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Food security

It is estimated that up to 25 percent of the African population suffer from chronic food insecurity, receiving less than 80 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake (World Bank, 1989b). Even where calorie intake is sufficient, malnutrition may still arise caused by a lack of micronutrients and proteins. In West Africa, a ‘lean season’ commonly occurs at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season, when the previous season's stocks are exhausted and the current season's crops have not yet been harvested. Even if enough calories are available, people may still feel hungry if they are unable to obtain the requisite number from their preferred foods or those prescribed by their culture (Ogbu, 1973, cited in Schreckenberg, 1996). Hungry periods can also result from seasonal household expenses, such as taxes, school fees, or even resource outlays on such social events as funerals or festivities (Chambers and Longhurst, 1986).

The importance of forest and parkland products for home consumption and food security has been emphasized by a number of authors (e.g. Poulsen, 1982; Falconer, 1990). Schreckenberg (1996) reviewed ways of categorizing wild foods. They can be differentiated according to the parts of the trees being used or according to the purpose and intensity of use (collection for emergencies, regular consumption, gathering for sale, semi-cultivation or cultivation). They can also be grouped by type of edible products such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, condiments, beverages, and edible fats and oils. Data are presented here showing that parkland foods are important to people's diets and nutritional health both quantitatively and qualitatively and that they make a vital contribution to food variety as well as to achieving a seasonal nutritional balance.

Quantitative aspects of consumption

The annual consumption of products originating from parklands (fields and fallows) is far from insignificant. The products vary by ethnic group according to tastes and availability. Average consumption of Vitellaria butter is estimated to be about 10 kg/year/person, with slight variations according to author (10.9 kg by Coull, 1928; 7.6 kg by Fleury, 1981; 12.6 kg by SCETAGRI, 1983, cited in Hyman, 1991; and 10.3 kg by Schreckenberg, 1996). Citing a number of studies in Togo, Ghana and Nigeria, Campbell-Platt (1980) reported a daily consumption of fermented Parkia seeds (soumbala) of 1–17 g per person in West Africa. In central Benin, women reported using between 33g and 66g of soumbala per household per day or 7–10 g per person (Schreckenberg, 1996).

Fig. 7.1 Parkia biglobosa products: fermented ‘soumbala’ (front), cleaned seeds (middle), yellow pulp (back).
K. Schreckenberg

Fig. 7.1

Consumption of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is not only high but also very common. In most of the southern Sahel and Sudan zones in Africa, Vitellaria butter is the most affordable and extensively used fat. In non-pastoral areas it is sometimes the only available source of fat for rural populations (Hyman, 1991; Masters, 1992). In Burkina Faso, Vitellaria butter is the only cooking oil consumed by 88 percent of rural households. It is also consumed regularly by 25 percent of urban households and at least twice a week by another 40 percent (SAED, 1989, in Crélerot, 1995). Further south or in the urban centres, other oils such as palm, groundnut and cottonseed oils are sometimes affordable substitutes. Nevertheless, in the Southwest of the country, surveys showed an average 84 percent of respondents using Vitellaria butter for various staple cereal dishes as compared with only 16 percent for other oils such as cotton, groundnut and sesame (Lamien et al., 1996).

In Benin, 52 percent of people eat fermented Parkia seeds on a daily basis, and 85 percent do so in the North (Fandohan, 1983, cited in Schreckenberg, 1996). The Kabyé in neighbouring Togo consume soumbala on 90 days out of 100 (Perissé, 1958, cited in Campbell-Platt, 1980). In southwestern Burkina Faso, 60 percent of those interviewed used soumbala, compared with 32 percent using its commercial substitute, ‘Maggi’ cubes, as a seasoning for their meals (Lamien et al., 1996).

The focus of the above data on only two species does not reflect the wide array of parkland species representing valuable (small or large) inputs to diets. This is due to the lack of readily available information on quantities consumed for both major and minor parkland products. Adansonia digitata, Balanites aegyptiaca, Bombax costatum, Boscia senegalensis, Cordyla pinnata, Tamarindus indica, Ziziphus mauritiana are only a few examples of species for which systematic collection of consumption data would be necessary to better assess their importance for local food security.

Qualitative contribution of parkland foods

Not only do edible parkland products supplement the nutritional value of basic cereals in lipids, proteins, vitamins and minerals; they also diversify diets and enhance villagers' seasonal food balance since they become available at different times of the year.

Nutritional quality

Farmers possess an extensive knowledge about local food resources. The food values of products originating from common parkland trees presented in Table 7.1 suggest that these trees represent a very rich pool of food nutrients. Additional data on the nutritional contents of woody plants in the Ferlo region of northern Senegal are provided in Becker (1983).

Characteristics of traditional foods contribute, and are well adapted to, the physical health of local populations. For instance, both Adansonia digitata (baobab) and Sterculia setigera are excellent regulators of digestion. Baobab leaf powder contains pectins and hemicelluloses which prevent constipation and diarrhoea, and an exudate of S. setigera can absorb up to 250 times its water volume (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990). The 1: 4 ratio of phosphorus and calcium results in optimal absorption of both elements.

Fig. 7.2

Fig. 7.2 Adansonia digitata fruit: the pulp is used as a flavouring in a variety of cool and hot drinks.
R. Faidutti

The value of tree and shrub leaves for human nutrition (rather than for fodder) has been neglected until recently, probably because scientific knowledge has accumulated in temperate regions where consumption of tree leaves is not common (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990). However, edible tropical leaves are much richer in calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamins A, B, C and niacin than their temperate counterparts. Fruit and vegetables are the only source of vitamin C in diets. Leaves and fruit whose protein content ranges from 4 to 10 percent of fresh weight (1–2 percent for temperate vegetables) take on a critical significance when meat and fish are unavailable. The drying methods used by women also increase the protein content of the leaves. In the Sine Saloum region of Senegal, gathered foods provide 30–52 percent of calcium, 65–92 percent of retinol (precursor to vitamin A), 14–40 percent of B2 vitamins, and 72–95 percent of vitamin C in the total intake (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990).

Crélerot (1995) found that in southwestern Burkina Faso, Vitellaria butter was the only source of fat in children's diets in all seasons. Being an energy-dense food and given children's small stomach capacity, its consumption probably resulted in higher energy intake as well as enhanced absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, which is often deficient among preschool children in Burkina Faso. Parkia biglobosa seeds supply lysine, the main aminoacid which is generally lacking in millet and sorghum (Campbell-Platt, 1980). Additional details on the composition of pulp and seeds at various stages of preparation are available in Hall et al. (1997). The average vitamin C content of the pulp of baobab fruit is over 2 500 mg/kg, which also helps to maintain low blood pressure, enhance immunity against tropical diseases and reduce incidence of cataract development and coronary disease (Sidibé et al., 1996). In Sine Saloum, Senegal, kernels of Cordyla pinnata are consumed as a substitute for meat (Niang, pers.comm.).

