Development of 'Soft and Pleasant' Farming for Elderly Farmers

Message from the Representative
In this project, researchers in a variety of specialized fields of natural and social sciences, such as agriculture, equipment development, sports science, and sociology, work on the common theme of farming communities for elderly people.

The setting for the project is inter-mountain and hilly areas in the southern part of Nara Prefecture. The Yoshino region of Nara Prefecture has Mt. Yoshino, which is famous for its cherry blossoms, and the Yoshino River, which is a historic region that has been the subject of tanka poetry from the Manyo period. Nonetheless, just like other agricultural and mountain villages in Japan, the decline of the local community has become a problem there. The area is affected by depopulation and its aging population, combined with a low birthrate.

The Tochihara area, Shimoichi-cho, Yoshino-gun is the direct setting for the project. The area, including neighboring areas, has thriving fruit cultivation, mainly of Japanese persimmons, although it is being affected by its aging population. By setting up a farmers' market, people in the Tochihara area are working together to produce, process, and promote agricultural products centering on Japanese persimmons.

We will strive to resolve problems of farming communities of elderly people in cooperation with people of the local community and several cooperative organizations, including Southern Part Promotion Division of Nara Prefecture, and the Nara Prefectural Welfare Park.
Project Leader - Regional Cooperation Promotion Division Social Cooperation Center Nara Women's University

Project Content

Targeted Project Area
Tochihara area, Shimoichi-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara Prefecture
Population: 281 (October 2011)
Households: 93
Aging rate: 34%

Steeply sloping farmland
Project Goal
In farming communities of inter-mountain areas in Japan, some areas have a high probability of having difficulty in sustained use in the near future because of the increased aging population and a shortage of workers of future generations. Now, those who live in agricultural villages and who engage in farming are becoming older themselves. Even if people who live outside of the communities in other areas return to the villages to take up farming, in activities such as post-retirement farming, farming workers will continue to be disproportionately elderly. That is, to maintain rural communities, some means to sustain farming communities mainly comprising elderly residents presents an urgent problem. By introducing a new type of electric vehicle for farm work, with careful consideration for ease of control by elderly people and the "Raku-Raku (easy) Cultivation" system, we are striving to make fields barrier-free and to build an environment in which elderly farmers can engage actively and pleasurably in farming. To achieve the goal, assessing the circumstances of communities, we devised a method to ascertain the actual conditions of settlements and community members, which enables community members to achieve their personal visions of the future.

Implementation structure

Currently, the project is conducted with people in Tochihara in four respects.

  1. Raku-Raku Cultivation Group
    Developing light-saving and time-saving production methods (Raku-Raku Cultivation)
  2. Electric Carrier Group
    Creating an electrically powered carrier that is controlled safely and easily on steep slopes
  3. PPK Group
    Devising a method to ease the physical workload during farming
  4. Settlement Checking Group
    Investigating the <Present> and the <Future> of people and fields

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Regional Cooperation Promotion Division Social Cooperation Center Nara Women's University
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