Theses Doctoral

Multi-Level Governance of Agricultural Land in Japan: Farmers’ Perspectives and Responses to Farmland Banking

Nishi, Maiko

This dissertation examines the emergence and implementation of a new intermediary mechanism of farmland tenancy in Japan with a focus on farmers’ perspectives. Japan’s government introduced the Farmland Bank (FB) program in 2014 in an attempt to avoid further farmland abandonment and revitalize the farming industry. By design, the program gives more power to prefectural authorities to accommodate new actors and resources in tenancy arrangements even without farmland owners’ consent so as to expedite farmland aggregation and generate better economies of scale. This is a major turning point since the postwar agrarian reform where owners have been given a primary decision-making role in private farmland use. The research draws on semi-structured interviews with farmers, government officials and experts, which were conducted intermittently between 2016 and 2018. By taking a multi-level governance approach, the study shows a change in the farmland governance model from the centralized control of individual property to the decentralized, multi-level coordination for collective tenancy arrangements, to which farmers actively contributed along with the interlocking institutional transitions of farming families and villages. With the decline in the life security function of farmland, they have increasingly disengaged from farming and allowed for political and conceptual shifts of farmland from owner-oriented to user-driven and from family property to the commons of the society. The study finds that despite a massive budget injection, the FB program has only marginally facilitated farmland aggregation. Yet, the case study of two communities reveals that the program has been driving a ‘soft’ coercion of farmers’ land-use practices via economic rationality. Moreover, it has disconnected owners from farmland but failed to enshrine tenants’ commitment to long-term farmland management. Complementary attention to subjective, intangible and cultural aspects of farmland would help to avoid possible one-time profit seeking land-use.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Beauregard, Robert
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 24, 2019