The dreadful situation in Japan and the suffering of people directly affected has particular resonance with several members of the Guild and similar organisations worldwide who visited the country in 2007 for the IFAJ Congress.
“We spent a considerable part of our time in Sendai and the Miyagi Prefecture, both of which have tragically borne the brunt of recent tragic events,” notes the Guild’s IFAJ representative Joe Watson. “I have fond memories of Sendai and of all those in the farming community in the wider area of Miyagi who welcomed us with such grace and hospitality.”
Masaru Yamada, a member of the Japan Agricultural Journalists Association and one of the leading Congress organisers, was out of the country when the earthquake and tsunami hit. Thankfully, he reports that his family was unharmed, and has since set up a website to relay news on the impact of the disaster on the farms visited during the Congress.
But although the JAJA says many members are also reported safe, there is still concern over the fate of some who have yet to be traced.
The equivalent of our Guild in Germany quickly took the initiative to start collecting donations for a relief fund and following requests from similar organisations, the IFAJ has agreed to collect country donations and forward them to the journalists’ association in Japan.
“We are all aware of the devastation that has taken place in Japan,” says Mike Wilson, US farm journalist and President of the IFAJ. “While talking with Masaru Yamada over recent days, it became clear to me that the financial effort we are co-ordinating needs to be robust and sustained for the long term.”
The Guild’s own contribution got off to a good start with £220 donated by members and guests at the Midlands and National annual meeting. Further donations can be made by sending a cheque made out to the Guild of Agricultural Journalists (accompanied by a note making clear it is for the Japan fund) to treasurer Tim Price, The Cottage, Greenhill Park Road, Evesham, Worcs WR11 4NL.
In a note to Mike Wilson, Hiroki Ose, President of the JAJA and senior commentator with the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK, thanks the IFAJ and members who contacted the organisation directly for their expressions of support.
“I sincerely appreciate every effort you are making and ask all of your members to support the people of Japan who are seriously suffering,” he says. “Although the areas most severely stricken by the earthquake include parts of Sendai city, where we had the IFAJ World Congress in 2007, places we visited during the tours are generally safe.
“We will keep updating you about the situation as soon as we have information,” Mr Ose continues, “and we really appreciate you as journalists to report stories, programmes and commentaries with a warm heart on the tragedy, which will encourage Japanese people to stand up against this difficult situation.”