Table 7.1 Food value of some non-timber parkland products

Vit.A equiv.
NiacinbVit.CbPhosph.bIronbKcal per 100g
Adansonia digitata
-fresh leaves4.00.314.4395----426725–5069
-dry leaves12.5–13.12.953.5226648560.130.824.3–4.4tr.c261-6625279-82
Vitellaria paradoxa
-fresh fruit pulp1.91.221.7-------4.794
Detarium microcarpum
-fruit pulp4.90.481.882-0.03--32841.8310
Parkia biglobosa
-dry fruit pulp3.40.3–0.580.712512001.10.71–3.032551643.6310
-raw seed43.621.832233-0.54--650311432
-fermented seed352916.42645200.032.1-0477-431
Saba senegalensis
-fresh seed
Sclerocarya birrea
Tamarindus indica
Ziziphus mauritiana
-fresh fruit–8693
-dry fruit pulp4.30.275.421000.030.022.12456286

Source: Data from Bergeret and Ribot (1990); Pasco (1990); presented in Lamien et al. (1996)

a grams per 100g

b mg per 100g
c tr.=trace

Food variety

An important dimension of the contribution of parkland foods is the dietary diversity they provide. Abundance of carbohydrate-rich foods alone does not ensure nutritional well-being; proteins, fats and micronutrients are also necessary. It is common, however, as observed in southwestern Burkina Faso, for children's diets to have the opposite characteristics (Crélerot, 1995). Limitations and irregularities in food variety make young children vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies. Foods derived from parklands and forests help this situation, but may not be systematically recorded because of their occasional use.

Their importance is illustrated by the large but variable number of species surveyed in agroforestry parklands. In the Ferlo region of Senegal, 80 percent of existing woody plants have edible parts, but only about 25 species are widely consumed (Becker, 1983). A total of 105 wild plant species, including herbaceous and aquatic plants, tubers and mushrooms as well as honey, are collected by villagers of Kumbija, Senegal. These plants yield one or a number of edible gathered foods. Over two-thirds are trees, shrubs and lianas, which come from both parklands and village forests (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990). Consequently, biodiversity conservation in parklands has important food security implications.

Fig. 7.3

Fig. 7.3 Flowers and calyces of Bombax costatum used for making a glutinous red sauce.
K. Schreckenberg

Seasonal food balance

Parkland foods contribute to a steady supply of food throughout the year. Their availability in the dry season and the early part of the rainy season, which relates to the flowering, leafing and fruiting stages of parkland species, helps to overcome the ‘lean season’ mentioned above. Farmers often depend on edible parkland products to replace the missing or insufficient staples at this time. Crélerot (1995) reported wild leaves such as guinea sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and baobab replacing garden-grown vegetables and leaves, which were unavailable in the preharvest season, in the diets of young children in Djebenao and Dimolo, southwestern Burkina Faso. Fruit consumption was reported in 35 percent of children in the pre-harvest season as compared with 16 percent in the post-harvest season when food availability increases.

Parkland food products also provide the necessary energy for field cultivation and harvest operations. This may be especially true of fruit. Vitellaria fruit, for instance, were consumed by all villagers at any time of the day in Djebenao and Dimolo and supplemented the limited meals available during the seasonal food storage. Because fruit, and snack foods more generally, are consumed outside meals, their contribution to diets is difficult to establish, but often particularly significant.

In some areas, tree products are not just consumed during periods of food shortage but even provide the main staple food or a regular supplementary part of the daily diet. While Adansonia digitata, Balanites aegyptiaca and Ziziphus mauritiana are the most appreciated trees in the Ferlo region of Senegal, and provide supplementary foods, Boscia senegalensis fruit and the leaves of Cassia obtusifolia (herbaceous plant) make up the main part of Peulh meals (Becker, 1983). In areas of Mali, porridge made from Boscia senegalensis is combined with the limited stores of millet in poorer households (Martin, 1985).

In order to tide them over seasonal scarcity, women process substantial stocks of collected food items for storage to allow them to spread their use over the whole year. Many products lend themselves well to storage over several months or a year after drying or some processing. Vitellaria paradoxa nuts and butter, Parkia biglobosa seeds or soumbala, palm oil and palm kernel oil, as well as Bombax costatum calyces, dried and powdered baobab leaves, and tamarind pods can be kept for several months. While these stocks are not usually visible, they are significant in diversity and size. In Senegal, Bergeret and Ribot (1990) reported that women had stocked several hundred kilograms of products from over ten species. Fleshy fruit and fresh leaves are an exception as their use is restricted by their seasonal availability.

Forests have traditionally provided food and marketable products during emergency periods of illness or famine. The same is probably true for parkland resources. Elders tell of famines which villagers survived by spending time in the surrounding forest harvesting wild plant foods, honey and bushmeat. They also complain that the availability of resources has declined due to overuse and degradation in recent decades. In years of low agricultural production, a greater number and larger quantity of gathered products are sold (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990).

Parklands have traditionally provided food and marketable products during emergency periods of illness and famine.

The seasonal availability and high food-security and income value of most NTFPs have direct consequences for women's allocation of time. The agricultural slack period provides extra time for women (and men) to engage in collection, processing and marketing activities, and off-season markets are generally more active than during the growing season (Guinko and Pasgo, 1992). Even when NTFP-related activities conflict with work in the field, as is the case with the gathering of Vitellaria nuts which occurs during the early part of the agricultural season, women try to find ways to devote time to them. They may hire labour, interrupt or reduce their time spent on other income-earning activities, or seek temporary release from their responsibilities in family fields.

Health care

Parklands and forests are essential components of traditional medical systems in semi-arid West Africa. For common illnesses rural dwellers rely mainly on remedies based on plants found in forest lands surrounding their villages; for more serious diseases, they may see local specialists who use a combination of drugs and herbal medicines (Emerton, 1996). There is abundant literature illustrating the variety of woody species exploited for medicines. In Mali, two-thirds of the 100 tree species available in the Monts Mandingues Forest near Bamako are used by villagers for pharmaceutical products (Sow and Anderson, 1996). Moreover, according to resource people from the local Traditional Healers' Association, all inventoried species have a use in traditional healing although some villagers do not know the uses of all of them. On Ouagadougou markets, some 99 species producing traditional medicines were recorded (Fernandez de la Pradilla, 1978). Most of them were woody species.

