21 December 2014

Kōnotori “Call Back the Storks” Farming コウノトリ呼び戻す農法

Part 7 of the series: Satoyama Concept in Fukui


In the Shirayama district of the city of Echizen, efforts have been made to restore Satoyama landscapes in order to foster the return of the wild Oriental White Stork (コウノトリ/ kōnotori) to the region.  Oriental White Storks have been extinct in Japan and Korea for more than forty years.  By means of a captive breeding program using birds donated by Russia, conservationists have been trying to revive the species.  In 2007, the first chick was born in Japan since 1964 (see: BBC).

In Echizen, they tell of an individual stork named Kō-chan (コウちゃん) who came to the area in 1970.  Kō-chan’s bill was damaged and he could not eat properly, so the locals began to feed him.  Despite these efforts, the bird weakened further and they captured him the following year.  He was sent to a facility in Hyōgo Prefecture where they had a breeding facility.  Kō-chan recovered in captivity and bred successfully, living out his days in the facility for 34 years. 

The story of Kō-chan inspired local people in Shirayama to restore their Satoyama landscape so that storks and humans could live together in harmony.  In 2010, for the first time in 40 years, an Oriental White Stork came to the area and stayed for 107 days.  They named him E-chan (えっちゃん).  This led to the founding of a joint research effort in 2011 by Hyōgo and Fukui Prefectures to reintroduce Oriental White Storks. 

As part of the efforts to introduce sustainable farming methods, local farmers build fish ladders (魚道 / gyodō), also sometimes called fish steps, that allow fish and other aquatic creatures to move between the irrigation channels and the paddy fields.  It is in the paddy fields that many of these aquatic creatures reproduce.  Such creatures are an attractive source of food for the storks.  Although this farming method produces a lower yield than industrial farming methods, the farmers believe that the produce is safer (安心・安全 / AnshinAnzen / peace of mind safe) and tastier to eat.  This is part of a vigorous international debate on the benefits of amount of food produced versus the quality of food produced.  (See: Cornell University’s page on the System of Rice Intensification(EN), Weltagrarbericht (DE),  Japan Association of the System of Rice Intensification (Tōdai), IRRI).

Learn more details about the “Call Back the Storks” farming methods on their website – all in Japanese but with many photographs. 

Learn more about the restoration of rice paddy habitats to reintroduce the Oriental White Stork in Toyooka City here (EN) and here (JP).

Read: Kazuaki Naito and Hiroshi Ikeda's research paper "Habitat Restoration for the Reintroduction of White Storks" (pdf)