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Yohei Sasakawa
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To go to bed hungry [2011年11月30日(Wed)]

May there be no more little children who have to go to bed hungry….

To go to bed hungry
-Working without Dinner-

It is rare that plans would go as planned as we are used to in Japan. Especially action in the remote corners of the world means that there is no telling what will happen, in addition to a very rigorous work schedule on all our travels. I always tell the team that accompanies me to eat whenever there is a chance to eat. Breakfast is especially important as oftentimes we have had to go without lunch or dinner.

On the recent trip to Mali in Africa, it took three hours one way to the Sasakawa Africa Association program of inspection of agricultural site. We received with a warm welcome by local farmers and our lunch after the visit was a glass of beer and bread. But as time was very limited, before we could enjoy our lunch we were back in our car with a kamikaze police escort to arrive at the hotel just in time to go straight to the airport.

The flight was approximately one hour to Burkina Faso from Mali. I went right off to sleep after a tiring day. The plane was already landing when I awoke. I realized that I slept through the dinner served on board. It was after 11 p.m. when we arrived at the hotel and, of course, there was no restaurant open and I experienced a sense of hunger that I rarely experience.

The 25th anniversary of the Sasakawa Africa Association was celebrated successfully in Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali, with the attendance of President Amadon Touré and other dignitaries.

It was also a ceremony where the guests celebrated with us with blessings for our past fight, a fight with the spirit of “Never Give Up”, to increase food production for the African farmers so that there would be no farmer that must go to sleep hungry.

Yet, it is ironical that I, the advocate, should have been the one to go to sleep hungry. Although it was only for a single night….
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
25th Anniversary of Sasakawa Africa Association [2011年11月28日(Mon)]

On the way to the SAA Reception
(From right to left; President Soglo of Benin, Yohei Sasakawa, former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, President Touré of Mali, Agriculture Minister Alhassane of Mali)

25th Anniversary of Sasakawa Africa Association
Anniversary Ceremony held in Mali

The 25th anniversary of Sasakawa Africa Association was celebrated in Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali.

It was a very successful ceremony with a large attendance including President Touré of Mali, former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, and former President Soglo of Benin as well as ministers of agriculture from different countries. It was also a great honor for me to have had the presence of the three Presidents at the memorial tree-planting of a baby Baobab.

As I recall, it was in 1984 that Ryoichi Sasakawa ordered me to think of a good relief action for Ethiopia when he learned, watching a television program, of the serious famine that was devouring the country. I immediately called on our friend of many years, Dr. Norman Borlaug who is a world renowned agronomist and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his success in the Green Revolution in India and Pakistan, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Our talks and negotiations resulted in the establishment of the Global 2000, a project to increase food production for the poor small scale farmers of Africa.

To make a long story short, the SG 2000 had received much criticism from various groups during the years of its operation. The World Bank pressured us by saying that our project is contrary to their structural adjustment policy, environmental NGOs in Europe reproached us for polluting the African Continent with chemical fertilizers when the amount we used was less than one-tenth of what was being used in Europe.

“ENOUGH: Why the world’s poorest starves in an age of plenty” written by Roger Thorow and Scott Kilman and translated into Japanese by Masaru Iwanaga has been published recently from Yushokan (\3,200 + tax). The two authors are journalists of The Wall Street Journal who have scrupulously collected data in Africa. They accuse the advanced countries as being responsible for their negligence, ignorance and opportunism bringing about a man-made disaster and a starving Africa.

Many agricultural aid projects found difficulties in Africa with the World Bank structural adjustment policy and disinterested political leaders, and have been abandoned as projects that were not giving concrete results. It can well be said that we are the only private organization on the African Continent that have won through the fight for 25 years while being subjected to visible and invisible pressure from the advanced nations all the time.

We have fought through with a slogan “Never Give Up”. Finally the world community is realizing that the structural adjustment policy of the World Bank was a mistake, and changes are being made to the obstinate policy that African food aid must only depend on the American agricultural products. There are more African government leaders who think that more than anything that is required of independent nations is self-sufficiency in food.