There is a large amount of information on which species are used for particular medicinal treatments. References to medicinal applications of parkland species such as Annona senegalensis, Daniellia oliveri, Ficus spp., Hymenocardia acida, Khaya senegalensis and Tamarindus indica are presented in Depommier and Fernandes (1985). Among numerous medicinal properties reviewed in Hall et al. (1997), the bark of P. biglobosa is used to treat infectious diseases and ailments of the digestive system, its leaves are used for wounds and skin ailments, the roots are used against epilepsy and the pulp as a febrifuge. Medicinal uses of Vitellaria butter are summarized in Hall et al. (1996). The bark of F. albida trees is used for the treatment of coughs (Depommier, 1996b). Major medicinal uses of numerous Sahelo-Sudanian species are listed in von Maydell (1983) and can be found in various regional floras (Dalziel, 1937; Aubréville, 1938; Berhaut, 1954; Irvine, 1961; Kerharo and Adam, 1974).

The contribution of parklands to the production of traditional medicines obtained from the ‘forest’ is not completely clear. Many forest species with medicinal properties are also found in various frequencies in agroforestry parklands. However, traditional herbalists report that the medicinal properties of some species are higher when found in the wild than in cultivated areas. The decreasing availability of medicinal tree resources may be an additional motive for the maintenance of given species in fields. Information gaps identified by Falconer (1990) in her review of the use of forest resources in traditional medicine in the West African humid forest zone also apply to the drier zone of parkland occurrence. These include the need to:

Economic importance of parkland products at the local level

Diversity of products

Parkland trees are excellent ‘multipurpose’ species. Adansonia digitata, B. aethiopum, P. biglobosa, T. indica and V. paradoxa are particularly remarkable in the large number of end-use products they provide. In the case of B. aethiopum at least eight different parts of the tree are used for different purposes. Both the nut and mesocarp of the fruit are consumed fresh by children and adults. The seedlings are widely traded. The trunk offers one of the best all-purpose woods. The leaves are used as fencing and roofing material. The petioles are used as fuelwood and for furniture-making. Fish-traps (‘nasses’) are woven from the leaf fibres and roots. The terminal buds are used to tie up bunches of millet and sorghum and the male flowers make an excellent fodder. Table 7.2 gives a general indication of the large array of uses derived from key parkland species. More detailed information on these and additional species can be found in Bergeret and Ribot (1990), Booth and Wickens (1988), von Maydell (1983), Raison (1988) and Rocheleau et al. (1989).

Fig. 7.4 Tamarind pods and balls of pods with the husks removed for storage and sale.
K. Schreckenberg

Fig. 7.4

Table 7.2 Products and uses of common parkland trees

Acacia raddianaPods, leaves and young shoots as fodder; excellent fuelwood and charcoal, poles, utensils; bark as tannin; bark and roots as rope; dune fixation; leaves and bark as medicine.
Acacia senegalGum arabic traded internationally and used locally in foods, medicine and craft; excellent fuelwood, poles and utensils; nitrogen fixation; leaves and pods as fodder; honey; dune fixation.
Adansonia digitataFruit pulp in drinks and porridge; seeds for sauces; leaves and seedlings as vegetables; flowers eaten fresh; young leaves as fodder; bark for rope and basketry; wood as mulch; roots for red dye; fruit and leaves as medicines.
Anogeissus leiocarpusGood timber; excellent fuelwood and charcoal; leaves for yellow dye; fruit and sepals for sauces; gum in local foods.
Azadirachta indicaWood for poles, construction, tools; leaves as fodder for goats and camels; fruit as famine food; seeds yield oil used for soap; oil cake as insecticide; medicines.
Balanites aegyptiacaSeeds for oil, soap; seed flour as a famine food; leaves and young shoots in sauces; leaves and fruit as fodder; excellent fuelwood and charcoal, utensils; bark, leaves, fruit and oil as medicines.
Bombax costatumKapok fibre from capsules; wood for utensils and canoes; calyces for sauces; dried young fruit eaten; medicines.
Borassus aethiopumNut and mesocarp of fruit consumed fresh; seedlings as vegetables; sap for wine; trunk as all-purpose wood; leaves for fencing and roofing material; petioles as fuelwood and for furniture-making; leaf fibres and roots for nets; male flowers as fodder; medicines.
Cordyla pinnataGreen fruit in sauces; ripe fruit eaten fresh or in jams; good fuelwood and charcoal; timber; medicin
Diospyros mespiliformisFruit eaten fresh or dried and in drinks; honey; leaves as fodder; good fuelwood, charcoal, and timber; leaves, bark and roots as medicines.
Faidherbia albidaLeaves and pods as excellent fodder; soil amelioration; wood for utensils; bark, leaves, fruit and gum as medicines.
Ficus sycomorusLeaves in soups; fruit consumed fresh, in sauces and in wine; fruit and leaves as fodder; wood for tools; leaves, bark and latex as medicines.
Hyphaene thebaicaMesocarp of fruit eaten; pericarp and kernels as famine food; seedlings as vegetable; leaves for rope, basketry, brooms and nets; wood for timber and blacksmiths' charcoal.
Lannea microcarpaFruit eaten fresh or in drinks; leaves as fodder for goats; edible gum; bark and leaves as medicines.
Parkia biglobosaPulp of pods eaten fresh or in drinks; fermented seeds as spicy seasoning widely used in sauces and sometimes processed as stock cube; leaves, bark and roots as medicines; tannin in bark.
Prosopis africanaSeeds fermented as condiment; fruit and leaves as fodder; excellent fuelwood and charcoal; timber; all parts as medicines; soil amelioration.
Pterocarpus erinaceusLeaves as excellent fodder; wood as timber, poles, furniture and charcoal; colouring from bark and roots; tannin in bark; medicines.
Sclerocarya birreaFruit eaten fresh or in drinks; seeds yield oil and can be eaten; ash used in cloth dyeing; bark as fibre; gum as ink; wood for utensils; bark, leaves and roots as medicines.
Sterculia setigeraEdible gum (sauces); seeds are eaten; bark fibre as mats and rope; fuelwood; bark and leaves as medicines.
Tamarindus indicaRoasted seeds are eaten; fermented pods as sweet and acidic flavouring in sauces and drinks; leaves and flowers in soups and sauces and as fodder; wood for utensils; all tree parts as medicines.
Vitellaria paradoxaFruit eaten fresh; kernels processed for production of butter used as cooking oil and cosmetic, exported for production of cocoa butter equivalent; excellent fuelwood and charcoal; butter, roots and bark as medicines.
Vitex donianaFruit eaten fresh and in drinks; leaves in sauces; bark and roots as colouring; construction wood; medicines.
Ximenia americanaFruit eaten fresh or in drinks; seeds yield oil for cooking, illumination and for softening leather; tannins in roots and bark for leather treatment; fuelwood and charcoal; medicines.
Ziziphus mauritianaFruit eaten fresh or dried, in drinks; dry pulp as flour for bread; leaves as vegetables; fruit and leaves as fodder; tannin in bark; wood for furniture, utensils and fuelwood; medicines.

