Dr. Koichi Kitanishi
At present, I focus on the Baka Pygmy hunter-gatherers in the tropical forests in the East Region of Cameroon, and study the impacts of the introduction and dissemination of cultivation and cash economy on their society. Recently, in particular, I looked in detail at ownership of the fields and forms of inheritance to study the significant changes occurring in the forms of hunter-gatherers’land ownership. Since many of the cacao fields, which are increasing in number, are becoming the property of Baka people, I am interested in how their livelihoods might be transformed. Furthermore, I want to pay attention to greatly changing relations between the Baka and the other ethnic groups that live in neighboring areas, caused by the introduction of cacao cropping.
I conducted a comparative study on banana cultivations in the tropics of Asia and Africa, focusing especially on cultivation methods, local cultivars and their utilization. My research on the Baka was part of this project. My goal is also to relate this to the challenges involved with hunter-gatherers adaptation to farming.
The term “Pygmy” comes from the name of imaginary dwarfs who fought against cranes in ancient Greece. Although the term refers to various images, it started being used to refer to small people living in the tropical rainforests of the central part of Africa in the latter half of the 19th century. I study how the original images associated with the term were and are reflected upon these actual people. I would also like to re-investigate the relationship between ancient Egypt and the Pygmies; a topic which has already been discussed in many literature.
I enrolled in the Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University. During the master’s program, I studied fishing people in Iheyajima Island, Okinawa.
In my second year of the doctoral program, I went to Africa for research for the first time. I conducted ecological anthropological and economic anthropological research on a hunter-gatherer group, the Aka (a Pygmy hunter-gatherer group) residing near Linganga-Makaou village at the upper reaches of the Motaba River in the northeast part of the Republic of Congo.
Since the security situation deteriorated in the Congo, I switched my focus to Cameroon. I joined Drs. Haruo Hanawa and Kaori Komatsu, who had been there already, and then in research on a hunter-gather, the Baka, group’s, subsistence activities, especially focusing on swidden agriculture (Photograph 1) and food sharing in Lotong village located in the East Region. I faced many problems but I managed to complete my research. Afterwards, I travelled around Cameroon with Professor Ichikawa. In Eyumojok, near the border with Nigeria, we stayed at Shigehiro Sasaki’s place for a while. He was a graduate student at the time but is now an associate professor in Nagoya University (Photograph 2). I also travelled around Maroua in the north (Photograph 3) and enjoyed discovering the different aspects of Africa, apart from those found in the rainforests.
During 1995, I resumed my research in the Congo, collecting data on food sharing and subsistence activities, and conducted interviews to fill in the gaps of what I lacked in the previous fieldwork. I completed a doctoral program in the Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University and received a doctorate of Science. Started working in Faculty of Education in Yamaguchi University.
I conducted research on the Baka in the Ndongo village in the East Region of Cameroon. Research on the swidden agriculture was the main area of focus (Photograph 4). I also observed their daily cash transactions. Moreover, a primary school was built in the Ndongo village with support from a Catholic Church and some of the farmers and Baka children of the Dongo village started attending the school. As such I also observed the installation of school education to the village (Photograph 5).
I started research in the Beson village with Ayako Hirasawa, who was then a graduate student, but eventually went back to Ndongo village and resumed research there. The content of my research is the same as it was in 1999.
I conducted intensive research in the Ndongo village concerning the Baka’s systems of land ownership and inheritance (Photograph 6). During the trip to and back from the site of investigation, I faced many troubles, but I managed to get back (Photograph 7).
Photograph 6 (upper-left): A cacao field eradicated of its weeds and a Baka man and its owner.Photograph 7 (upper-right): Cargo truck and the bridge that fell into the Lokomo River. In Ndongo, I am continuing my research on the Baka people’s land ownership and inheritance.
Based on quantitative data, I compared the food-sharing of the Baka and the Aka. It is thought that both people are Pygmy hunter-gatherers and have common ancestors; the Aka from the northeast part of the Congo, whereas the Baka are from the southeast part of Cameroon. While the Aka people still keep considerably the life of hunter-gatherers, the Baka now own their own land and engage in farming. Moreover, the Aka did not have much chance to engage with a cash economy, whereas the Baka, on the other hand, trade goods using cash daily. Despite differences in subsistence activities and economic situation, the Baka also actively share food (especially foods cooked by women), similar to the Aka. Yet, an analysis revealed that there was a decrease in the amount of meat shared as it became regarded as a source of cash income; and that there developed a fixation regarding who to share food with, due to the sedentarization. Hence, it became clear that the Baka are sustaining their food-sharing system by altering other parts of the traditional economic system and it is not simply that the Baka’s economy has become engulfed in a cash economy.
The Baka, hunter-gatherers in southeast Cameroon began settling down and cultivating crops in the 1950s. To find out why the people have started cultivation, I looked at the case of some of the Aka based in the southern part of the Central African Republic, who settled down and started their cultivation in the 1970s. Although their settlement and farming were triggered by government policies during the colonial periods and after independence; the major factor in these cases is the changes in relationship with neighboring farmers. Both the Aka and the Baka became difficult to obtain crops from these farmers as their relationships became severe due to a variety of political and economic factors. Research has revealed that this represents a direct and common factor which influenced the tribes to start farming on their own.