This symposium was coodinated by BRNJ (Banana Researchers Network of Japan), and financially supported by the Nissan Science Foundation and
'21st Century COE Program: Aiming for Center Of Excellence of
Integrated Area Studies'.
|Date: 21 March, 2003 /13pm to 17pm
|Place: Shiran Kaikan Hall (11-1, Yoshida Ushinomiya, Sakyo, Kyoto,
Opening Remarks from Dr. Komatsu (Moderator, member of BRNJ)
"Yesterday was the very serious day when the US-led Force launched
the offensive against Iraq. It may be grossly optimistic to hold
this kind of symposium on such a day. However, today's theme "Bananas
Connecting the Areas" should be very a contemporary issue, when
we consider how we can connect ourselves with the world. I hope
we can share the ideas through this symposium how we should think
of the connection between bananas and the areas or the world."
Major Message from Dr. Hanawa (member of BRNJ)
"Banana has both aspects as the crop flourished in various kinds
of local culture and, on the other hand, as the global commodity
in the stage of international trade since the end of 19th century.
Although familiar with Japanese just as fruits, banana is more
deeply utilized by local people even in their material or spiritual
culture. There is a well-known legend in the Philippines that
banana be created from hearts and fingers of forest spirits.
We, the team of BRNJ, have visited several areas in Asia and Africa
to conduct the fieldwork on banana-based cultures. Communicating
with local people, we could feel not only their creativity exemplified
by variation of local banana varieties, but also strength of the
crop connecting with people as seen in local markets. We'd like
to think how such potentials in local areas can be developed into
the current globalized world, and how we Japan can connect with
such areas in the world. Today's symposium is held to develop
the ideas and practices for us.
Based on our concept that we should cover the both sides of production
and consumption, we asked four presenters, all of who have concerned
with bananas on their own way. Firstly, Mr. Hotta, who is a president
of Alter Trade Japan, will give the topic from his activity on
alternative trade in the Philippines, followed by Prof. Morishima,
who will report us about ongoing 'Banana Paper Project' launched
in several countries like Haiti on the purposes of economical
independence or environmental protection. Dr. Nishigami will present
her own idea on the Global Bio-Methanol utilization which should
be argued to consider our future society based on natural energy.
Lastly, Mr. Fukushima, a banana producer from Amami Oshima Is.,
will tell us the story from the producer side."
Mr. Hotta Masahiko (President of Alter Trade Japan, Inc.,)
"Bananas for Survival: People-to-People Trade as a Support for
the Local Communities"
# Activities of Alter Trade Japan (ATJ)
ATJ, which is a kind of grassroots company launched by some civic
groups and cooperative societies, does not engage in large-scaled
international trade but connects smallholders in the South with
Japanese people. Our basic priority is put on the relationship
between the people, that is, 'people-to-people'. We have our assignment
how smallholders in the South can attain self-reliance. At the
same time, we try to find out local products which enables to
activate the rural community, with making partnership between
the north people.
# About Balangon Banana
Balangon banana is less bigger nor attractive by appearance, but
more tasty than other famous imported bananas. It is very difficult
to maintain its quality. 'Balangon' is a local name in Negros
Is., and called Bungulan in Filipino. This can be considered as
a kind of highland bananas, usually mix-cropped with other fruits
# Sugar and Banana in Negros Island
Negros Is. is a major producing area of sugar, once produced as
much as some 60% of the total sugar production of the Philippines.
We originally started our activity in 1985 when the international
price of raw sugar collapsed. The following year, we organized
a new NGO, 'Japan Committee for Negros Campaign (JCNC)'. The campaign
"Save the Children of the Negros Island!" was boosted by mass
media in Japan at that time. We proceeded our support activities
aimed for people-to-people aid. Historically there existed a 'structural
violence' on land holding in Negros, which means the sugar plantation
system was structured by the predominance of the wealthy few landowners
involving with the large majority of poor farmers. We discussed
with landless people and then decided to support them to attain
their self-independence. The idea to replace sugar with banana
as a new local resource was originally brought by some cooperative
societies in Japan. The trend of consumers' movement asking for
better quality or safety of food, led us to make partnership with
the Negros small farmers.
