A journal article “A Rural Revitalization Scheme in Japan Utilizing Biochar and Eco-Branding: The Carbon Minus Project, Kameoka City” by Steven McGreevy, FEAST PL, and Prof. Akira Shibata, WG4 Chair/Ritsumeikan University was published in “Annals of Environmental Science” vol.4, 11-22(2010).
Abstract: Like rural areas in many countries, Japanese rural society is experiencing decline in all spheres (depopulation, aging, lack of economic opportunity, and so on). Uncertainty in the future viability of agricultural livelihoods coupled with the collapse of the forestry sector has decreased the ecological resilience of the Japanese countryside, increasing overgrown forests, habitat and biodiversity loss, and costly wildlife damage to crops. As these rural crises are compounded by the climate crisis, the need for multifunctional solutions that increase the sustainability of rural society and environment as well as promote a shift to a low-carbon economy is great. Biochar implementation projects have the promise of such a solution, although it is still unclear what role they will play in the actual context of rural socio-ecological systems. Also, little is known about how biochar as a technology and food-related product will be accepted by the public. This study looks at these concerns by illustrating the cases of the “Carbon Minus Project,” a multi-actor regional revitalization scheme, and COOL VEGE™, an eco-brand for produce cultivated with biochar in a rural area of Japan (Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture). In this paper, the socio-economic impacts of biochar as a soil amendment, eco-brand, and traditional technology are examined through the experiences of vegetable farmers (biochar producers), food retailers, and consumers. The potential economic, social, and ecological impact of the Kameoka project are evaluated and the need for biochar projects to drive multifunctional socio-economic structural change are stressed.