Dr. Kaori Komatsu
Since 1991, I have been conducting research on food culture and agriculture in the tropical rainforests of Congo and Cameroon. In the tropical rainforests of Africa where shifting cultivation is the main form of subsistence, wild plants grow thickly on the burnt fields every year and the farmers tolerate them. I analyzed the relationships among humans, fields and forests (Komatsu 2012) and I continue to study mixed cropping systems and cultivars of crops related to the key concept of “agrobiodiversity.I am also interested in cropping systems, food cultures, and histories regarding staple crops in the tropical rainforests of Africa, i.e. bananas and cassavas. Bananas, which originate in Southeast Asia, were introduced into Africa before Christianity, and thus a unique style of cultivation and various dietary cultures developed. Bananas were taken to South America together with slaves, and conversely cassavas were introduced into Africa from South America (Komatsu, 2008).
I established a research group called the “Feet of bananas” with my colleagues who also conducted research about the banana cultures in Africa. Focusing on bananas, we have performed a comparative study on the cultures of forested tropical areas, covering a range from Southeast Asia to Africa (Komatsu et al., 2006). I have conducted research in Indonesia, Cameroon and India and more recently, I also travelled to South America, the latest region into which bananas were introduced and carried out research on the culture of banana-cultivation in the Amazon in Peru.In Japan, from 2001, I resumed research, which I had previously carried out in 1989 for two years, concerning a municipal market in Okinawa, to look at the changes in agriculture and the diet of Okinawa by studying changes in the commodities sold in the market. My primary focus is on the indigenous pig, Agu. In 2007, I published “<Machigwa> -the market culture in Okinawa Island (in Japanese)” (Komatsu, 2007) and I have also been organizing a Machigwa festival which takes place every February and involves people with a variety of different interests in the market gathering and enjoying themselves.