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Slain Japanese NGO Worker’s Parents Wind Down Afghanistan Fund

Courtesy of Peace Japan Medical Services
Kazuya Ito, third from left in the foreground, stands in a rice paddy while teaching Japanese-style rice planting in Nangarhar Province in the eastern part of Afghanistan in June 2007.

The parents of aid worker Kazuya Ito, who was kidnapped and killed by an armed group in Afghanistan in 2008, have halted the fund they established for agriculture and education in the country.

Ito’s parents, Masayuki, 75, and Junko, 70, set up the Ito Kazuya Afghan Nanohana Kikin (the Kazuya Ito Afghan field mustard fund) as a means of carrying on their son’s desire to make a contribution to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kazuya Ito’s parents Masayuki, right, and Junko in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Jan. 18.

All donations collected for the fund were entrusted to the nongovernmental private organization Peshawar-kai, and were used to build school dormitories and purchase farm equipment in Afghanistan.

Kazuya, then 31, was a staff member of the organization.

His parents expressed their gratitude, saying that the donations made Kazuya’s desire to assist children in the area a tangible reality.

Peshawar-kai provides medical care and irrigation assistance and is known for the contributions of Tetsu Nakamura, a medical doctor and local representative of the organization who was killed in a 2019 shooting in Afghanistan at the age of 73.

Kazuya was from Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, and studied agriculture. In his application for membership in the association he wrote, “I hope I can be of help to bring the region closer to an environment where children do not have to worry about food.”

From 2003 he was engaged in agricultural support activities in the region. In August 2008, he was abducted by an armed group and was found dead.

His parents set up the fund in November of the same year, utilizing a special prize of ¥3 million posthumously awarded to Kazuya as part of the 15th Yomiuri International Cooperation Prize, as well as offerings made to his family at the funeral.

The fund focused on supporting the agricultural and educational sectors out of respect for Kazuya’s wishes.

The fund received donations of about ¥30.22 million over 14 years, all of which was entrusted to Peshawar-kai.

According to the association, the donations were used to build school dormitories, purchase tractors and other farm equipment, and buy educational materials for the school.

Although there were people who made donations to the fund every year, his parents decided to end fundraising at the end of last year as they were becoming older. The 12th anniversary of his death, a traditionally significant milestone, had also been marked.

“I think Kazuya would say, ‘You did your best, so it’s OK,’” Masayuki said.

Junko said, “We are grateful that they used the fund for something tangible.”

Cultivating sweet potatoes

Staff members of local NGO Peace Japan Medical Services, which is affiliated with Peshawar-kai, have been trying since last year to grow sweet potatoes again, something that Nakamura and Kazuya had been working on in Afghanistan, according to Peshawar-kai.

They have been trying to grow sweet potatoes for about 20 years, as they can be grown even on barren land.

In a 2006 newsletter of Peshawar-kai, Kazuya reported that he had succeeded in overwintering seed potatoes for the first time.

After a series of unsuccessful attempts, Peace Japan Medical Services staff members were able to harvest the crop successfully last year after using seed potatoes they had stored and working on planting times and methods.

“We would like to research the way local people like to eat them,” Peshawar-kai Chairman Masaru Murakami, 73, said.