A Christian academy in the countryside is seeking to improve the quality of life in poor farming villages in Asia and Africa by giving new generations of community leaders the latest agricultural skills and knowledge.

Established in 1973, the Asian Rural Institute operates agricultural training programs in Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, with the support of Christian organizations and other benefactors in and outside Japan. In September, the institute will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Over the decades, the academy has produced more than 1,200 alumni who served as agricultural community leaders in countries in those regions. This spring, the academy accepted 31 men and women as new students, including trainees from countries afflicted with famine, ethnic conflict and drought, including Myanmar, Nepal, Malawi, Zambia and Ecuador. Among them were three Japanese volunteers.