Today, the Sasakawa Africa Association is able to receive financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and the Nigerian government. The extension workers who coach and guide the farmers that we have educated through our Sasakawa Africa Scholarship at 11 universities numbers to over 3000 and many of the university graduates are working with the farmers in the field. The Sasakawa Africa Association has grown up into a big family of approximately 1000 people including drivers, cleaners and security guards.

Dr. Ruth Oniang’o who is the leader of the Sasakawa Africa Association came to me looking very serious and saying, “Mr. Sasakawa! Ryoichi Sasakawa and Dr. Norman Borlaug are no longer with us today and I hear that President Carter is getting on in years and in failing health. Mr. Sasakawa!! The burden you have on your shoulders is very heavy, you know!” I countered her words saying “You know Ruth, I used to climb mountains in my younger days so I get more energetic and in better shape when the load is heavier.”

If I am to receive any credit, it is only that I have consistently shown my will to continue, never drawing in my horns. All has been accomplished under the leadership of Executive Director Masaaki Miyamoto of the Association and Chris Doswell who is the favorite disciple of Dr. Borlaug, with the Borlaug spirit of “Never Give Up” and the concerted understanding that “no child must go to bed hungry” among all the people concerned, and the strong bond that binds them.

70-80% of the population of the African Continent is poor farmers. There is no escape from poverty without increased food production. I am certain that within 10 to 20 years, the synonym for African agriculture would be the “SASAKAWA” method. This 25th anniversary ceremony and the commemorative symposium made me renew the necessity to put in further effort so that indeed the “SASAKAWA” method shall reign.

*Structural Adjustment is a plan to reform economic structure or economic policy that IMF and the World Bank impose on the governments of developing countries, and a new conditionality of abolishing all subsidies for a loan has been set up for agricultural aid.
Therefore, despite the fact that the United States, Europe, Japan and many other countries have subsidy policy, aid for the agriculture sector has been eliminated. Even the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education which is the human resource development program of the Sasakawa Africa Association had been criticized, at a point in time, as a type of subsidy.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Leprosy Global Program Managers’ Meeting [2011年11月25日(Fri)]

Leprosy Elimination Activities
Leprosy Global Program Managers’ Meeting

Brazil is the only country that is yet to achieve the WHO standard of “having less than one registered patient per ten thousand population,” but Brazil has officially announced that it will achieve the goal by 2015.

The achievement of elimination of leprosy seems to have made one think that a major goal has been achieved, and there is an air to relax our leprosy activities. It was for this reason that WHO representatives and government program managers gathered together in New Delhi from different countries concerned in order to continue to strengthen our activities to draw everyone’s attention to the serious issue of discrimination against leprosy affected people and to the goal of further eradicating the disease.

Following is my keynote speech giving at this meeting.

Opening Address by Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation
at Global Leprosy Programme Managers’ Meeting, Delhi
28th September, 2011

Dr. Samlee, National Program Managers from around the world, Colleagues, I am delighted to say a few words to you at the start of this meeting. First, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for your warm and generous support towards the Japanese people during the great disaster on March 11th. Japan will definitely come out of this catastrophe with resilience.

Thanks to everyone’s continuous efforts, there has been a huge global change regarding leprosy over the past few decades. I would like to take the opportunity to express my deep appreciation.

As many of you may know, I often use the metaphor of a motorcycle with its two wheels when speaking about leprosy. The front wheel represents our activities from a medical aspect and the back wheel is our activities from a social aspect.

Regarding the front wheel, each country is continuing their tremendous efforts based on the current 2011-2015 five-year strategy: “Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing the Disease Burden Due to Leprosy.” The main reason why such progress has been made is due to the efforts of everyone, improvements in medical care and also clear goals and detailed strategies. As we move forward, we now need to develop more strategic and creative approaches for early detection and treatment and offer services to hard-to-reach communities and groups in order to further reduce the number of new cases and cases with disability.

There has also been much progress made with the back wheel, our social activities. As you know, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously passed the resolution, “Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members” and its “Principles and Guidelines” last year. A session dealing with the topic of “Reducing stigma and discrimination” will be held this morning. I would like to express my appreciation for the leadership of Dr. Samlee, who arranged for program managers from around the world to discuss the important issue of stigma and discrimination.

