An attempt to revive communities from adverse consequences of growth oriented economic model

It was in the middle of September 1999, I was seeing off the members of a group of Japanese visitors at the Tribhuvan International airport who came to observe activities being carried out by Love Green Nepal in Panchakhal valley of Kavre district. I went on waving and shaking hands and expressing my final greetings. While responding to my greetings a lady participant named Midori standing at the last in the row expressed her thankfulness and suddenly spoke out “Sangat-san, we are very happy to observe your activities in Panchakhal valley. Tree plantation, school construction, organic farming, bio-gas, trainings, etc. . . .all these activities are interesting and . . . . important thing is that people are benefiting out of what you have been doing. But, I have a suggestion, please do not try to copy Japan”. At that time, I just simply thanked for her comments and left the airport. On the way to my office, her expression “do not try to copy Japan” was roaming inside my mind. I could faintly feel her frustration and sense what she meant by her expression. However, it was local election campaigning time in Nepal and one could often hear an read political leaders’ speeches focusing on popular phrases like “we must develop Nepal like Japan, like Singapore, like this and like that kind of developed country…. Inspired by our political leaders’ rhetoric, I convinced myself thinking that the lady could be wrong. We must copy Japan if not Singapore.

Days went by, we continued community development activities with funding from different Japanese GOs and NGOs. Last year in November, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) accepted me as a candidate participant for the training course entitled: JICA-NGO Participatory Training Course on Community Development for Practitioners held in Osaka.

Throughout the course period, I had many opportunities to learn theoretical and practical aspects of community development activities being carried out by Japanese NGOs in Japan. From study tours, lectures, discussions and interviews, we could learn how growth oriented development model posing severe challenges to Japanese people’s lives and how it has adversely affected the natural environment threatening the sustainability of the development endeavors. Among many, one example is Minamata disease. It was the disease caused by eating of methyl mercury contaminated fish from Minamata Bay where giant Chisso Factory used to release its toxic waste water.

Another problem of growth oriented economy was gradual breaking away of social tie or people to people relations in Japanese communities. Japanese people are extremely busy in their works. Most people tend to have mind set of ‘work hard and earn more’. But, this has been preventing people away from live communication and interactions which is resulting in weakening human ties in the community. Population of aged people are growing. Taking care of and overall wellbeing of aged people have become a big challenge of Japanese communities. Due to lack of take care and attention, aged people are forced to die unnoticed. This type of ‘solitary death’ is increasing in present day Japan.

On the other hand, economic growth introduced standardized development policy in Japan. However, it is blamed to have failed to maintain uniqueness or specialty of local nature, climate, history, tradition and culture of the communities. Development initiatives resulted in creation of standardized communities. But people feel that they were not unique and attractive any more. They feel standardized communities have become very common and monotonous. They do not carry any peculiar local features.

It reminded me time to time during the training course of Ms. Midori’s emotional advice not to copy Japan. I can realize well now why she had such deep frustration with Japanese (in general Western) model of development. This time I had a chance to observe how growth oriented economic model can bring forth adversities leading to environmental pollution and breaking away of community ties.

It is believed that every problem consists of solutions. Given the situation, the Japanese NPOs have already foreseen the possible solution to the problems erupted from as consequences of growth oriented economic model. Jimotogaku is the one of tools that Japanese NPOs are using for rebuilding communities by maintaining unique feature of local nature, climate, history, culture and tradition. Their efforts are directed towards creation of sustainable communities where people are happy, their welfare is ensured and natural environment is protected.

Jimotogaku is a concept of building and rebuilding communities with positive approach. It is an approach to understand one’s own community. It focuses on what the communities or people have with them rather than what they do not have. It is also an exercise to learn and understand about one’s won local community with fun and starting point for local community development. The major stakeholders of Jimotogaku practice are insider, the local people which is also called soil and outsider which is called wind together explore what the communities have as their resources on which they can grow, prosper and sustain.

G. K. Sangat
Executive Director
Love Green Nepal

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