Balangon is not just a banana but includes the nature as medium
for 'people-to-people'. We always tell the local producers that
we co-exist through this banana. During the first 10 years, we
have taken extra-costs to purchase bananas for self-reliance fund
spent for community development or education. In this sense, we
consider Balangon as a banana for survival.
Q "Who are the landowners of the land where Balangon banana is
A "Actually most are inside the National Park, so that the people
can be considered as illegal frontier farmers. However, since
the rights for cultivation is given in the Philippines to the
person who lives there over 10 years, he can cultivate the land
even if he pays the tax."
Q "Arrangement of producers organization seems very important.
How about the situation for the latest decade?"
A "One local company 'Alter Trade Cooperation' was founded to export
Balangon bananas a year before ATJ had been organized. The company
has worked for supporting farmers' independent, including credit
system. Now it has become so fine a company as to attract much
attention on the national level.
Q "What kind of fertilizers are used in the fields?'
"Does stabilization of the selling price lead the farmers to overproduce
A "They don't use any fertilizer. We've just built a manure mill
for producing organic manure from sugarcane residues, but little
amount yet. We realize sustainable agriculture cannot enroot in
the community without peoples' stable life. It can be said that
supply is constantly in short, partly due to damage by periodical
typhoons or pests.
Q "Would you intend to make any promotion to the farmers on fertilizer
A "We have no plan to integrate fertilizer use at present, but
think about preparing some manual on banana management. We're
aiming to develop a sort of 'food gathering' practices into well-managed
organic farming for the coming 5 years. Then, we would like to
establish a new system based on prior investment involving with
the burden by the farmers."
Q "You mentioned in your book that you have different conception
for self-reliance support with other NGOs. What's the difference
between you and others?"
A "Today, the word 'fair trade' is popularly used as 'goodwill
of South- North exchange. But we ourselves call it 'people-to-people
trade'. 'Fair trade' was created in Europe through the movement
for fair style of international trade, and it put the base on
ethical relation-building. On the other hand, our concept is similar
to that of the organic farming movement in Japan, which was extended
through close relationship between the consumers and the producers.
The distinct difference is that we put the priority not on trade
itself but promotion of self-reliance in the local communities.
At the same time, we Japanese need to be motivated to innovate
our civil societies by looking ourselves from the viewpoint of
the South. This should be the explanation why we go and see the
Dr. Morishima Hiroshi (Professor; Nagoya City University)
"Making Papers from Banana: Banana Green Gold Project"
# Introduction of a Japanese TV program featured 'Banana Paper
Project' in Haiti
# The Domestic Situation of Haiti
There are many of the 'power users' in Haiti. Due to those who
don't pay for electric or phone bills, the power companies and
telecom have been in trouble. Communication conditions are generally
not good in the country. The high crime rate is concerned with
the economic closures by the U.S., which seems to intensify anti-U.S.
sentiment of the people. In spite of such domestic situation,
I can say that the people are very lively and jolly.
# Language and Papers in Haiti
In Haiti, though which has been a francophone, the people speak
the Creole originated from African language. However, there is
no school textbook written in the Creole, even no paper and no
printing factory in the country. Under the situation where regional
culture has been eroded, we're struggling to produce the papers
from banana plants. Those are not so good in quality, but available
enough for textbook. Today, the developing computer technologies
enable to make textbook only from paper and printer machine. Thus,
we put our primal goal to make textbooks in the Creole from their
cultural point of view.
# Papermaking Technique
It's very important to pick out the fibers when making banana
paper. It can be done even through manual works utilizing sunshine
and some boards. There are some methods in getting cellulose out
of the fibers. Chemical method should be much troublesome when
applying it in developing countries like Haiti, because it needs
more energy and more chemicals that should cause environmental
pollution. So, we apply non-chemical method, so-called mechanical
method. Simply speaking, it's the method which utilize plant resources.
We mainly use banana sheaths, residues from banana farms. By grinding
those residues in water, the banana fibers can be finally pulped
without any chemicals.
# Future Perspective and Forest Resource
We consider the utilization of local resources available in the
project areas. We plan to extend the banana paper project all
through the Caribbean countries where plenty of bananas are grown.
