The late Kazuya Ito
2008winners international contributions
Aiming to make war-torn Afghanistan green, worked to aid agriculture and befriended local residents
The late Kazuya Ito

Born: 1976; from: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

Award summary

Deciding he wanted to put the agricultural knowledge he acquired at school to use in rebuilding Afghanistan, Mr. Ito joined a group called the Peshawar-kai. It was in his capacity as a member of the Peshawar-kai that the 26-year-old Mr. Ito travelled to Afghanistan in the icy grip of winter.

His dream was to help the Afghans create a natural environment that would feed their children. Amid the cacophony of bombs and bullets, and in searing, 50-degree heat, Mr. Ito and his cohorts joined together with the locals to grow sweet potatoes, plant pumpkin and garland chrysanthemums, and to line waterways with trees and cover banks with grass.

Mr. Ito just seemed to click with Afghanistan-so much so that his associates wondered if he might settle down there. He was popular among the locals, young and old alike and, when word spread that he had been kidnapped, fully 1,000 villagers searched the mountainous terrain to try and find him.

Reasons for this award

Just as Mr. Ito's death is a tragedy, his enthusiasm and achievements up to that time deserve respect. It took an event as shocking as Mr. Ito's death to wake people up to the fact that young Japanese people are doing what they can to help in Afghanistan, but it also serves as a reminder that many Japanese youngsters are active around the world. We feel that Mr. Ito's aspirations and courage, and his unflagging efforts to join forces with the locals and work side-by-side to build a better future for their nation deserve to be remembered.

The Kazuya Ito Memorial Afghan Fund

Mr. Ito's parents established the Kazuya Ito Memorial Afghan Fund on November 1, 2008 as a means of carrying on his desire to make a contribution to the rebuilding of Afghanistan and towards peace. The fund concentrates mainly on providing support for agriculture and education. Although only a few months old at the time of writing, the fund has already held a photo exhibition, entitled Bringing Greenery to a Fair Land: Kazuya Ito's Dedication to Afghanistan, celebrating Mr. Ito's life.


Karez is an organization founded in April 2002 with the aim of helping the rebuilding of Afghanistan by providing medical aid and education. The group was granted official NGO status by the Afghan government in June of the same year and had set up a clinic in Kandahar a month later. The group now provides treatment for approximately 33,000 people per year, and offers medical aid for villages with no doctors and schools for areas that lack education opportunities. This was the first Afghanistan-related organization that Mr. Ito joined.