Hamlet Farming in the Context of Changing Agricultural Politics
A hamlet-based collective farm is the result of several or all farming members of a hamlet pooling land, machinery, and labour. They can also include more than one hamlet. Hamlet farms differ in terms of their legal status and - closely related - the extent to which cultivation and management are unified. For example, hamlet farms can be ‘voluntary associations’ (nin ’i soshiki) in which the members - farm households - keep the land use rights; or incorporated legal entities (hojin) which can take on land use rights. While hamlet-based collective farming is not an entirely new phenomenon, it has significantly gained momentum in recent years. Since 2000, the number of hamlet-based collective farms has increased by more than 50%. As of 2013, more than 11% of the arable land in Japan - or roughly 500,000 ha- was cultivated by more than 14,000 hamlet-based farms. The share of collective farming appears even stronger when broken down regionally. Hamlet farming is mainly a paddy-field-related phenomenon. Yamanashi Prefecture, where horticulture is dominant, has only very few hamlet farms, while regions with a high share of small rice producers display a strong presence of collective farming. In Saga Prefecture, for example, almost 45% of all farmland is cultivated collectively. There are also significant sub-regional variations. In Hikawa Town in Shimane Prefecture, 40% of the arable land is farmed collectively, which by far exceeds the prefectural average of 15%. The reasons for the strength of collective farming in Hikawa will be addressed in more detail below. First, however, I will put the overall increase in collective farming in the context of growing pressure on the post-war agricultural support and protection regime.