2019 年 53 巻 p. 27-38
Tef (Eragrostis tef) is one of the world’s minor small-grained cereals. It is domesticated in northeastearn Africa and still cultivated as a food crop almost exclusively in Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, it is the major crop in these countries, because, despite its low yield per area, which is less than half that of maize, it is cultivated over a larger area than any other crop. Moreover, its cultivation in Ethiopia has increased in area substantially in recent decades. The significance of this cereal is difficult to understand from the perspective of modern agronomy, which privileges high yield, and raises the question why tef is important in this area. This article addresses this question by examining the case of the Malo people, among whom the author has conducted anthropological research. About 80,000 Malo farmers inhabit a steep mountainous area in southwestern Ethiopia that ranges in elevation between ca 1,000–3,000 meters above sea level (asl). Tef, which is currently sown as a dominant cereal in the lowlands between 1,000 and 2,000 meters asl, is cultivated using several unique techniques, which suggests that it was not introduced recently. However, according to local memory, the current landscape of its widespread cultivation is relatively new and has been estimated as less than 50 years. Several factors such as the introduction of cassava and other new crops in the lowlands have contributed to the recent increase in its cultivation. However, the largest contributor to the increase may be the adoption of the spongy sour pancake made from the cereal as its main material, which is an Ethiopian national dish commonly known as injera, as a local diet, following the Ethiopian Revolution in the mid-1970s, and its popularity among the people. Thus, the case of the Malo exemplifies a dynamics of development whereby food and agriculture are closely connected.