A report of the OKB study trip for ASCI students

Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank (OKB) organizes one-day study trip for ASCI students that is well-tailored to each student’s research interests and requests. On June 11, Mr. Bouthsakone Inthalungdsee (Graduate School of Environmental Studies) and Mr. Singkone Xayalath (Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences) who are both from Lao PDR took part in the study trip. They are tackling different research themes respectively such as organic farming and forest resource management in Lao PDR. The study trip was designed to pay attention to both their topics.
OKB farm in Ogaki city
OKB uniquely operates organic farm. Mr. Hiromasa Kasai, director of OKB Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute and OKB farm manager, explained that this farm is developing alternative agricultural techniques that allow to grow upland crops in paddy fields and its extension to local community. Especially, the farm is developing organic farming techniques. In addition, OKB farm has a farming class to teach their developed techniques to whoever is interested in organic farming. Mr. Bouthsakone and Mr. Singkone impressed by the bank engaging in such agricultural development.
After visiting to Ogaki public wholesale market, Mr. Bouthsakone and Mr. Singkone visited Masu producing company, Masuya. The Masu is a traditional Japanese wooden cup that is usually made from Cypress. Although this is well-known as a Cypress-aroma cup for enhancing flavor of sake, it used to be used as a measuring cup for sake and rice. They enjoyed having an experience to make Masu.
Rice husk compost factory
After enjoying exquisite Japanese-style lunch using carefully selected local food stuffs in Restaurante Yonesada, we visited rice husk compost factory located alongside of a beef cattle farm. The compost is mixed of cattle excrements from the cattle farm, sawdust and rice husk. Mr. Kasai explained that the most important point on making compost is the extent of maturity and the extent of evenness of mixture. It could be helpful especially for Mr. Bouthsakone to learn that carefully mixed and well-matured compost does not only improve soil physical properties, but also suppress weed germination and pest that are usually main reason for farmers to hesitate to enter into organic farming.
Forest policy planning department, Gifu prefectural government
After a 55 minutes-drive from Ogaki city to Gifu city, we visited Gifu prefectural government. Mr. Akihiro Ohashi, director of forest environment department, made a talk on activities of the Gifu prefectural forest research Institute. The main purpose of the institute is to research and develop techniques of forest management to promote sound and rich forests and revitalize forestry and wood industry in this prefecture. Mr. Bouthsakone and Mr. Singkone were particularly interested in researches of the prevention of tree diseases and non-timber forest products use. In response to the student’s questions, Mr. Hiroyoshi Ohshima of forest policy planning department explained that the 100-year plan of Gifu prefecture to recover forests from plantations to natural forests.
Agricultural policy planning department, Gifu prefectural government
Staffs of agriculture and horticulture division explained their activities and the present situation of clean agriculture in Gifu prefecture. Gifu prefecture has tackled on the extension of clean agriculture approximately from 25 years ago in response to national policy on food safety and security. Although this form of agriculture aimed to balance between food safety and environmental conservation, the idea is integrating into the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) that pays attention to laborers working conditions and human rights in recent years as well. At the outset, Gifu prefecture is trying to spread out the Gifu clean agriculture among farmers by the extension of alternative techniques such as integrated pest management, and the planning of the event for sales promotion. In response to Mr. Bouthsakone’s question, they explained that the difficulty in the extension of the Gifu clean agriculture is to convince farmers of having the products as stable as conventional farming.
Our overall experience was very satisfying since we had the opportunity to have a closer look and understand the techniques to produce rice husk compost, and the situations of forest management and clean agriculture in Gifu prefecture. This was very beneficial for both Mr. Bouthsakone and Mr. Singkone in terms of understanding in depth the difficulties and challenges of forest management and the extension of clean agriculture. We would like to thank Mr. Masahiro Kasai and Mr. Masato Ogawa from the OKB Research and Consulting for the arrangement and the sharing their knowledge and experiences on organic farming with us. We are grateful all staffs of forest policy planning department and agricultural policy planning department of Gifu prefectural government for their hospitality. We would also like to thank Mr. Masatomo Yoshikawa and Ms. Tran Ha Thu from OKB for the arrangement and the attendance of the study tour.