- 1. Projects to Support Research Activities
- 2. Establishment of a Field Station
- 3. Local Seminars, Hosting of a Field School
- 4. Hosting of International Symposia
- 5. Dissemination of Research Results
The research group at Kyoto University has been conducting research related to the "sustainable use of tropical rainforests," first in the tropical rainforest area of Zaire (presently the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the 1970s and 1980s and thereafter in the Republic of the Congo. However, as a result of the subsequent political upheaval and accompanying political and civil unrest, the field site was moved in 1993 to the tropical rainforest region in the East Region of Cameroon bordering the Republic of the Congo, where use of forests by swidden farmers and hunter-gatherers was investigated. In the following year, the area was visited by Prof. Hiraoki Sato's research team from Hamamatsu University School of Medicine followed, in 1996, by Prof. Hideaki Terashima' research group from Kobe Gakuin University for the purpose of participating in anthropological research in the region. The themes of research have expanded from the initial eco-anthropological themes related to hunter-gatherer activities, ethnobotany, and swidden agriculture systems to include themes ranging widely from the dances and songs as spiritual performance, to mother-child relations and child rearing activities, children's play and formal education, dietary habits and nutrition, the exercise physiology of hunter gatherers, the historical relationship between residential arrangements, agricultural activity, and changes in vegetation, cyclical use of the forest through swidden systems, the impact of conservation efforts on local peoples, and the ecology of fishing activities, etc.
This series of research was conducted under the aegis of Dr. Godefroy Ngima Mawoung, who served as host researcher in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Yaounde I. Presently, research collaborations are getting under way with young researchers and graduate students at the University of Yaounde ? and other universities and research institutions throughout Cameroon.
Implementation of the 21st Century COE Program "Aiming for COE of Integrated Area Studies" between 2002 and 2007, and the subsequent Global COE Program "In Search of Sustainable Humanosphere in Asia and Africa" between 2008 and 2012 have further expanded the arena for research activities of graduate students and researchers conducting research in Cameroon. At present, research is being conducted not only in the East Region but also in the Centre Region with Yaounde City at its center, the North and Far North Regions, and the Adamawa Region, with research themes being similarly distributed across a wide range of disciplines including environmental sociology, urban studies, ethnomusicology, and disability studies, etc.
Entering the 2010s, a number of large-scale research projects based on research accumulated up to this point have begun. As of 2013, two major projects are underway, respectively, in Gribe village in Boumba et Ngoko Department and Lomie city in Haut Nyong Department, both in the East Region of Cameroon: a project of Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) titled the "Sustainable Project in the Forest-Savanna of Cameroon" jointly organized by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and a project titled "A Study of Human Leaning Behavior Based on Fieldwork among Hunter-Gatherers" as Research Team A02 of a larger Scientific Research on Innovative Areas titled "Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans" (RNMH) being conducted.
With this increase in research activity, there has been a growing need to establish a base of operations. Specifically, there has been increasing interest in establishing a space not only for mounting investigations of nearby hunter-gatherer and swidden farmer groups but, also, to organize collected samples and documents, exchange information, and hold small seminars, etc. As such, in the late 1990s, a small building was constructed by Dr. Hiroaki Sato and other researchers using local materials near Ndongo village, which is located on the banks of the Dja River that flows along the border between Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.
The subtitle of the above-mentioned 21st Century COE Program that was started by the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS) at Kyoto University in 2002 was "Establishing Fields Stations in Asia and Africa to Combine Research Activities and On-Site Education." The aim of the program was to establish field stations in various locations in Asia and Africa, and to use these as bases from which to conduct fieldwork and to promote on-site education. Thus, the building in Ndongo village that had been built earlier was renovated and officially designated as the Cameroon Field Station. Besides adding to and expanding the building, a solar power system, satellite phone, and computer network, etc. were installed.
