Posted by: tiffanytononi | April 5, 2010

Masashi Kumamoto Returns to Japan after Two and a Half Years with FoEME; Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Today Friends of the Earth Middle East said a bittersweet ma’a assalama and good luck to Mr. Masashi Kumamoto, an outstanding ecological researcher who has worked tirelessly with FoEME’s Amman office since the beginning of 2008.

Masashi Kumamoto Worked with FoEME for Two and a Half YearsMr. Kumamoto was able to volunteer nearly two and a half years with FoEME as a Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV). Most of his work focused on the development and implementation of the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark located just outside the village of Sheikh Hussein in the Northern Jordan River Valley.

Before coming to Jordan, Mr. Kumamoto was a park ranger at Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in northern Japan. Upon arriving in Jordan, he was met by immediate challenges; he had never worked abroad, did not know the Arabic language, and knew little of the culture. Mr. Kumamoto found himself staying on the lands of the EcoPark for many weeks at a time, sleeping in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Over time he made many connections and friends in the local community, learning much of the language and culture. He studied the land, researched new forms of germination and rehabilitation, organized reforestation events, and identified and documented the flora and fauna in the area.

One of Mr. Kumamoto’s most extensive projects included the identification of over 250 species of flora in the EcoPark. He used this information to create an extensive database for FoEME which includes, but is not limited to, the Latin, English, and Arabic names of each species, their scientific characteristics, and additional information such as which plants are edible or used for medicinal or cultural purposes.

Over 240 flora species were identified and documented by Mr. Kumamoto in the soon to be published guidebook to the EcoPark.

He then used this information to design the first ever flora guidebook for the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark. Over 240 plant species are listed in the guidebook, and again, each entry includes the Latin, Arabic, and English plant name as well as the flowering season, flower color, habitat information, and additional notes of interest. A fauna summary also includes over 50 birds sighted and documented within the EcoPark.

Ultimately, this guidebook will serve as a tool for visitors and the surrounding community so that they may better understand the natural environment of the EcoPark and the Northern Jordan River Valley. To ensure that it can be utilized by as many people as possible, it has been written in both English and Arabic.

FoEME is currently in the final stages of editing and publishing this exciting document. FoEME will continue Mr. Kumamoto’s vigilant work so that the flora database can be continually updated and a guidebook to the fauna of the EcoPark can be created for future publication.

This soon to be published guidebook, the database, and much of the progress in the EcoPark would not have been possible without the dedicated work of Mr. Kumamoto. FoEME will be forever grateful to him and JICA for facilitating his placement with Friends of the Earth Middle East. From all of the FoEME staff in Amman and throughout Jordan, “Thank you, good luck, and inshallah we will meet again!”

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provides technical cooperation and other forms of aid promoting economic and social development in developing countries. JICA has over 38,000 volunteers placed throughout the globe including 45 volunteers currently placed in Jordan. For more information on JICA, visit their website here.

This post was written by FoEME intern Tiffany Tononi. Tiffany is based in FoEME’s Amman office.

Photo Credit: Yoichi Hamatsu

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