The current five-year strategy is quite comprehensive on this, dealing with strategies for addressing social issues and the greater involvement of people who have recovered from leprosy. When the two wheels, the activities for medical issues and social issues, turn together, the motorcycle can move forward. Then, for the first time, our mission to eliminate the suffering of leprosy can be realized. Let us move forward together.

Thank you very much.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Trip to Brazil [2011年11月21日(Mon)]
Trip to Brazil

I will leave for Brazil tomorrow on my Hansen’s Disease elimination activities and return on December 2.

Today, Brazil remains to be the only country yet to achieve the WHO elimination standard of having “less than one registered patient per 10,000 population.”
Brazil is currently making every effort to achieve this elimination goal by 2015.

My schedule for this trip to Brazil will include making a keynote speech at the International Leprosy Association (ILA) Regional Congress of the Americas, meeting with President Dilma Rousseff and other government high officials including the ministers of health and human rights. I will also meet with the President of the Brazilian Medical Association and the Dean of the Universidade de Sao Paulo (University of Sao Paulo) which is one of the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund universities.

In addition to my visit to the three cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, I will also visit the field to observe the Brazilian elimination activities and visit the Hansen’s Disease colonies.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Forum 2000-International Conference in Prague- [2011年11月21日(Mon)]

Forum 2000
-International Conference in Prague-

This year marks the 15th conference since the first Forum 2000 was held together with the then President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic.

Immediately after the 9/11 attack in New York, all international conferences were cancelled, but we felt that there was no better time than this to hold the conference where the significance of the Forum 2000 would play an important role. Today, it has become a regular Prague autumn event for the intellectuals of the world.

We were very concerned whether our “main actor” would be able to attend or not as his health was not in the best condition. But he swept away our worries to be among us this year too, in good spirits, although he did seem a size smaller than last year. It has also become a custom for us to have a shot of that 200 year-old traditional Czech alcoholic beverage, Becherovka, before the conference.

Following is my speech given at the Opening Ceremony, held always at the same church.


Forum 2000 Opening Ceremony

Opening Remarks
Yohei Sasakawa
Chairman, The Nippon Foundation
October 10, 2011

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 15th conference of Forum 2000. As many of you know, Forum 2000 was inaugurated in 1997 under the vital leadership of President Havel. Our founding aims were to host discussions concerning the many challenges, basic and structural, faced by humanity, and out of those discussions to build a civil society in accordance to the will of the people. With the convening of this 15th Conference, we now reach another milestone – a milestone made possible by the dedicated passion and strong convictions of the many individuals who have participated in the Forum 2000 Conferences to date.

Today, our world is undergoing remarkable changes. Some countries are developing rapidly into economic powerhouses – but their social development continues to lag behind; the human rights of their citizens remain suppressed; and injustice and corruption are rampant.

In other countries, the people have risen up and toppled their oppressive regimes – but democracy and the rule of law remain elusive; society continues to be in turmoil; and poverty, corruption and crime are widespread. Daunting challenges thus remain. And yet, the citizens of these countries have clearly taken the first steps toward achieving democracy and the rule of law – to enable the formation of societies based on the people’s own will.

This year, our underlying goal is to seek ways in which the people who are now engaged in these noble struggles can successfully create societies that will be based on democracy and the rule of law. We hope that as participants in this Conference you will all apply your vast experience and abundant knowledge toward finding solutions to these complex problems.

However, success, even when achieved, is often not enough. Even after systems based on democracy and the rule of law are put in place, as those societies mature, the people who live in them cannot simply sit back and let history take its course. Once the rule of law is achieved, citizens become protected by them. On the surface, this legal protection may give the impression that citizens are enjoying the benefits of safety and security. But when highly complex laws become guardians of the people, they can at times be an impediment to the growth of society. When people are enslaved to the laws that govern them, the driving forces needed for healthy growth – open-mindedness, sense of ownership, diversity – are no longer guaranteed. This social regression is what Tocqueville called “peaceful, gentle enslavement.”