Thereafter, the Ndongo Field Station continued to be augmented with the addition of a large canoe and outboard motor for investigation of the Dja River, installation of a large-output petroleum electrical power generator, etc., and was gradually transformed into a "base for investigation." Supporting this development was not just the efforts of researchers from Kyoto University but, also, the cooperation of numerous researchers mentioned above from the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Kobe Gakuin University, the University of Tokyo, University of Yamanashi, Yamaguchi University, Shizuoka University, and Tokyo Metropolitan University, etc. This research base has been, and continues to be, available for joint use by researchers and students from these universities.
In addition, in 2008, it was decided that a suite would be rented in an apartment complex in a residential area of the Tsinga district in the capital city Yaounde to accommodate graduate students and researchers engaged in research activities not only in the East Province but throughout Cameroon as well as in urban settings. This Tsinga Field Station is outfitted with a variety of computer-related equipment, internet-related devices, desks, and chairs, etc., and has been used not only as accommodation for researchers visiting Yaounde but, also, as a space for preparing to visit field sites by obtaining or updating permission to conduct research, etc. and organizing/analyzing collected data. These two field stations, situated in an urban setting and a rural setting, serve not only as bases for research activities but, also, as spaces for planning and executing research conferences or seminars for local researchers and staff and for promoting a vigorous exchange of ideas with the goal of applying the results of research to the benefit of the local communities.
At the same time that large-scale harvest of the tropical forest in southeastern Cameroon continues, national parks and conservation areas aimed at preserving biodiversity are being established one after the other. One of the major challenges of such efforts is the harmonizing of nature conservation and the lives of local residents. To this end, a seminar was hosted jointly with WWF Cameroon in Yokadouma city, capital of Boumba-et-Ngoko Department in the East Province in December of 2003, with the theme of "How can conservation activities be harmonized with the lives of forest residents?" From Japan, topics for discussion were provided by Kagari Shikata and Shiho Hattori, while Dr. Daiji Kimura and Takanori Oishi participated in the discussion.
Subsequently, a workshop on the same theme was organized in the nation's capital, Yaounde, in December of 2005. The workshop was attended by individuals involved in various conservation and development projects not only from the East Province but from all around Cameroon. The workshop inspired lively discussion among the approximately 30 participants comprising researchers, experts, graduate students from Yaounde University and Kyoto University, members of the Japanese embassy, and so on.
From late August to early September of 2009, an on-site training program geared toward graduate students was held by the "field school to bridge research and practical work" of support program for improving graduate school education of Kyoto University's ASAFAS. The program was attended by 13 graduate students conducting a variety of research in not only Africa but also Southeast Asia and South Asia, etc. On August 30th, students received instruction in Yaounde from faculty of our counterpart university Yaounde University I and JICA experts regarding conservation and use of Cameroon's tropical rainforests' ecological resources, the current status of development projects, and so on. On-site practical training was held in East and West Provinces between August 31st and September 7th. A progress-report meeting titled "Graduate Student Conference" was held on August 29th and September 3rd, with participants in the field school also attending.
Based on the outcomes of the two previous seminar/workshops, an international symposium titled "Biological Conservation and Local Community's Needs: Lessons from Field Studies on Nature-Dependent Societies" <insert link to the program and abstract> was hosted on February 7, 2009 in Yaounde. The venue, the agriculture meeting hall, was filled with more than 120 participants?including researchers and experts from international institutes or NGOs, officials from relevant government agencies, international researchers conducting research in Cameroon?who listened intently to each of the presentations. The majority of participants were extremely interested in how research could be applied to the real world, and there was clearly a strong expectation that researchers would take concrete action.
March of 2010 marked the retirement of Prof. Mitsuo Ichikawa, who had been a leading figure in the study of hunter-gatherer societies in tropical forests of Africa since the 1970s. In commemoration of Prof. Ichikawa's retirement, an international symposium titled "The Culture and Modern Challenges of Forest Inhabitants of the Congo Basin" to review research on central Africa and, at the same time, to identify the challenges facing the region was hosted by the Kyoto University Center for African Area Studies <insert link to the program>. Invited speakers were Dr. Didier Demolin, famous for his linguistic research on the pPygmies and neighboring ethnic groups, and Dr. Jerome Lewis, actively engaged in practical research on efforts by the indigenous peoples of central Africa to establish their rights, and Dr. Kaori Komatsu and Dr. Hirokazu Yasuoka reported on the most recent research in the area. In addition, young researchers contributing to Moriszumi-no-Seitaishi [Ecology of Life in the Forest] and Moriszumi-no-Shakaishi [Forest-dwelling Societies] (Kyoto University Press) each gave poster presentations on their own research <insert link to poster title list>.