Market volume and income

Beyond contributing to food security, parkland/forest products are an important source of local income-generating activities. This is reflected in several parameters including their diversity and quantity sold on local markets, the number of people involved in marketing, and measurements of NTFP-related income.

Unfortunately the relevant parameters have been insufficiently studied for the majority of parkland species. For instance, von Maydell (1983) noted that gum harvests from Sterculia setigera in Senegal amounted to 50 000t/yr in the 1970s, but the proportion of gum commercialized is unknown. Some 200 000 tons of P. biglobosa seeds are collected every year to be processed in northern Nigeria (Ferre, 1993). Other examples of commercialized products include F. albida pods as fodder, Bombax costatum (kapok) fibre for stuffing cushions and mattresses, palm wine, a large array of wooden agricultural and domestic tools, Adansonia digitata and Pterocarpus erinaceus foliage for human and animal consumption respectively, and a variety of oil-yielding species such as Balanites aegyptiaca, Elaeis guinensis, Parinari macrophylla and Sclerocarya birrea.

For those involved on a seasonal basis, parkland products marketed locally may be the source of important income to cover annual expenditures, savings and loan repayments.

There is a large diversity of NTFPs sold on local markets, often derived from a smaller number of key species. Schreckenberg (1996) recorded up to 42 NTFPs originating from 16 parkland tree species in markets in the Bassila area in Benin. A total of 26 different edible products from 16 parkland and forest species were inventoried in markets of Zitenga and Yako, Burkina Faso (Nikiéma, 1996). Similarly, 30 products from 17 woody species were identified in markets in southwestern Burkina Faso (Lamien et al., 1996). In spite of the great diversity of NTFPs available, the total value of NTFPs sold at markets may be dominated by just a few main products or species. Only P. biglobosa seeds, A. digitata leaves, Bombax costatum calyces, V. paradoxa kernels and butter as well as honey were sold regularly in Zitenga (Guinko and Pasgo, 1992). In the villages of Diepani and Kodowari, Benin, products from V. paradoxa, P. biglobosa and the oil palm accounted for about 90 percent of the annual NTFP value of the markets (Schreckenberg, 1996).

As has also been shown for humid zones such as southern Cameroon (Ndoye et al., 1997), commercial activities involving forest products are economically significant in parkland zones. This is evident in a number of studies which have used variables such as market transactions, sales per merchant, proportion of individual or household income or expenses covered by NTFP income, as well as national income. Unfortunately data in the literature are often presented in a non-standardized way, making comparisons difficult. The total value of such items sold on an average market day in Zitenga, Burkina Faso, amounted to 232 000 FCFA (Guinko and Pasgo, 1992). The annual value per vendor of products sold from the three main species was between US$200 and US$397 in markets of southwestern Burkina Faso (Lamien et al., 1996). On three markets in Bamako Mali, the sale of Pterocarpus erinaceus fodder generated revenues of US$6–11 per vendor per day, which was estimated to represent 3–5 times the average earnings of a labourer in this area (ICRAF, 1996). Income from Borassus aethiopum products amounted to 182 000 FCFA in 20 villages of the Cayor area of Senegal (Projet Roneraie Cayor, 1992).

Additional data on the income provided by several parkland species are presented in Ounteni (1998). The weekly sale of miritchi, B. aethiopum seedlings (cooked as a vegetable), on the markets of Kamba and Gunki, Nigeria, amounts to 1.5 and 1.2 million FCFA respectively, or 33 million FCFA over the three-month production period. Net gains from the production and sale of chairs, beds, tables and stools made from the petioles of B. aethiopum over a 14-month period reached 384 000 FCFA in Niger. In the southern Boboye area of the country, the economic value of the (increasingly depleted) Hyphaene thebaica palms is such that hundreds of women migrate to the area for three to four months during the dry season to participate in the collection and sale of fronds and woven mats. On the Birni N'Gaouré market, the income of migrant women collectors from H. thebaica fronds represents over 12 million FCFA per year. Fronds are also transported further south and sold on the Gaya market, where they provide 25–50 million FCFA/yr to women collectors. Finally, some 800 to 1 500 mats worth 200–2 000 FCFA each are sold daily in Gaya (Ounteni, 1998).

Several authors have assessed the contribution of parkland or forest products in sustaining women's, household and village economies. In a village of The Gambia in 1988–1989, one-third of total income earned by individuals originated from the collection of forest products (Madge, 1995). Income from tree crops and forests represented 23 percent of total household income in Sierra Leone (Davies and Richards, 1991), while indigenous tree crops provided 25–50 percent of total cash income during a season in eastern Nigeria (Lagemann, 1977).

Most women in the Bassila region of Benin engage in a number of activities to cover their regular weekly expenditures (estimated at 500–2 600 FCFA for sauce ingredients, grain milling, and snacks and meals). Schreckenberg (1996) found that regular NTFP-based activities (e.g. the sale of V. paradoxa butter or P. biglobosa soumbala) are not highly remunerative but that their contribution is of a similar order of magnitude to other non-NTFP enterprises, and can cover about 10–20 percent of these weekly expenses. However, such year-round activities are often undertaken by only a few specialized women. In contrast, seasonal NTFP-based activities, such as the sale of V. paradoxa kernels or palm oil and the resale of honey, can cover the cost of women's additional annual expenditures (estimated at 10 000 FCFA for clothes and pots). In this area, the only tree-related enterprise that could completely cover a man's cost of living was palm wine tapping combined with the distillation of palm spirit. Other male activities, such as the collection of palm nuts, honey, Saba florida (sponges) and Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides (spice), could provide 5–60 percent of annual income but could not replace agriculture as the principal source of income. Overall, in the three villages studied, all households were involved in the collection of Vitellaria kernels. In addition, two-thirds of households had at least one member earning an income from another forest product. Average annual earnings from forest products collected and processed for sale (excluding home consumption, bushmeat, wild herbs and wood) amounted to about 6 000 FCFA per person (Schreckenberg, 1996).

