2002 年 11 巻 2 号 p. 5-24
In many developing countries, economic development has failed to eradicate poverty because the fruits of economic development are distributed unequally among the people. But, Japan was able to distribute the fruits of her rapid economic growth among the people to a considerable degree. This is partly because the social development initiatives called “rural livelihood improvement movement” had prepared its groundwork during the 1950s.
After the Second World War, Japan faced with almost the entire array of problems many developing countries face today; such as food shortage, malnutrition, health deterioration and poor sanitary conditions. In 1948 rural livelihood improvement program started under the Ministry of Agriculture. Livelihood extension workers (women) were engaged in the livelihood improvement activities mainly targeting the rural women, while agricultural extension workers (men) worked in the activities for production increase. The livelihood extension workers were expected to play the role of facilitators in enabling women to become aware of numerous problems in daily life and guiding them to solve the problems by themselves. Awakening self-reliance in the moral realm and economic self-sustenance in the economic realm were their slogans along with the democratization in the political realm.
Although the Ministry of Agriculture initiated livelihood improvement program (LIP), it grew into Livelihood Improvement Movement (LIM) involving a wide range of sectors like health, education, water and sanitation etc. The sole objective of this nation wide movement was “to escape from the poverty.” LIM was unintentional multi-sector social development experience, where every actor played its role without prior coordination, but local people merged those vertical programs into a (de facto) integrated rural development program with modifications to their own circumstances. This became possible through peoples' organization and with the help of dedicated frontline government extension workers such as livelihood extension workers, public health nurses, teachers in primary schools, etc.
This Japan's experience may suggest many lessons to developing countries today, although further empirical study is needed.