In addition to the above, many researchers and graduate students conducting research in Cameroon have been proactively engaged in academic exchange with the research communities in different countries, presenting research findings at various international conferences including the 8th and 9th International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS8, CHAGS9), held in Osaka in 1998 and in Edinburgh, UK in 2002, respectively, and the International Conference on Congo Basin Hunter-Gatherers held in Montpellier, France in September of 2010.
5-1. Publication of Moriszumi-no-Seitaishi [Ecology of Life in the Forest] and Moriszumi-no-Shakai-shi [Forest-dwelling Societies]
As mentioned above, in commemoration of Prof. Mitsuo Ichikawa's retirement, two books summarizing outcomes of research on tropical forests in Africa centered on research in Cameroon were published in 2010. Research with an eco-anthropological bent was summarized in Moriszumi-no-Seitaishi [Ecology of Life in the Forest], while research emphasizing social or cultural aspects was summarized in Moriszumi-no-Shakaishi [Forest-dwelling Societies]. While the two books represent independent collections of papers, they were edited at the same time with the same awareness of issues and, as such, deal with a number of overlapping topics.
A number of special issues of the European-language peer-reviewed African Study Monographs (ASM) (published by the Kyoto University Center for African Area Studies) on Cameroon have been published.
The starting point for research in Cameroon, which began in 1993, was the eco-anthropological research on hunter-gatherer societies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) conducted in the 1970s. The outcomes of these early studies were summarized in ASM Supplementary Issue No. 25 (1998) "Man and Nature in Central African Forests," edited by Dr. Mitsuo Ichikawa.
Likewise, the content of the above-mentioned 8th and 9th International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS8 and CHAGS9) can be found in ASM Supplementary Issues No. 26 (2001) "Persisting Cultures and Contemporary Problems Among African Hunter-Gatherers" (Mitsuo Ichikawa and Jiro Tanaka, eds.) and No. 28 (2003) "Recent Advances in Central African Hunter-Gatherer Research" (Mitsuo Ichikawa and Daiji Kimura, eds.)
ASM Supplementary Issue No. 33 (2006) "Ecology and Change of the Hunter-Gatherer Societies in the Western Congo Basin" (Mitsuo Ichikawa and Hirokazu Yasuoka, eds.) was published with the purpose of organizing the accumulated research outcomes up that point in the context of a well-established foundation for research in Cameroon and initiation of numerous new projects. The issue captures the diversification of Cameroon research into multiple subject areas including ecology, social structure, and the economic activities of forest-dwelling peoples, etc.
Looking back in 1993, at the previous two decades of research, it is clear that characterization of the relationship between humans and forest in the research (and in the eyes of the researchers) shifted from that of a static viewpoint to that of a dynamic viewpoint. ASM Supplementary Issue No. 43 (2012) "Land Use, Livelihood, and Changing Relationships Between Man and Forests in Central Africa" (Mitsuo Ichikawa, Daiji Kimura, Hirokazu Yasuoka, eds.), which summarizes the most recent outcomes of research in Cameroon, deals with the challenges facing Africa in modern times from this latter dynamic viewpoint.
The above is a brief overview of the ASM special issues related to research in Cameroon and surrounding regions. These special issues included articles contributed not only by Japanese researchers but also by numerous international researchers with shared research interests. Including the publications identified above, 57 books in Japanese and 15 books in European languages, or a total of 1877 pages, have been published based on the accumulated outcomes of Cameroon research. (See below for details regarding research accomplishments). We hope to continue to report on the diverse accomplishments of fieldwork-based research in Cameroon.