Number of community organizations supporting residents in rural areas top 5,000 in Japan

TOKYO, April 29 – The number of “regional management organizations” which organize projects aimed at solving issues regarding rural communities totaled 5,236 in 742 municipalities nationwide in fiscal 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced on April 28.

Such organizations, which conduct activities to support local residents’ lives including encouraging interactions among elderly people, increased 449 from the previous year, topping 5,000 for the first time since the ministry started collecting data in fiscal 2015.

The organizations are mainly created in each of the elementary school districts in agricultural and mountain villages and are operated autonomously by local residents to complement public services, organizing community networking events, community patrolling activities, disaster prevention drills and sales of farm produce.

According to the ministry’s survey, 742 municipalities – 43.8 percent of 1,694 valid responses – said they have such organizations.

Asked what kind of activities they conduct, allowing multiple answers, 51 percent of the 742 municipalities said the organizations hold gatherings for the elderly, followed by 41 percent conducting community patrolling and 34 percent offering experience and exchange programs.

As for the effects of creating such organizations, 79 percent, the largest percentage, said the organizations enabled local communities to discuss measures to tackle issues which had not been dealt with before, followed by 60 percent which said the organizations made it easier for local residents to participate in community activities.

On the other hand, such organizations face challenges, with 83 percent of the municipalities saying it is difficult to find people to operate them, followed by 55 percent which said they lack people who can play a leading role, reflecting depopulation in rural areas and younger generations concentrating in metropolitan areas. Moreover, 48 percent pointed to the lack of a sense of awareness among many local residents to tackle community problems as their own, and 47 percent said the organizations lack sufficient financial backing.

The importance of forming regional management organizations is also spelled out in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ new Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas adopted in March. The plan mentions the need to extend the organizations’ scope of activity to include utilization and management of farmlands.

The government, which focuses on regional management organizations as one of the key policies to fight population decline and revitalize the local economy, has been calling on agricultural cooperatives to support the move.

The government had a target of having 5,000 such organizations in fiscal 2020. Since this was achieved before the target year, the government has set a new goal of having 7,000 by fiscal 2024.

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