JIMOTOGAKU - based on what we have here! (2)

(Continued from the previous posting)

Process of Jimotogaku
Going out for fieldwork
The main activity of Jimotogaku is a fieldwork to find out what we have in the community. It is a simple work. Community members together with outsiders just walk around the community and record what they found interesting. The most important thing is that you need to find out what you feel unique, interesting, or surprised. It is very important to search for “FACTS”, not just a thinking, opinion, or perception of the participants. Any kinds of concrete things including natural environment, human activities, products, skills, infrastructure, building, equipments, or even spiritual symbols can be searched for and recorded. When you found something interesting, you can ask questions about it to a community member by using concrete questions. You can record on a notebook, or draw a picture or sketch, or take photos. It is also important to record what the community members talked about it.

How to work out the results
After coming back from fieldwork, you need to compile the result (what you found). There are several ways to do it.
a) Local information card: every item will be recorded in each card describing what is found, photo or illustration, what the community people say, your comments
b) Local resource map: the participants can compile the information collected into a local resource map using pictures, drawings, and comments
c) Detail description of a household: one typical household can be described deeply in a detail picture map showing their equipments, housing styles, plants, animals, etc.
d) Agriculture calendar: if you study about agricultural activities, it can be compiled into a calendar of those activities. Fishery or forestry calendar can also be made.
e) Story of community members: especially if you had a chance to hear from old generations, it is a good chance to find out community history and local wisdom.
f) Human resource map: you may find various kinds of unique activities of community people. Those findings can be compiled into a human resource map.

Making actions
Mr. Yoshimoto mentions that there are four steps to create community development actions based on the results of Jimotogaku. “Knowing the past”, “analyzing the present”, “predicting the future change”, and “starting what we can do” are those processes. By Jimotogaku practice, local community can understand themselves from much wider and deeper perspectives, and they start thinking what can be or should be done, and finelly they will be able to take initiative to do something.
According to Mr. Yoshimoto, Jimotogaku can contribute to the following things;
- Enhance the understanding on your own community
- Acquire deep knowledge on the locally produced goods and services, explain about it to people from outside of your community, which will ultimately stimulate ideas for new products
- Enjoy local life and be willing to guide visitors
- Cope with and adapt to external changes
- Set up future vision of the community and think what people can do for it

Through those impacts, Jimotogaku will become a basis for continuous local actions for community development.

Actions after Jimotogaku
One of the examples of Jimotogaku application in Minamata is “Field Museum of Village Life” at Kagumeishi village. Kagumeishi is located at the last end of Minamata city in mountain area at the border of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is a tiny agricultural village with around 40 households. The community people started the “Field Museum” in 2002 as a result of “searching for what we have” activity of Jimotogaku. The principle of the museum is to show their own local resources that were discovered through Jimotogaku. There is no building as “Museum”, but only signboard. The “Museum guides” are ordinary villagers who show various places of the village such as rice terrace which has been inherited for hundreds of years, small stream and large rocks that became origin of the village name, traditional small shrine that has been taken care of by the community, water resources of the village, and other traditional equipments or household effects. They also serve local foods that utilize local materials and cooked in traditional ways. It is really a “simple” museum, but there have been more than 3,000 visitors from all over Japan so far now.

According to a leader of the village, Mr. Yutaka Katsume, at the beginning, the villagers wondered whether such simple things could attract the outsiders. In fact, when the new idea of “field museum of village life” is introduced to the villagers, most of them were skeptical to the idea. Only because the city official, Mr. Yoshimoto, stated that the idea of field museum would not give any bad impact to the village, they agreed to start the activity. They firstly practiced the Jimotogaku fieldwork, found out what they have, made resource maps of the area, and prepared for explaining about their communities to the visitors.

After starting the museum, they could receive many guests from outsiders, and as those outsiders show interest in the village nature, tradition, lifestyle, and foods, the villagers started to become aware of richness of village life, and restore self-confidence in their own village. Recently, the village women started food processing activity that cooks traditional local foods and packs them into lunch box delivered to the city office. In addition, stimulated by outsiders interest and their advices, there are some villagers who started innovating own traditional products such as vine baskets or trying to plant new crops that can be sold to the town people. Mr. Katsume, the village leader, expects that opportunities of exchanging with outside people through the Museum activity will lead to re-vitalizing economic activities of the village. He hopes to attract young generation to come to and live in the village where over-aging and depopulation have been a major concern for many years.

Implications to community development in other countries
Jimotogaku was born in Japanese communities. However, its concept and methodology is highly applicable to any other fields of community development outside Japan. As the practice of Jimotogaku can be regarded as an “antithesis” to conventional centralized top-down approach of community development, it can be utilized by anyone who wants to facilitate local community’s initiative to start actions based on existing local resources, not depending on outside ideas, projects, or funds. Through Jimotogaku practice, community members will re-discover their own history, culture, skills, wisdom, human relations, and other existing local resources, and as a result, they will be able to start actions to tackle their issue based on what they have. A lot of participants of JICA training who have been exposed to the concept and practice of Jimotogaku in Japan expressed that it is a very useful approach for their community development activities, and there are some ex-participants who have already started practices.

Based on those practices of Jimotogaku in developing countries, there are some key points for successful application of Jimotogaku in the field of community development.

a) Constructing equal relationship with local community
In many cases, outsiders who want to introduce Jimotogaku are development experts. The outsiders should be sensitive to construct equal relationship with the local people so that they will be able to search, discuss, and think freely.

b) Do not teach, advice, or instruct
Even if you are outsiders with high education, you must not teach, instruct, or give advice to the community. You are here to facilitate the community people themselves find out what they have.

c) Involving people from other communities
It may be a good idea to involve ordinary people from other communities so that they can stimulate each other.

d) Finding out concrete things
It is not our objective to think about abstract concept. For example, you need to find out concrete things (equipments, buildings, or skills) rather than mentioning “tradition”.

e) Continuing follow-up for next actions
Jimotogaku is not just a “treasure finding”. After fieldwork, community people will analyze, find out what can be done, and start something. If necessary, the outsiders should continually be involved in the process as facilitators.

So, let us find out what we have, and start something base on it. We are waiting for your practice of Jimotogaku in your field. And of course, let us share our experiences each other!

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