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Smaller firms in Japan are playing a more active role in the country’s overseas development assistance, offering their expertise to local partners with help from the Japanese government.

Wago, a processor of agricultural products based in Katori, Chiba Prefecture, is helping farmers in Kenya increase their earnings by improving production and marketing of grape tomatoes.

The company has years of experience in overseas operations, including mango production in Thailand since 2005.

Takehiko Kogo, a 48-year-old director of Wago, heard from an acquaintance in 2014 that farmers in Kenya were lacking certain cultivation techniques, including pest control, and were exploited by brokers due to a shortage of marketing channels.

In 2015, Wago decided to help, utilizing its experience of assisting farmers in Japan, Kogo said.

Staff members from Wago have since been teaching skills for producing high-quality grape tomatoes in plastic greenhouses in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, while supplying them to local upscale supermarkets.

The operation is facing a variety of problems including a lack locally of available materials needed to build plastic greenhouses. But Wago will continue its involvement with an eye toward exporting the produce to Europe and the Middle East in the future, Kogo said.

Wago is one of the smaller Japanese companies receiving financial support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency as a result of their contribution to developing countries.

Using the government’s official development assistance, JICA began the financial support program in 2012 to cover traveling, equipment transport and other expenses for recipient companies. The program has enabled some 400 companies to operate across the world.

“Small and midsize companies have advanced solutions to problems in developing countries,” JICA Executive Vice President Kazuhiko Koshikawa, 60, said. “They can also revitalize themselves through overseas operations.”

Informatix Inc., an information technology company in Kawasaki, and a recipient of support from JICA, is testing its anti-disaster service in Pangasinan, a province in the northern Philippines. The company’s system utilizes geographical data and shows information about past natural disasters on a map to help officials work out better evacuation plans.

The Philippine government is hoping the service will help decrease the number of future typhoon victims.

The Shizuoka Prefectural Government has already adopted the Informatix service, and the Pangasinan government sent officials there last November to learn more about it.

Rhodyn Oro, 44, one of the Philippine officials, said the service allows necessary information to be disseminated to local people quickly when a natural disaster occurs.

Ibasei Ltd. in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, a subcontractor for major home appliance manufacturers, has developed a compact hydroelectric generator that generates electric power in slower moving river or water channels.

The company has been demonstrating the generator in a village in Nepal to cope with a power shortage in the country.

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