited the processing facility of the Farm Women's Processing Organization related to the lecture and conducted exchanges with the union members while eating traditional Japanese home cooking, including soba (buckwheat noodles).

image1 Tasting of traditional food soba

b) Visited a garden with advanced flower management (Issei Gardens) of Kanuma city and were astonished to see that plants like cyclamen were traded at expensive prices. After that, they visited agricultural production corporation Kanuma (Agricom Kanuma) and learned the outline of activities, such as entrusting agricultural work and development of Coix lacryma-jobi (also known as adlay or adlay millet) products.

image2 Students carefully listening to an explanation from a young flower manager
image3 Facility tour of an agricultural production corporation

c) Visited the Shimotsuga agriculture promotion office in Tochigi City, received explanation about the mechanism of agricultural extension and work content of extension instructor, visited the tomato farmer who is the actual leader of extension workers, and listened to a talk on the utilization and merits of the agricultural extension system from the standpoint of farmers.

image4 With extension worker and tomato farming couple

d) At Tomato park of Seiwa Co. Ltd. in Masuko town, they toured advanced tomato cultivation facilities, learned about the technical guidance system for farmers, and received an explanation about facility automatic environment control technology. After that, they learned about the mechanism and management of strawberry cultivation complex tours operated by JA Hagano, and also went to gather strawberries.

image5 Visit to advanced tomato cultivation facilities
image6 Smiling nicely without thinking about the sweet strawberries!

e) Visited Nikkō Tōshō-gū shrine on the last holiday and appreciated the Japanese traditional architecture and culture. There was snow near the luncheon venue where they experienced the local traditional food, and the students were excited about their first snow experience.

f) On the last day, each individual gave a 10-minute presentation on what they learned and felt through the lecture and field survey so far and exchanged opinions with Japanese students and teachers. A farewell party was held in the evening, students from Utsunomiya University showcased Eisa* in Okinawa, and students from the National University of Laos showcased the traditional dance of Laos, and they all joined a circle of dance.

* Eisa is a form of folk dance originating from the Okinawa Islands, Japan. In origin, it is a Bon dance that is performed by young people of each community during the Bon festival to honor the spirits of their ancestors.

image7 Students nervous before a presentation
image8 Serious presentation scene

image9 Traditional entertainment performed by Japanese students
image10 Lao students also join and compete