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Technical Intern Training Program Results Report

Case 6: Understanding Japanese Language Propels Effective Skills Transfer (The Aichi Minami Agricultural Cooperative, Tahara, Aichi)

Aichi Minami Agricultural Cooperative (JAAM), a Japan Agricultural Cooperative (JA) affiliate, is located in Tahara, a southern Aichi city on the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula. Although the salty breeze from the ocean may be harmful to plants, the warm current brings mild climate, averaging 16°C during the winter months.

JAAM Representative Yoshio Ito

JAAM Representative Yoshio Ito

The opening of the Toyokawa Irrigation Canal in 1968 prompted agricultural modernization such as irrigation farming and greenhouse horticulture. The area supplies a unique variety of products, including rice, vegetables, flowers and fruits, and livestock.

We visited JAAM and an affiliated farmer who was accepting trainees and interns, and while we were there, they were in their group training.

We interviewed Consulting Manager Hisato Ishii and Assistant Manager Masumi Okubo who are in charge of the training and technical internship. We asked what makes them to decide the introduction of the Industrial Training Program.

JAAM was established in 2001 when three agricultural cooperatives in Atsumi, Akabane, and Tahara merged into one cooperative.

Assistant Manager Okubo Consulting Manager Ishii

Assistant Manager Okubo
Consulting Manager Ishii

The cooperative began accepting trainees in 1994 when the Aichi Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives introduced the training program and asked to accept trainees as a pilot case. Consequently, seven trainees were accepted at four horticultural farms that were expanding their businesses. Since then, 864 trainees have been accepted into the area that includes dairy farming. 50 trainees are accepted twice a year, in March and in September. Currently, 275 trainees are learning at 140 farms in greenhouse horticulture, farming, vegetables, and livestock (dairy and hog raising).

Many glass greenhouses have been built in the vast farmland in the vicinity of Tahara. This region produces a lot of Densho Chrysanthemum Flowers, which are grown by artificial bright lights, from autumn to winter, and the lighten greenhouses create beautiful scenery in the rural landscape at night.

In this city, trainees involved in greenhouse horticulture learn how to grow chrysanthemum, tomato, melon, and foliage plants.

Trainees at JAAM

Trainees at JAAM

The biggest group of trainees come from Jiangxi province while others come from Jiangsu and Liaoning provinces. The cooperative contacts the sending organizations regularly. There are residence staffs of Jiangxi and Liaoning provinces in Toyohashi, and Jiangsu province's in Nagoya, so the cooperative makes monthly visits and communication and deals any issues directly with them.

Now JAAM staffs laugh about it, but the Liaoning Consulate once inquired whether "JA Aichi Minami" actually existed. Since the organization has changed its name repeatedly due to various mergers, the consulate asked for confirmation. JAAM, puzzled, tried to find a way to prove its authenticity.

To select trainees, approximately 15 out of 140 farmers actually go to China to directly speak with the candidates while most rely on resumes, which has seldom created any problems. If the farmers trustfully leave trainee selection to sending organizations, trainee candidates are selected accordingly to the requests of farmers, and there are not many troubles. This year, some farmers requested that they go and meet former trainees who have returned home, so JAAM is planning to include them in the next selection trip.

Training differs from farmer to farmer because every farm has different methods developed for their own products. Even when the products are the same, the species can vary. JAAM instructs farmers to adhere to requirements set by the cooperative.

For example, there are agricultural on-seasons and off-seasons, but trainees are not allowed to engage in other duties or to help farmers other than the designated ones, either. The cooperative says that understanding of the system's rules is essential.

Japanese Language Class

Japanese Language Class

In April 2008, the Accepting Farmers Network was established. The group was organized to ensure the conducting of fruitful training by understanding more about the program. Members exchange information on teaching and mentoring as well as on training and internship updates.

Now, let's move on to a group training classroom.

Twenty-seven female trainees, who came to Japan last September, rode their bicycles from their farms' dormitories to the Atsumi Cultural Hall in Tahara to study Japanese.

The instructor Koji Saito, a contracted teacher from the Tahara International Exchange Center, speaking in fluent Chinese, thoroughly explained connotations of everyday expressions while checking the understanding of his students.

Trainees chanted the simple sentences on the board by mimicking the teacher's pronunciation, and copied them on their notebooks. The trainees seemed to be enjoying the experience, asking many questions and working on the tasks earnestly.

JAAM believes that mastering the language is the key to success in training, so they make the effort to teach Japanese creatively with their own study materials to facilitate better understanding and faster improvement. The cooperative encourages trainees to take as many Japanese tests as possible, and many trainees have passed those tests. Forty-one entries were submitted for the Japanese Essay Contest organized by JITCO in 2007, and a work titled "Bonds" won the Award of Excellence, while a work titled "My Dreams" was selected as Commendable Works. Twenty-seven entries were submitted in 2008.

Since the accepting organizations are not companies but farms owned by individual farmers, the focus of the group training is to help trainees live comfortably as members of the "family".

Road Safety Seminar

Road Safety Seminar

As trainees often ride bicycles, the cooperative organizes a road safety seminar with officers from the Tahara Police Department. The city's Disaster Prevention Office provides instruction on evacuation procedures and covers the locations of evacuation areas: there is the possibility of tsunami caused by earthquakes affecting the Atsumi Peninsula. The Fire Department also provides assistance with fire fighting skills in the use of fire extinguishers to prepare trainees for the worst.

The training session we observed finished before noon, and trainees returned to their farms by bicycle.

There are numerous interesting experiences with the cooperative accepting so many trainees!

Trainees Handing Donations to the Japanese Red Cross

Trainees Handing Donations to the Japanese Red Cross

In June 2008, a huge earthquake hit Sichuan province and caused unprecedented damage to the area. The Accepting Farmers Network established a relief fund, to which trainees and farmers donated over 500,000 yen. The fund was then donated to the Japanese Red Cross. Even though trainees had come from different parts of China, the disaster still concerned them enough to take action. The action for their homeland was covered on the news on NHK, Japan's sole public broadcaster, which made this whole event even more memorable.

There is also a heart-warming story where a trainee returned home after training, got married, and invited the couple who had accepted her to China to attend her wedding!

It has been said that training and technical internship in the agricultural field is difficult to manage. However, JAAM showed a good example of an effective operation that works closely with local farmers.