In this respect, it is extremely important for leaders from different fields – political leaders; scientific experts; religious leaders; to meet on occasions like the Forum 2000 to discuss issues relating to democracy and the rule of law.

I hope your discussions will be of significance and benefit to various people around the world: those who are striving to create societies that conform to the people’s will, as well as those already in matured societies, who are susceptible to “peaceful, gentle enslavement”, so that societies around the world may continue their path of healthy growth.

Thank you.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Nobel Prize in Literature [2011年11月18日(Fri)]

Nobel Prize in Literature

All the excitement (?) of the Nobel Prize for 2011, especially as covered by the media, has subsided.

Apparently there was a Japanese nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011, but it was awarded to Tomas Tranströmer, a Swedish writer and poet.

Tranströmer suffered a major stroke in 1990 which left him partially paralyzed and deprived of speech. He continued to write and 6 years later broke his silence to publish Sorrow Gondola which won the award for the work of lyricism with which describes the natural world through the wilderness of imagination of this ailing poet.

The Scandinavia-Japan Sasakawa Foundation had granted \1.2 million to Eiko Duke, the translator of this work, in cost of translation and publication, and the Japanese translation was published on March 1, 1999 by Shichosha (\2400 plus tax) in Japan.

Ms. Mayumi Ogida who had worked at this foundation for many years sent me an email to tell me about this happy occasion and I would like to also share this delightful news with my readers.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities-82 [2011年11月16日(Wed)]

Prayers are offered for the reconstruction of the shipbuilding industry

The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities-82
-The Reconstruction of the Shipbuilding Industry Project-

We will give a total of \1.35 billion in support of the regeneration project of the shipbuilding related business in the area devastated by the March 11 disaster.

Large scale cranes and folk lift trucks as well as welding machines and materials have been provided to the following 5 zones to be owned and used collectively:
Hachinohe Zone (Hachinohe City in Aomori Prefecture),
Ofunato Zone (Ofunato City, Rikuzentakata City, Miyako City, Otsuchi Town and Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture),
Kesennuma Zone (Kesennuma City, Minamisanriku Town in Miyagi Prefecture),
Ishinomaki Zone (Ishinomaki City, Higashimatsushima City, Shiogama City, Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture), and
Iwaki Zone (Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture).
We have already offered \478 million to Kesennuma Zone and \232.3 million to Ofunato Zone.

The results achieved to date are 50% elevation in repair capacity in Kesennuma Zone and construction capacity is expected to recover 100%. Likewise in Ofunato Zone, repair capacity has improved by 50-60% and construction capacity is forecasted to recover 100%.

I pray that our commitment will be of help in guaranteeing employment and revitalization of the local economy.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities-No.81 [2011年11月16日(Wed)]

The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities-No.81

The area devastated by the March 11 disaster account for 15% of the Japanese fisheries and marine industry. Currently there is a huge deficit in the number of forklift trucks which are absolutely necessary to carry out various activities in the fishing industry. Especially, according to the report of the student volunteers that the Nippon Foundation dispatched to Ojika Peninsula to remove rummages, of the 150 forklift trucks in the area, 100 had been carried away by tsunami.

The Nippon Foundation has supported the purchase of 76 forklift trucks by contributing \90 million of a total of \180 million. I do hope that with this, the seaweed and oyster farmers would be able to restart their businesses in full scale, and that the road to reconstruction of the entire fishing industry would be able to acquire a full footing at last.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Invited Guests from Overseas-Part 4 [2011年11月14日(Mon)]

Invited Guests from Overseas-Part 4
-Indian Parliamentarians-

The Japan-India Association was established by a group of distinguished figures of the time including Eichi Shibusawa, and it prides with a long history and celebrated its centenary some years ago. There has been a long period of stagnation in the bilateral relationship for a while, but the importance of the two countries to each other has been recognized anew in the recent years, and it is indeed satisfying to see that exchanges have spread in various sectors of society to promote mutual understanding.

As for myself, although I have visited India 43 times over the years to date, I feel that my activities have only now started to take shape.

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation has manifested its wisdom and powerful insight, and had started an exchange program of inviting Indian parliamentarians to Japan in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (equivalent to the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren).

