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Farmers decontaminate their land themselves

October 7, 2012


Farming family in Fukushima village decontaminate own land


Hisato Ide, center, and his family remove rocks during work to decontaminate pasture land in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)




FUKUSHIMA -- Three members of a dairy-farming family who remained within the 30 kilometer zone around the quake- and tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant despite an evacuation order last year are now working to decontaminate their pasture land themselves.

Hisato Ide, 60, his 61-year-old wife Yoko and their 36-year-old son Atsushi are replacing soil on their property in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Kawauchi to a depth of about 30 centimeters. The work has turned up rocks and pebbles, and Ide is gathering them up.

"If I leave the work to someone else, I'll grow weak. If I do what I'm able to now, it'll give me hope for next year," he says.

Ide's family continues to look after about 30 cows on their property. After the family resumed milk shipments in June last year, when the village of Kawauchi was still designated as a "caution zone," they refused to be interviewed by the media.

"A lot of dairy farmers put their cows down and they are ridden with guilt. If they learned about us, it would only deepen their sadness," Yoko Ide explained.

Soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out, the whole of Kawauchi village was evacuated. But Ide was not about to part with his cows.

"If dairy cows aren't milked for even one of two days, they can get mastitis, and in time they'll die. We can't evacuate from here for even just a few days. If all the cows die then we'll end up right back at square one," he said. When he told his wife and son that he was staying, they understood him right away. The family was the only one to remain.

Ide milked his cows each day, only to throw away the milk. When people asked him, "Why don't you flee this place?" it sounded at times like a jab of criticism.

Thinking that dispelling people's uneasiness about radiation was the only way to make progress, Ide decided to purchase U.S.-produced cattle feed, which had soared to six times the regular price. In June last year no radioactive substances were detected in his cows' milk and the Fukushima prefectural dairy cooperative association started collecting his milk again. Ide could feel he was making steps toward the daily life he had lived before the March 2011 disasters.

"At the time, I felt keenly that I could only rely on myself and my family. But rather than lamenting that fact, if I think that's just the way it is, then it takes the difficulty out of any hardship," he says. His milk has been praised for its quality, and it is selling for a higher price than what it sold for before the March 2011 disasters.

The village of Kawauchi declared a return of residents in January this year, and in April, its designation as an evacuation zone was lifted. If Ide waited, the village would arrange to have his land decontaminated, but he decided to do the job himself. And he is now willing to talk to the media.

"If our family members understand each other and cooperate, then we can overcome the situation. It's only natural for the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant) to fulfill their responsibility, but we have to become strong too," he said, smiling.


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