THE CHANGING SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION OF THE TOCHIKAIRYOKU IN JAPAN: A CASE STUDY OF THE IWATE CHUBU TOCHIKAIRYOKU
The purpose of this paper is to report on the changing social structure and function of the Tochikairyoku (Land Improvement Associations) in Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, located in North East Japan. This case study was conducted by interviewing executive members of the Iwate Chubu Tochikairyoku and the farming membership working the land and by collecting and examining all available data pertaining to the changes affecting the functioning of this organization. The Tochikairyoku is a non-profit public organization of and for farmers engaged in agriculture or animal husbandry and serves to liaise between farmers and central and local governments. All the costs of management and staff are borne by the members. All decisions to be undertaken must be ratified by the members. The results of the case study indicate that there has been a significant consolidation in the number of Tochikairyoku and farms owing to the dwindling rural population and the ageing of those actively farming the land. Another major factor has been the recent changes in the Japanese Government’s policy that now favours bigger agricultural units over smaller farmers. The Tochikairyoku are instrumental in promoting the new government policies by maintaining irrigation infrastructure and improving the quality of arable land in order to encourage the leasing of land from the smaller farmers to the bigger farm units. The new 2018 Law has effected changes in the election of executive members of the Tochikairyoku to include representatives of agribusiness interests and has introduced a reform of the Tochikairyoku’s accounting practices to make them more transparent.