In southwestern Burkina Faso, the average annual cash income from processed or unprocessed Vitellaria nuts was US$15–35, but dropped to US$6 in a very low production year (Crélerot, 1995). According to references cited by Crélerot, Vitellaria nut activities can represent 20–60 percent of women's income in rural areas. Annual returns from the sale of P. biglobosa products were estimated at 26 800 FCFA or about 26 percent of farmer income in Burkina Faso, and about 21 percent in Nigeria (Teklehaimanot et al., 1997). In the Upper Niger River Valley region of Mali, Grigsby and Force (1993) reported that forest products were the most important source of income (greater than market- and agriculture-related activities) used by women to replenish their informal savings and repay their informal loans. In Côte d'lvoire, 16 percent of village production (for home consumption and sale) excluding livestock production originated from parkland products, particularly P. biglobosa and V. paradoxa products, wood handicrafts and fuelwood. Income from small game was higher than cotton income (Bernard et al., 1996). In Fandène, Senegal, farm income from B. aethiopum products is higher than from all other sources including agricultural crops. The number of B. aethiopum and Mangifera indica trees are a main criterion determining household levels of wealth (Freudenberger, 1993b).

Box 7.1
Opportunities for growth in the domestic market for Vitellaria paradoxa
There are indications of high local demand and renewed interest for Vitellaria on domestic markets. In Ghana, Adomako (1985) forecast that, based on high prices in the South, local demand was likely to remain high and to absorb a greater proportion of production if it increased. Bliss and Gaesing (1992) also noted that, due to the high demand for Vitellaria kernels in Côte d'lvoire to be processed industrially for the export market, young men were competing with women for nut collection. The January 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc led to inflated prices for imported oil crops and changed domestic demand in the sub-region. Côte d'lvoire, for example, reduced exports of palm oil in favour of using it in domestic soap and cosmetic manufacture. As a result, palm oil users in Burkina Faso (mostly soap producers) are now looking into using Vitellaria products as a substitute. CITEC (Compagnie industrielle du textile et du coton) and SOFIB, the two major oil-producing companies, have exported hardly any Vitellaria in the past few years, supplying it instead to domestic soap manufacturers. Likewise, Côte d'lvoire purchases fairly large quantities of Vitellaria products from Burkina Faso, and the fact that its exports do not increase may mean that Vitellaria imports are being used internally. Several small-scale enterprises (e.g. CINTEC - Compagnie internationale de négoce en transport et commerce) in Burkina Faso are also setting up processing facilities for Vitellaria and other oil crops to supply the national and sub-regional markets.
Vitellaria products as a food item are far from having reached their optimum level of domestic development. Given the importance of local consumption of the butter in West Africa and the oil in East Africa, the potential probably exists for developing cheap, stable and odourless packaged industrial products for local markets. Vitellaria fruit could also be marketed on a wider scale over a longer period than is currently available. Many questions regarding demand (as well as supply) in these markets are worth studying in producer countries: What amounts and types of products should be developed? How should they be priced in relation to competing products? What kind of storage and packaging are appropriate?

Finally, national income from 35 edible or medical forest products was estimated at US$6.5 million in 1979 in Senegal, of which gum arabic and Ziziphus mauritiana were the most important in the northern region (Direction des Eaux, Forêts et Chasses, 1979, in Becker, 1983). As illustrated in Box 7.1, far from declining in importance, there may still be significant opportunities for products such as Vitellaria to increase their share of domestic markets.

Parkland products of international economic importance

Two parkland commodities are internationally traded and have a high national significance for several Sahelian countries because of their export earnings. These are gum arabic from Acacia senegal (also A. seyal) and V.paradoxa kernels sold for processing into a vegetable fat.

Gum arabic

Gum arabic is a water-soluble exudate, 95 percent of which derives from A. senegal, with the remaining 5 percent harvested from A. seyal (gum talha) (Seif el Din and Zarroug, 1996; Hulse, 1996). In water the gum forms a colourless, tasteless and odourless aqueous solution of up to 50 percent concentration. It is mostly used in the food industry in the production of dried soups, sauces, and dessert and cake mixes, as well as confectionary pastilles. It acts as an emulsion stabilizer and binder in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and other industrial products such as adhesives, textiles, printing, lithography, paints, paper sizing and pottery glazing.

This product was first used in ancient Egypt in paints and for embalming about 3 000 B.C. In the last two decades, it has been mainly produced in Sudan (70–90 percent), Senegal, Nigeria and Mauritania, with global annual exports of 20–50 000 tons. The crude exudate is sold for 8–10 times less than the US$15–25/kg paid for high-quality refined gum arabic suitable for food uses. In Sudan, the Gum Belt, where A. senegal is the dominant component of the woody vegetation, is the main producing area. It includes most of Kordofan and Darfur states and parts of White Nile state. In this country, the gum arabic market is regulated by the government with fixed annual prices and a monopolistic marketing structure.

Vitellaria paradoxa

General description

In Africa, Vitellaria is primarily used as a source of cooking fat. Within its range in the southern Sahel and Sudan, it is probably the most affordable, available and extensively used oil (Lamien et al., 1996). It is also an important source of fat for making soap and may be used as a skin moisturizer. The fat is made from the kernels found when the dried nuts are cracked open. Due to different proportions of stearin (solid) and olein (liquid) in the fat, the West African subspecies paradoxa gives rise to a solid fat or ‘butter’ while the East African subspecies nilotica produces a liquid oil. The fruit flesh around the nuts is also very tasty and much Vitellaria fruit is collected to be consumed fresh and sold in Sahelian cities and along roadsides. Other local uses include for lighting, waterproofing of housewalls, and protection against termite damage, as well as its cultural and religious roles. Vitellaria butter also has numerous traditional medicinal applications as a balm for rheumatic pains, wounds, dislocations, swelling, bruises and skin problems.

