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Farmers fret about progress destroying Oyama yam fields

Date Posted: 2008-06-18

Ginowan City is pressing ahead with major west coast frontier construction and development projects, and area farmers are fearful the activity is going to destroy their livelihoods.
Oyama district, on the west coast abutting the coastline, is home to traditional water yam fields that have produced the popular, tasty vegetables for more than 500 years. The water yams acquire their unique taste because the fields are special; rain soaks into the soil, filtered by Okinawan limestone, and staying as ground spring water. There are eight locations in Oyama where the water yams are being grown, but the development projects, if continued, will destroy the fields.
Farmers, land owners, Ginowan City and Okinawa Prefecture are all wrestling with the concerns, which some term major headaches. Farmers want Ginowan City to develop around the water yam farms, leaving them in place. Their argument is “we should protect the yam fields,” while the younger generation contends the government should “take all this land, make a frontier and build the new town.”
Many land owners don’t want to maintain the yam fields, seeing development and a new marine town as more profitable to them. Some point to the fact farming is dying out as many young people and their families do not want to be involved in farming anymore. Ginowan City is caught in the middle, wanting to continue having the popular water yams—one of the city’s famous branded products—as part of its cultural marketing and promotion.

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