NPO acting as a bridge; Inheritance of traditional culture, promotion of local business in Shiraho community in Ishigaki island

Overview

In April 2000, WWF Japan opened the WWF Coral Reef Research and Conservation Centre in the Shiraho village, Ishigaki Island. Since then, the centre has been working as a hub for  connecting the local residents, businesses and researchers. It promotes integrated local community development activities aiming to “pass-on traditional culture”, “coral reef conservation” and “improvement of quality of life.”
In 2004, the “Shiraho sustainable community development project” was launched. Then in 2005 the “Shiraho Sakana Waku Umi” Community Conference was established by the people of Shiraho for the purpose of local revitalization and the conservation of coral reef through sustainable use. The Community Conference took the lead carrying out conservation activities such as the  installation of green belts into the agricultural land and the  production and release of “Gi-ra”, Crocus Giant Clam. Establishing voluntary rules for the use of the coral reef enabled the local people to interact and cooperate with coral reef researchers who were visiting Shiraho.
It is aiming at developing a program to finance the cost of the conservation. The plan is to actively receive groups such as school trips, training groups of university students and companies and have them make some contribution for the environmental conservation.
In September 2005, “Shiraho Sunday Market” was started as a place to foster local industries which produce products using traditional handwork and have knowledge of natural material utilization. As the Sunday Market became part of the local community, commercialization of one product “Gettou”, a kind of ginger, was started with the purpose of providing economic benefits to the farmers whose work also conserves the environment. We are now working on the commercialization of some Gettou products such as essential oils and floral water extracted from the leaf and stalk of the plant.
The Charter of Shiraho Community was amended in 2006 at the general assembly of Shiraho community center. The Charter was compiled after careful study and conducting surveys, making the resource map of the area, and organizing discussion meetings among both Shiraho natives and non-natives as well as natives not currently living in the area.
Promotion Committee of Charter of Shiraho Community was set up in the community center in 2007. The committee has been conducting projects such as historic streetscape restoration by “Yui-maru” and a human resource development program called “Shiraho-gaku course” in cooperation with Okinawa University Regional Studies Institute.  In 2010 the course provided an opportunity for students to learn about the activities to promote the islands of Okinawa.
Currently, we are still involved in some of the projects explained above: “Promotion Committee of Charter of Shiraho Community”, “Shiraho Sakana Waku Umi Community Conference”, “Shiraho Sunday Market.” In addition, we are working together with WWF Japan on a project to conserve biodiversity and revitalize local communities through a new community development program.

Points about the partnership

WWF Japan believes that the main actor should be the local people and therefore it serves only as a catalyst for “human resource development”, “organization development”, and “industrial development.”

Category

Based on efforts at ‘co-action’ (cooperative action) by diverse actors

Theme 

Development of sustainable local community and recycling-oriented society

Actors 

WWF Coral Reef Research and Conservation Centre

Partners 

Promotion Committee of Charter of Shiraho Community, “Shiraho Sakana Waku Umi” Community Conference, Shiraho Sunday market,  Okinawa University Regional Studies Institute

Relevant website

Tsuna-kan Vol.17:
“ Sustainable development of the local area for the conservation of Shiraho coral leaf”
http://www.geoc.jp/information/tsunakan/index/tsuna17
Promotion Committee of Charter of Shiraho Community http://www.hc-zaidan.or.jp/publish/josei2008/16-10.pdf
“Shiraho Sakana Waku Umi” Community Conference
http://www.sa-bu.com/
Okinawa University Regional Studies Institute
http://www.okinawa-u.ac.jp/chiikiken.php