Fig. 7.5 Various commercial items manufactured by Phycos, a local company in Burkina Faso specializing in cosmetic products made from Vitellaria butter.
R. Faidutti

Fig. 7.5

Besides their local use, Vitellaria kernels have been traded for a century to countries in the North. They are an important source of export earnings for Sahelian economies, being the third largest export of Burkina Faso in the 1980s (World Bank, 1989a). Annual exports to Europe are about 40–75 000 tons, with another 10–15 000 tons sold to Japan (Savadogo et al., 1998). Besides a relatively small international cosmetic market, the vast majority of V. paradoxa production is directed to the food industries, particularly chocolate manufacture. The main actors in this market are a few multinational corporations, namely Vandemoortele, Unilever TPS, Aarhus and Karlsham. Due to its similar fat composition and particularly its high proportion of mono-unsaturated symmetrical triglycerides, Vitellaria butter is used as a cocoa butter equivalent (CBE) in chocolate products. Its stearin fraction is mixed with other vegetable fats such as palm oil and illipe (an Asian tree crop) to form a product of similar chemical composition to cocoa butter. Its olein fraction is used for margarines and baking.

The high triglyceride content of Vitellaria butter gives it a rich consistency which is valuable for cosmetic applications because of its hydrating, protecting and softening properties. While the unsaponifiable content is less than 1 percent in most other vegetable oils, the high percentage in Vitellaria (over 8 percent) imparts various properties including good penetration, wound healing, relief for dry, irritated skin, dandruff, chapping and ulcerations, as well as protection against the sun. A variety of companies in Europe and Africa market skin cream and sun lotion preparations based on Vitellaria butter. African examples include Phycos in Burkina Faso and SEPOM in Mali.

Market constraints

Actors in the Vitellaria market recognize that it is a narrow and ‘confidential’ market. Information needed to analyse this market including prices, purchased quantities, demand, etc., is ‘strategic’ and difficult to obtain and validate. This runs counter to the development and optimization of the resource (Brun, 1996). The following facts have been gleaned from studies by Terpend (1982), Saint-Sauveur and Simon (1993), Audette (1995), APROMA (1995), Savadogo et al. (1998), and UNIFEM (1997). International demand for Vitellaria for food purposes has declined in recent years. First, the demand for chocolate products (with up to 15 percent Vitellaria butter) in Eastern Europe has fallen off due to economic difficulties. Secondly, industries tend to build up large stocks in favourable years in order to ride out annual fluctuations in supply and demand. Most importantly, Vitellaria prices are linked to the production and price of cocoa. In years of poor cocoa harvest a good price is offered for Vitellaria, while the opposite is generally true in good cocoa years. Between 1985 and 1992, Vitellaria prices declined in concert with those of cocoa until they were equal in 1992. Since then cocoa prices have risen, but the impact on Vitellaria prices had not yet been felt at the time of Audette's report (1995). Vitellaria demand also depends on other CBEs such as illipe and fractionated palm oil, and to some extent palm kernel, cotton and soya oil, as well as on competition with components resulting from technological developments such as mechanical fractionation and enzymatic synthesis. Finally, the irregular supply and low product quality offered to export markets is not conducive to increased industrial demand.

International market opportunities

Market conditions in future years are difficult to predict, but there appears to be potential for improvement, particularly if progress is made on the regulation of CBEs of which Vitellaria is considered the best. The use of CBEs in chocolate production has so far been regulated at the national level. Their use up to 5 percent of content is currently allowed in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Japan and the United States. In Eastern Europe the limit is 15 percent, above which the taste of the chocolate is altered. In contrast, the use of CBEs in chocolate is illegal in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, but cocoa butter replacers (CBRs) are permitted for coating products which do not strictly carry the name of chocolate, such as confectionery and cakes. Other European countries partially authorize it. The European chocolate industries would like to see the 5 percent norm extended to the whole of the European Union for technical reasons. The addition of Vitellaria CBEs in this proportion limits the surfacing of white fats when storage temperatures vary, gives increased shine and hardness at room temperature, and raises the fusion point so that the chocolate does not melt on fingers even in hot climates. The use of CBEs could expand geographical destinations and extend the chocolate season by a few weeks in the Mediterranean countries of the European Union, where the market for chocolate confectionery is growing fastest (Hall et al., 1996). European chocolate consumption has doubled from 1980 to 1994, with the largest share in coated products which contain CBEs.

Box 7.2
Cosmetics sector demand for Vitellaria paradoxa
The use of Vitellaria butter in cosmetics is expanding rapidly. While current demand is around 200 tons, the potential demand for Vitellaria for cosmetics products has been estimated at a maximum of 1 500 tons a year worldwide (Brun, 1996). This represents a minor part of the total market but it should not be ignored. The potential of the European cosmetics market was analysed by Saint-Sauveur and Simon (1993).
About half the demand of the cosmetics industry is supplied by food processing industries at a price twice that for food applications. However, price comparisons are not straightforward because the nature of the two products and the quantities used in the two sectors are not similar. The main advantage of Vitellaria butter for cosmetics is its high content of unsaponifiables. Natural variation in the proportion of the unsaponifiable fraction in kernels ranges from 3 to 17 percent (Gasparri et al., 1992) and can be taken advantage of in the selection of high content varieties. Unsaponifiable content also appears to decrease with kernel maturation (Heilbron et al., 1949, cited in Hall et al., 1996). If the cosmetics destination of kernel supplies were known in advance, early harvesting resulting in kernels with a higher unsaponifiable content could be planned. The development of the cosmetics sector may benefit, therefore, from product differentiation starting in the early stages of production.
Another area in which progress could be made is in the manufacture of the butter. The refining process used by agro-industries has the advantage of stabilizing the butter, which is naturally high in unsaturated fatty acids and thus easily oxidized and very unstable in emulsions. Its disadvantage is that it also leads to a drastic reduction in the unsaponifiable fraction. This has prompted a number of cosmetics companies to obtain their butter from manufacturers of Vitellaria-based cosmetics derivatives or directly from African processors. However, difficulties in working with this pure and often less stable product have led to the incorrect perception that the refining process is necessary to ensure butter stability.
The lack of information about technological constraints and opportunities has been detrimental to the development of the Vitellaria butter market. Moreover, the lack of agreed quality standards, the unpredictable nature of the supply, and the high price of the butter have discouraged potential cosmetics users. In response, some actors have become more involved in the production stages. There is a growing interest among end users of Vitellaria-based products for direct partnerships with African suppliers and processors in order to obtain butter with well-defined technical characteristics. The transfer of some processing stages to Africa should be encouraged as it would allow the producing countries to offer a more elaborate product at a higher price and the cosmetics firms to buy the butter more cheaply. The development of supply and processing networks adapted to the specific needs of the cosmetics sector seems essential.
The dissemination of scientific data on Vitellaria's properties to professional partners and further research into its active ingredients, together with the definition of widely-accepted quality standards for different types of processing would also help Vitellaria achieve a more significant place in the cosmetics sector. Given the multifaceted ecological and socio-economic roles this tree has traditionally played in Africa, the current demand among consumers for natural products produced in environment-friendly ways can be abundantly satisfied.