The U.S. policy setting a high tariff on banana will bring a serious
influence to those countries, since it means the increasing price
of the Caribbean bananas. We can't say banana-paper making can
be developed on the industry level, though it may contribute for
According to the U.N., the demand on paper in year 2010 is forecasted
to increase in developing countries 5 times more than that of
the present level. Considering globally, almost 90% of papers
are produced from forest resources, despite the fact that the
total forest area in developing countries has decreased by half
for the latest 40 years. It's not necessarily overstating that
the rest of forest resources may disappear by year 2030. Actually,
in the case of Haiti, the forest areas have already decreased
as much as by 3% of the national land. Use for firewood in rural
areas should be related with this situation.
The South- North issue should be one of the most crucial problems
through this century. Nobody knows the future position of Japan.
In considering co-existence with people in the South, we have
to tackle with improvement of education level or accessibility
on paper. We can't call for a big progress through our project,
but hope to take small steps from what we can do.
Q "What kind of bananas are the better for paper making?"
A "Any banana is all right for it. The leave blades can be used
as well as the sheaths, which is more suitable in richness of
the fibers. What we take care is not to get out all the banana
residues from banana farms, for those serve as manures. Therefore,
we only get out the fibers in the farms."
Q "Do you suppose the banana papers can contribute to the industry
A "I have no idea to export them to Japan where there exists plenty
of papers, but it will be nice if they should be exchanged between
the Southern countries. Especially, China has much more demands
Dr. Nishigami Yasuko (Ritsumeikan University)
"Bananas and Deserts Will Save Humankind"
# Global Energy Issues
It is feared that oil resources and natural gas resources will
be depleted by 2030 and 2050, respectively. Although charcoals
are expected to last for long, it can contribute to global warming.
Today, we depend almost 90% of energy on fossil fuels and nuclear
safety is still a controversial issue. So, we need to ask for
alternative natural energy resources. They are so-called renewal
energy, which can be divided into natural energy converting into
electricity like solar power or wind power, and biomass energy
stored in living organisms. Unlike the U.S.A, Japan has little
conditions to be dependent only on natural energy, due to small
land of the country.
# Idea on Global Bio-Methanol and Banana
This idea is based on the combination of natural energy and biomass
energy, that is, hydrogen generated from solar power and carbon
from biomass are turned into methanol. This idea can be realized
technologically, though leaving the problem where we can create
them. Solar power needs so broader area that Japan can't depend
itself but foreign countries on power supply from natural energy.
It is desirable for the countries to combine biomass production
Banana is a herbaceous crop that produces certain degree of biomass
every year, and contains plenty of cellulose in the plant. Moreover,
its biomass productivity is so high in the tropics as timber productivity
in the temperate zone. The harvested fruits can be used by the
local people, since we utilize only the crop residues. Actually,
cost issues must be cleared to realize the idea at present.
I think the advantage of this idea should be put on less loads
to the tropic soils. Because on burning the banana residues to
get out carbon monoxide, about 1% of the amount will be turned
into ashes. Those ashes contain plenty of minerals like potassium
or phosphorus, though no detailed study has been reported on this
In such regions as South Eastern Asia, western Africa, or western
South America, it's probably possible to create energy from the
banana residues and solar power in deserts. Then, it should be
necessary to produce more bananas to meet the supply. We may need
to think about new ideas to banana utilization like promotion
of dried banana production.
Q "Do you suppose only banana can contribute to the energy issues?"
A "No. What I'd like to say is that we have to reduce energy use
10% by energy saving, and that we shall control 30% by developing
technology, another 30% by natural energy utilization, and the
rest 30% by using the biomass resources."
Q "What was the background and is the perspective for the idea?"
A "What should be feared for Japan, I think, is not the day coming
when oil resources are depleted, but when the oil price raises.
Then, Japan may become one of the developing countries. I myself
have been afraid of such situation so much, which led me to continue
the study. In order to make progress of my idea, it's essential
for agronomists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to work together.
Mr. Fukushima Hisanori (Banana Producer)
"Banana Farming in Amami Oshima Island, southern Japan'
# Introduction of a Japanese TV program featured banana production
in Amami Oshima
# Personal Background as a banana producer
Moving from Ogasawara Is., I started banana farming in Amami Oshima
Is. about 10 years ago. It was because I wanted the people to
know the real features of bananas which I had felt, and existence
of domestic bananas in Japan as well as imported ones. Those Japanese
bananas are called 'Island Bananas', which are very attractive
Q "Did you move to the island after you learned how to grow bananas?"
