ARI was established in its present location in 1973 based on the Southeast Asia Christian Rural Leaders Training Course at Theological Seminary for Rural Mission in Machida, Tokyo.
It started as an international organization training leaders who engage in rural development in developing countries, to satisfy the demand for training by Christian churches and groups that had already taken part in rural development in Southeast Asian countries. The foundation was supported by Japanese, European and American Christian churches and other groups. Since 1996, ARI has also accepted Japanese participants who intend to serve rural communities in the future – either in Japan or worldwide.
Back in Japan, for ten years Rev. Dr.Toshihiro Takami taught practical theology and directed the Southeast Asia Christian Rural Leaders’ course at the Theological Seminary for Rural Mission in Tokyo; work that led to his eye-opening field assignment in Bangladesh and the founding of the Asian Rural Institute.
Takami designed the institute’s curriculum around intensive, small-scale, organic farming, and animal husbandry, linking these activities to building a vibrant community. All participants, including staff, engage daily in dirty-hands chores at the institute. And all take their turns preparing food for the group’s common meals. “Sharing food is sharing life,” is one of Takami’s most well known phrases. ARI participants also share in decision making. The difficult process of achieving consensus among a group of strong-minded, quick-to-action people, Takami believes, helps ARI’s rural leaders become more effective change-makers in poor communities.