Côte d'lvoire and other cocoa-producing countries have opposed this proposal, estimating that it would cut cocoa demand by 100–200 000 tons. However, producers of CBEs, and Vitellaria in particular, claim that the effect will not be detrimental to cocoa-producing countries, some of which are also producers of Vitellaria. In comparison with pure cocoa butter, the use of CBEs provides functional advantages which could lead to an expansion of markets. Meerschoek (1994, cited in Hall et al., 1996) suggests that a maximum of only 3 percent of the annual global harvest of cocoa beans would be displaced.

Another potential growth area for Vitellaria products is the cosmetics sector as outlined in Box 7.2. In both this and the food sector, European industries would prefer to import Vitellaria butter already processed on-site rather than kernels to reduce transport and processing costs as well as adding value locally. Currently, two large factories exist in the region: Trituraf for Unilever TPS in Côte d'lvoire and Nyoto in Lomé, Togo. However, they consider that local capacities for quality control are currently insufficient and that techniques for transporting butter without quality loss are not yet fully mastered (Brun, 1996). More in-depth analysis of demand and additional experiments with local processing may therefore be needed to ascertain the potential of local butter production for export.

Social differentiation in NTFP activities


The fact that collecting parkland products requires no cash investment is a strong incentive for poor segments of village populations for household and commercial use.

Collecting tasks are generally divided by gender. In the Bassila area of Benin, men's collecting activities, primarily for palm nuts, Parkia pods and honey, tend to require skill and involve risk (Schreckenberg, 1996). In contrast, women do not consider walking, collecting and carrying Vitellaria, tamarind, baobab and Bombax products as very laborious. Older women who may not be fit enough for other income-generating activities show an active interest in the gathering of these parkland products. In Cayor, Senegal, all collection/extraction activities on B. aethiopum are carried out by men, whereas the commercialization is undertaken by women (Projet Roneraie Cayor, 1992). Some products are exclusively gathered by children, such as Vitex and Diospyros fruits for sale at the market or to neighbours in Benin (Schreckenberg, 1996), or A. digitata fruit in Kumbija, Senegal (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990).

In Mali, fuelwood and food items including leaves, nuts and seeds are primarily collected by women. In contrast, men gather materials for furniture and construction, and both men and women collect fruit and medicines (Gakou et al., 1994). Collection of leaves and fruit from trees is generally done by groups of women from the same or related compounds working by hand or using a long stick with a sharp blade tied on the end in order to reach higher branches. The size of the collection carried on a woman's head is an object of pride and a way of obtaining recognition from male and female household members (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990).

Products with a significant market value are collected on special trips, while those which are seldom or never commercialized are collected as and when convenient (Schreckenberg, 1996). Men tend to collect products on organized trips, while women gather products in passing or on slight detours to a known tree on the way to or from the fields. When harvesting Vitellaria nuts, women often start collecting in bush areas surrounding the village where the tenure is collective. The weak tenure status of these areas affords poor households access to this resource (Serpantié, 1997b), but as they are usually located further away than the fields, the collection requires more time. As the season progresses and the plant cover grows tall, women prefer to gather in their fields where the fruit can be easily picked from the ground. But when time permits they also plan expeditions requiring several hours to areas where they hope no collection has yet taken place.

Fig. 7.7

Fig. 7.6 While other ethnic groups sun-dry Vitellaria nuts, the Otamari in Diepani, Benin, use ovens. The method requires a lot of fuelwood but allows women to leave the nuts almost unattended for the two-three days required.
K. Schreckenberg

The fact that the activities are differentiated by gender may lead to a significant difference in men's and women's perceptions of who collects NTFPs and how frequently. In Mali, for example, men were aware of most of the products collected by women, but underestimated the frequency of their collection. Women did not mention all the products collected by men. Both genders had similar perceptions of who collected the majority of the three regularly used items, i.e. fuelwood, food and fodder. However, perceptions concerning the collection of all irregularly used items (construction materials, medicines, other products) differed greatly between men and women. Women showed little awareness that men actively collected construction materials for personal or commercial purposes (Gakou et al., 1994).

The fact that collecting forest products requires no cash investment is a strong incentive for both women and men, especially among the poor, immigrants and young adults. In Dimolo and Djèbénao in southwestern Burkina Faso, Vitellaria-based activities were more common than making beer or preparing food for sale because the production required no initial funds (Crélerot, 1995). Yet, for reasons probably due to availability of time or access to resources, the quantities collected by poor women were slightly lower than those collected by better-off women. In turn, Vitellaria-related activities from September to November generated a higher proportion of total income for poor women (42 percent) than for better-off women (33 percent). In Benin, NTFP-based activities attract young women who cannot afford the capital investment needed to embark on alternative income-generating activities, as well as older women who may lack physical or financial resources (Schreckenberg, 1996). Most of the male gatherers involved in these activities were either recent immigrants or young unmarried men, who did not yet have their own agricultural plots. The high demand for Vitellaria nuts in Côte d'lvoire has aroused young men's interest and they now compete with women to collect them (Bliss and Gaesing, 1992). They may also sell the kernels direct to wholesalers without drying them sufficiently and this poor quality produce may give Côte d'lvoire's kernels a bad reputation among international buyers. By selling the kernels rather than the processed butter, both households and the region as a whole are losing out on the value added by women during processing.


Quantities of NTFPs collected and consumed and species preference vary according to ethnic group. Peulh families in Senegal may stock up to 90 kg of Cassia obtusifolia leaves, 50 kg of Tamarindus indica leaves and 200 kg of Adansonia digitata fruit. In contrast, Wolof women in the same area rely on their peanut harvest and small ruminant production and keep only small reserves of forest products. Whereas Socé people favour baobab leaves as the main ingredient of sauces for the staple cereal dish, Peulh and Wolof prefer the exudate of Sterculia setigera for that purpose (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990).

