March 31, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.7 (March 2003)
"Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan" Article Series No.2

Aya Town in Miyazaki Prefecture is a town on the island of Kyushu with an area of 9,521 hectares, composed of an alluvial fan, between two beautiful rivers and natural evergreen oak forests stretching across its northwest area. Aya town is a 40-minute drive from Miyazaki City, the capital of the prefecture. Blessed with beautiful forests and clean rivers, Aya town has been designated as one of country's the top 100 natural sites and top 100 forest enjoyment, or "forest bathing" sites in Japan.

Aya town's impressive evergreen oak forests cover more area than any other forest of this type in Japan. Eighty percent of the town area actually in the forest, and 80 percent of its population of approximately 7,600 lives within 3 kilometers from the town center.

Aya is an agricultural town and unique in its initiative to recycle nutrients in the town--from agricultural crops to food waste, to compost, and again to agricultural crops. In Aya, farmers have a long history of composting their food waste into organic fertilizers, and since long ago local pig farmers collected food waste from households for animal feed. With this background, the town started its modern food waste recycling system in 1973, when it started collecting food waste by truck and using it as feed for pigs.

Now, the town collects about 500 tonnes of food waste per year from households, restaurants and other shops, and brings it to a town-owned composting facility. Mixed with cow manure from nearby farms, collected food waste is put into fermentation tanks to be composted. The compost produced is sold to the town's farmers for 3,000 yen (about U.S.$25) per tonne, only about 7 to 10 percent the cost of commercial chemical fertilizers. Farmers in the town use the composted organic fertilizers on their land and then sell the farm produce to townspeople.

On the wall of the vegetable section at the center, a list is posted with the names and identification numbers of certified farmers. By looking at the number on a vegetable package, consumers can identify who grew the vegetables they are about to buy. This system encourages producers to take pride in their products and gives consumers peace of mind when purchasing and eating their products.

In addition to food waste recycling, in Aya town night soil is collected and composted into liquid fertilizer and returned back to the town's cropland, just as was done during the Edo Period in Japan! A number of local governments and grassroots groups have started local food waste recycling systems, but Aya Town is unique in its recycling of night soil.

In an effort to protect the evergreen oak forests, local residents recently started a campaign to register the Aya forests as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collecting 140,000 signatures in a short period of time. On 25 March 2003, a national committee to select candidate world heritage sites identified 17 from among 17,000 sites around Japan, and Aya is one of them! This is seen by locals as wonderful news and a sign of hope.

For images of Aya's evergreen oak forests, please check out this website, which also has a link to an on-line petition to support the registration of the Aya forests as World Heritage Site.