A "I firstly learned from the books, then started actually with
my idea that 'ask the bananas anything about them'."
Q "Have you got advices from the island farmers on the indigenous
methods for banana growing?"
A "The island people have different feelings from me for banana
growing that it can grow by themselves with less care. So, I can
say they have less methods for banana growing."
Q "How did you get the banana suckers at first?"
A "I got them first from some abandoned banana farm. I have no
idea on the local variety, though the islanders call it 'Ogasawara
Q "What measures do you take against the typhoons?"
A "In fact, there is no way to take against them. Banana is so
susceptive to wind that easily fallen down by them. In case of
the plant before fruiting, it's possible to remove the leaves
for cutting down wind resistance and to leave only the pseudostem.
However, in case of the plant with bunch, sometimes no way out
to give up its harvest. Therefore, banana farmers have very high
risk in that sense. I can say only high price can help us.
Q "How do you use fertilizers?"
A "Banana generally shows good response to fertilizer. I usually
apply organic manure like cow or hen manure, as well as banana
residues like pieces of pseudostem. Especially, nitrogen fertilizer
helps to increase banana yield."
Q "Is there any attempt at the producer side to look for other
local varieties or to introduce improved varieties?"
A "Some farmers grow the dwarf-type banana, but which is difficult
in transportation due to its thin peels."
Q "How do you think urban consumers can link the 'people-to-people'
trade with their own life?"
A [Mr. Hotta] "Our activity has been based on cooperative society movement.
It has been supported by those who understood our somehow rough
logic that you should accept and eat any food from the South,
even of ugly appearance, for helping their self-reliance. I think
consumers' consciousness can change according to the level where
we set our own living standard. Normally, movement rational which
mobilizes in large numbers does not accord with the tempo of agriculture.
We don't have to develop into large scale, since we're initially
at the side to deny large-scaled production. In my opinion, it's
better to be developed in various areas both synchronically and
A [Mr. Fukushima] "I consider good appearance in bananas is not my work, but of
imported bananas. What I produce bananas in Japan is a form of
self-expression. I grow and sell bananas as something like my
way of life. I can find there the meaning of banana production
with my responsibility, as well as my pleasure. Therefore, I don't
feel like producing something willingly in cooperating with other
people. Those who try to produce good bananas have their own method,
and also customers who understand the producers' style. So, it
is not quality nor quantity, but character that is the important
point for Japanese bananas at the present time."
Q "How do you think of technique extension into the third world
with utilizing local materials?"
A [Dr. Morishima] "Culture varies from area to area. For an example of paper, it
was brought to Japan with Buddhism. There was some religious belief
that we should be given relief through making beautiful papers,
which have in turn developed Japanese papers for centuries. On
the other hand, I felt in southern America that local people has
no recognition for beauty of papers, so Japanese technique has
nonsense there. I suppose there should be locally suitable papers
in the developing world, which are the very ones I've been looking
for. Therefore, I have no idea to directly transfer Japanese culture
to other countries. I'd like to seek the way what we can do with
bananas in each country. Our project has just began, which means
we have more times to seek the way."
Q "Today, banana is threatened by some disease like Panama or Black
Sigatoka. How do you think of the situation?"
A [Dr. Nishigami] "Even from the point of energy production, banana should be survived
in the future. In case it's impossible, developed countries have
to borrow vast lands in developing countries to grow other tree
crops or trees for energy supply, with payment for that."
Four Presenters in Discussion Session
(From left side, Mr. Fukushima, Dr. Nishigami, Dr. Morishima,
and Mr. Hotta)
Closing Message from Dr. Hanawa (member of BRNJ)
"It was very exciting discussion. In discussing bananas' future,
I think very important are local banana varieties, varieties of
banana cultures, and also relation between banana and humankind.
It seems that we need more arguments on how we can pick up vast
information accumulated in each local areas, understand those
potentials, and access such cultures. We have visited several
areas and now feel that banana is too common thing for local people
that they may sometimes underestimate it. That may be the point
where we should continue to approach the crop. Thank you very