Workshop “The future of local food and agriculture in Kameoka City” (Hiraku Kumagai, Kyoto University)

FEAST HQ Report, WG2, WG4

FEAST-WG 2 has organized a series of three workshops “The future of local food and agriculture in Kameoka City” in Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture on Sep 27th, Oct 16th and Nov 20th, 2017. Seven of us were part of the organizing committee: WG2 chair and members, Prof. Motoki Akitsu from Kyoto University, Prof. Mari Nakamura from Nagoya Bunri University, Norie Tamura, FEAST Sub-leader and RIHN Senior Researcher, as well as Steven McGreevy, FEAST Project leader, Yuko Matsuoka, FEAST Research Associate, Ryo Iwahashi and myself from Kyoto University. The 13 participants were those engaged in various agrifood-related issues ranging from agriculture, nutrition education to food processing etc in Kameoka City.

The WG2 research sites are in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture and Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture with a new addition of Kameoka City in Kyoto since this project year. FEAST works towards building civic food networks in Kameoka City, then ultimately establishing “Shoku to Nou no Mirai Kaigi” or a Japanese version of a Food Policy Council (hereafter, FPC), which should serve as a platform to develop bottom-up food policy. What is the ideal and sustainable “food” that we should seek for? How should “food” that we eat on a day-to-day basis and “agriculture” which sustain its production look like? Then, what steps should we take to transform this ideal vision into reality?

Following Noshiro City and Kyoto City, the workshops in Kameoka City also brought in a methodology of “backcasting” with the primary objective to explore the first step towards the holistic picture of food and agriculture. In this methodology, the ideal future is first defined though visioning, then its pathway is made, working backwards from the future to the present step-by-step. It has been increasingly used primarily in the field of energy policy. Different from conventional “forecasting,” in which we predict the future based on the past and present social structure, “backcasting” starts off with defining (i.e. not predicting) a desirable future, which is postulated as something unknown. This method has attracted much attention and has been recently used in a long-term planning at the national level and rural development, that is, in policy making to realize a preferable (and/or sustainable) future vision. At the Kameoka workshop, the stakeholders working with the agrifood issues envisioned “the ideal food” in 30 years, then discussed about the first step towards the specified vision.

The theme of the first workshop on Sep 27th was “Let’s think about tomorrow’s food for the future in 30 years!” The workshop started off with explaining FEAST’s research activities and the agrifood-related challenges, followed by visioning of the ideal food by the 13 participants and discussion about their characteristics in separate groups. Their ideal visions ranged from eating with family members and using locally produced ingredients, to new ideas such as robots that clean up and infrastructure that brings food in a short time, and to everyone eating his/her favorite food and ethical consumption.

“What does it mean to think about the future?” was the theme of the second workshop held on Oct 16th. A lecture on scenario planning was given to the participants, in which it was explained that we needed to stop thinking that the future ideal vision was an extension of what we are and the present, and it was also proposed to explore the future, getting into characters of a local leader or, let’s say, city mayor, and Kameoka citizens in 30 years. Primarily based on the groupings of the first workshop, the participants were divided into three groups and envisioned the local ideal food around the group-specific themes. Group A with the theme of “menu and ingredients” came up with seasonal and healthy menu as their ideal meal, Group B with the theme of “tsunagari (linkage with others)” envisioned “tsunagari” cafeteria (community kitchen), and Group C with the theme of “local economy and environment” drew the vision that laid weight on school lunch and agriculture. It seems that the participants stated to have a clearer understanding of challenges to tackle by thinking about the ideal food in groups.

The third and final workshop on Nov 20th with the theme of “Let’s plan the future of food and agriculture in Kameoka City!” involved the aforementioned backcasting methodology. The specified future scenarios were community kitchen proposed by Group B and school lunch by Group C that obtained lots of attention during the discussion at the second workshop. In the community kitchen scenario, the identified ideal vision was that a number of “tsunagari” cafeterias were established across the region just like convenience stores, for which transportation infrastructure needs to be developed and coordinators (“osekkai” or meddlesome (in a good/positive way!) personnel) trained. In the school lunch scenario, it was discussed that school lunch need to be provided at every school in Kameoka City, which is not implemented at the moment, and how to engage AI (artificial intelligence) technology to support the supply system while backcasting from the desirable future to the present.

This round of Kameoka workshop series is complete for now. Yet, thinking about the current actions to take backwards from the ideal vision to achieve in the future through the methodology of backcasting illuminated “tsunagari (linkage with others)” and “education (school lunch)” as the issues to address for the future of food and agriculture in Kameoka, and provided an opportunity to the participants to contemplate the step-by-step scenario. After the workshops, the comments from the participants included: “I enjoyed the methodology itself. I think ‘drawing’ was effective.” “The ideal vision should not be seen as an extension of the present, so it is necessary to cut out what I am when thinking about the future vision.” “It occurred to me that only the adults can work on planning, which made me think that we really need to think about the future in 30 years.” Following this series of workshop, FEAST is planning to organize the first “Shoku to Nou no Mirai Kaigi” in Kameoka in the late Feb, 2018, which we will surely report again.

(Translated by Yuko K.)

Lecture on scenario planning at the second workshop (Photo: Hiraku Kumagai)