Already more than 30 nonpartisan parliamentarians have visited Japan. They include such names as Rahul Ghandi, the son of Rajiv Ghandi, the ace of the Indian National Congress and a strongest candidate for premiership of India, and also parliamentarians who took office as the Minister of Defense and Minister of Railways after their visits to Japan. The politicians’ participation in this program seems to be becoming a gateway to success, and it is beginning to attract attention in the Indian political world.

6 young parliamentarians were invited this time and spent a busy few days in Japan including courtesy calls on former prime ministers Mori, Abe and Fukuda. I have been reported that the program was of excellent quality and satisfied the requests from the Indian side. The program included visits to The Indo-Japan Parliamentary Friendship Society, the Democratic Party of Japan, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Kansai Keidanren (Kansai Economic Federation), Tokyo Metropolitan Vocational Skills Development Center, TOYOTA, Yakult and other companies.

Rahul Ghandi was the first donor to the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation. I also had the opportunity to meet and visit one of the past participants, Mr. Madhu Yaski of Andhra Pradesh, this September. He accompanied me to the leprosy colony in his constituency of Nizamabad and furthermore, promised that he would cooperate in the establishment of the parliamentarian’s group in support of leprosy activities in India.

The parliamentarians visiting Japan come from different parts of India such as Bihar, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh among others where I have visited a number of times for my work of leprosy elimination, and it is encouraging to know that I will be able to receive valuable advice for my future work.

“You never know what the tide will bring!”
These are the words that Ryoichi Sasakawa often uttered. It means that unexpected events can develop into favorable direction.

Recently, a book written by Miyoko Kudo, “Kujikete narumonoka”- Sasakawa Ryoichi ga Gendai ni Hanatsu Keiku 80” (“I shall never ever be dispirited – Ryoichi Sasakawa” - 80 epigrams for the contemporary man) was published.

I recommend this book to those who are interested, but with apologies that it is only available in Japanese.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Invited Guests from Overseas-Part 3 [2011年11月11日(Fri)]

Dreaming of the restoration of Khmer Ceramics

Invited Guests from Overseas-Part 3
-Dreaming of the Revival of the Lost Khmer Ceramics in Cambodia-

Cambodia possessed a magnificent ceramic culture during the days of the glorious Khmer Dynasty. But with the demise of the dynasty, ceramic artistry too disappeared into the jungle.

Ms. Yukie Yamazaki, who has lived in Cambodia for 16 years and who works as interpreter while conducting her own business, has always dreamed of restoring the Khmer ceramic technology for the potters who can only make unglazed pottery today. Every time she visits Angkor Wat, her thoughts are indulged in the memory of the beautiful ceramics that flourished during the Khmer dynasty.

In 2009, the Nippon Foundation decided to cooperate with The Cambodian Ceramics Restoration Project when Shuichi Ono of the Foundation sympathized with Ms. Yamazaki who ventures her life in Cambodia and has placed her heart in Khmer ceramics.

Mr. Shinsuke Iwami, a Mashiko ceramic specialist was dispatched to Cambodia to start technical training in using the potter’s wheel and glaze. I have also visited the workshop in Orudon Russei village in Kampong Chhnang province. Here the women potters were making unglazed kitchenware such as earthenware pots, and Mr. Iwami was teaching them kiln-firing and -glazing technology that would produce strong, good quality pottery.

Three potters, led by Ms. Won Pau, and a male assistant were invited by the Nippon Foundation to visit Mashiko Town in Tochigi Prefecture where they studied the Mashiko technique as well as the development of the town, Mashiko. Each one of the potters praised the Mashiko pottery technique and spoke passionately. “We had so much to learn. We are going to take all that we have learned back home so that it can be shared with others to contribute to the benefit of the whole village. We will work hard so that this pottery will become the pride of our people.”

We once presented a piece of Khmer pottery to Prime Minister Hun Sen. But it is the common dream of Ms. Yamazaki, Shuichi Ono and the four potters to have the opportunity to present the beautiful Khmer pottery to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni, and to be able to give as gifts to the visiting heads of state, someday in the near future, as pride of Cambodia.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 21:00 | URL | comment(0)
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