Being born and raised in Mississippi, I was fortunate to spend lots of time in the Delta. My father purchased a small rice farm outside of Money, MS and I grew up exploring the property, instilling a love for the outdoors. I moved away after college and while my family in Mississippi continued their trips to Leflore County, my visits to the property became less frequent.
Perhaps it was the distance or the length of time between visits, but as I grew older it became clear the area was changing. The adjacent farming operations that traditionally had grown cotton shifted into grain production. Center pivots were replaced by land perfectly sloped by a laser. Fields where rains would flood and ducks would pile in could now drain off quickly and orderly. Hedgerows and field borders that were once too thick to walk through were now barely noticeable.
I reflected on these changes and realized that as much as I enjoyed the outdoors, it was the processes embedded in production agriculture that had sparked a flame.
The idea of KOMBA was born in 2010 while I was living in Cape Town, South Africa. Living and traveling across sub-Saharan Africa, I was able to learn, experience and taste some of the many cultures across the continent. In Africa, agriculture is practiced in many forms and sizes. Corporate and foreign-owned production facilities destined for export to smallholder farms focused on feeding the family and village.
Across the continent, KOMBA means many things to many people.
- a Sign – In Zulu folklore, the swallow bird means the little pointer, and it comes from the verb komba, which means to point out something. The swallow, and other birds like it, points the way to summer and is regarded as a symbol of effort and hard work. It is also a symbol of unity, because you will see these birds gather together in large groups as they come and go. It was said that if you saw a lot of swallows in the sky, it meant that the summer and the harvest would be very good.
- a Force – For the Baka people living in the rainforests across Central Africa, Komba is the most powerful, supreme spiritual force. These hunter-gatherers believe Komba created the world and the rainforest. Their culture is rooted in sustainable activities, community and mutual respect.
- a Group – The Komba are a loosely organized tribe located in northern Ghana and northern Togo. The Komba people traditionally have been clan based and not centrally unified. Most are farmers. The land in their traditional area has become increasingly unfertile and many have migrated to pursue higher levels of education in the hope of escaping poverty and improve their livelihoods.
These ideals, drawn from my experience in Africa, permeate the vision for KOMBA. To point out. To sustain. To pursue improved livelihoods.