NOUMINREN, or the Japan Family Farmers Movement, is a grassroots political movement intent on strengthening Japan’s foundation of family farmers. Since Japan’s widespread industrialization, the smallholder farmers of Japan’s rural areas have struggled to maintain a competitive presence in the fresh food market. In 1989, the Movement was founded in response to a marked decrease in domestic agricultural production and led by farmers and advocates seeking a return to stability. Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio (the relationship between food locally produced and food locally consumed) has hovered at an all-time low of 40 percent since the mid-1990s. The Movement attempts to restore the balance of growing and consuming fresh, local food by supporting family farmer-friendly legislation.
NOUMINREN is made up of over 50,000 farmers, farm advocates, students, and activists seeking to “promote independent development of Japanese agriculture and make farmer’s livelihoods more stable.” To do so, the group conducts research, petitions for agricultural ordinances, and spreads awareness of the importance of locally-based cultivation in print and media. A conference is held every two years to discuss solutions and share knowledge between family farmers and agricultural support organizations. NOUMINREN also recognizes the importance of building solidarity with family farmers worldwide and seeks to maintain open communication with similar international movements. The Movement hopes this exchange of skill, technique, and modern technology will bolster the “autonomous development of Japanese agriculture and make farmers’ livelihood more stable.”
Located in Tokyo, the NOUMINREN headquarters also house a Food Research Laboratory, which analyzes mass-produced and imported foods for evidence of heavy metals, residual agricultural chemicals, and GMOs. The Laboratory is dedicated to “protecting food security as a basic human right.”
NOUMINREN aims to revitalize Japan’s diminishing base of family and smallholder farms, and make fresh, domestically-produced food available for the population once more. The Movement emphasizes the benefit of local and organic farming not only to those eating the crop, but the land itself. At a NOUMINREN conference in February 2012, a farmer from the Wakayama prefecture commented on the importance of the organic farming methods he employs: “Friendship between living things and soil is important. I am pursuing the farming technique that makes not only human, but every living thing happy.”