Differences in consumption values may be related not only to preference but also to the resource level of families or even ethnic communities. For instance, the value of NTFPs consumed annually by the Otamari, an immigrant group in Diepani, Benin, was almost twice as high (12 472 FCFA) as for the Anii (6 430 FCFA) in Kodowari, an indigenous village in the same area (Schreckenberg, 1996). The Otamari also relied on home production for 67 percent of processed forest products, whereas the Anii produced only 15 percent of these products at home and bought 85 percent of them in the markets. Lower NTFP consumption by Anii women, who have mostly lost the skills needed to process the products for themselves, may be due to a more restricted use of these products. In addition, their greater wealth allows them to buy available substitutes such as groundnut oil, ‘Maggi’ stock cubes and manufactured soap. While homemade Vitellaria butter, also the cheapest fat available locally, was used for all cooking purposes in Otamari households, Anii women only purchased it for deep-frying cakes, and preferred palm oil or even groundnut oil, when available, for other purposes.

Fig. 7.7 A ‘dero’, the traditional local granary with walls made of a dried clay and straw mixture, provides excellent long-term storage for Vitellaria nuts in Lira, Uganda.
E. Masters


Women are generally responsible for the sauce ingredients accompanying the daily staple cereal provided by the household heads. In Kumbija, Senegal, the woman in charge of meals can meet her objective in three ways: by drawing on her individual peanut crop and compound or ‘bas-fond’ garden, by harvesting wild food or by the sale of the chickens or small ruminants she has raised. Wolof women tend to rely on purchases rather than collected forest products or the produce of compound gardens. In contrast, Peulh and Socé women depend more on collected than purchased items (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990). The size of a woman's stocks of forest products depends on how much time she has been able to devote to collecting activities. The reserves of single wives and those with heavy family responsibilities (young children, old parents and seasonally migrant husbands) are likely to be small. They may also be small in the case of wealthy or large households which can afford to purchase the desired items.


Virtually all forest-related processing activities are carried out by women. Processing of Vitellaria nuts and Parkia seeds is mostly done by women (Schreckenberg, 1996; Masters, 1992). In Benin, men were responsible for palm wine distillation and for woven objects. The techniques used by women in the processing of NTFPs are often labour-intensive and physically strenuous, involving pounding, grinding and stirring, and requiring the collection of large quantities of fuelwood and water. The capital needed for undertaking processing activities varies and can be a major hurdle for women's participation. In southwestern Burkina Faso, poor women sold significantly more unprocessed Vitellaria nuts, and sold them sooner after collection, than women of higher economic status (Crélerot, 1995). In Benin, as is probably also the case in many other places, Schreckenberg (1996) found that women cannot afford the initial outlay without contracting loans and they then have to sell the processed product before they can repeat the activity. However, because they often sell their products on credit and do not calculate their profits, they can easily fall into the credit trap and lose their capital completely. And any factor (illness, pregnancy, unexpected expenditure) disrupting this earning and spending cycle can lead to impoverishment.

Fig. 7.8

Fig. 7.8 After shelling, Vitellaria kernels are quickly roasted and then coarsely pounded (foreground). The product is then ground to produce a chocolate-like paste (background), Thiougou, Burkina Faso. The paste will then be mixed vigorously with first hot and then cold water to separate out the solid white fat.
J.-M. Boffa

The formation of a women's group in Dimolo, Burkina Faso, had a significantly positive impact on the women's collective investment capacity. The group was able to open a bank account, register officially as an organized group and purchase a cereal mill at a government-discounted price. The purchase of Vitellaria nuts by the state through the Caisse de stabilisation des prix et des produits agricoles (Agricultural Pricing and Marketing Board) had also been a primary factor for the development of the group, and contributed to a regular income for the members. However, with the discontinuation of the state commercialization programme in 1992, and the low and fluctuating prices of nuts, the women continued marketing cereals but there was concern for the long-term viability of the group (Crélerot, 1995). The demand for credit provision to sustain Vitellaria-related activities is high and rural credit programmes have been highly successful with loan recovery rates of over 90 percent (Pugansoa and Amuah, 1991; Kisakye et al., 1997).


Rural people's participation in NTFP marketing is subject to ethnic variations. In Bassila, Benin, all women were involved in collecting Vitellaria products for sale, but beyond this 83 percent of Peulh women were involved in a further three or four NTFP activities, while only 24–46 percent of the neighbouring Anii, Otamari and Logba women undertook one or two further NTFP-based activities (Schreckenberg, 1996). Similarly, due to the minor importance of agriculture in their distinct lifestyle, Peulh herders were twice as likely to be involved in NTFP-based activities as men from the other ethnic groups. Ironically, while Vitellaria-related activities used to be the exclusive domain of ethnic groups with no cattle production component, Peulh women in the Bassila area of Benin are known as expert makers of Vitellaria butter.

Regardless of ethnic group, marketing of NTFPs is predominantly a women's activity in West Africa. In the case of Zitenga, Burkina Faso, 91 percent of local market activities are handled by women (Guinko and Pasgo, 1992). In the market at Diepani, Benin, a village dominated by the Otamari immigrant group, men represented 12.3 percent of sellers. However, only 1 out of 625 sellers interviewed was male in Kodowari, a nearby Anii village where the gender division of labour is more pronounced (Schreckenberg, 1996).

Fig. 7.9

Fig. 7.9 The white Vitellaria fat is washed several times and then shaped into different forms, depending on the region. The Peulh near Bassila, Benin, use small calebashes to make butter pats, sold here together with some whole Vitellaria fruit gathered on the way to market.
K. Schreckenberg

Forest products are relatively more important to women than men in The Gambia, as 63 percent of village income obtained from the sale of forest products was obtained by women and 37 percent by men. Taking into account other income sources such as sale of farm produce, gifts and waged labour, forest products contributed over 50 percent of women's earnings as compared with less than 25 percent for men. Madge (1995) also noted the influence of technical knowledge, wealth and household size on the levels of income generated by forest product collection. Christian women originating from nearby islands collected riverine products, while Muslim women who had migrated from forested areas were unaccustomed to water and gathered forest products. Women from households with low resources collected products to be sold daily. In contrast, women from wealthier families could afford to market products the income from which would not become available until a few weeks later via transactions with intermediaries. Finally, women from small households responsible for a larger share of domestic chores and farm labour had less time available to dedicate to collecting than those of larger households.

Contributing to the ongoing general debate on how increased household income improves the nutritional status of children, Crélerot (1995) made a first attempt to investigate the association between women's Vitellaria-related activities and children's welfare in rural Burkina Faso. Whether mothers used Vitellaria butter mostly for home consumption or for commercialization did not have a significant impact on the frequency of butter consumption and the nutritional status of young children. Yet, children consistently consumed more butter in households where butter was mostly marketed than in those where it was mainly consumed at home (but not in a statistically significant manner). In addition, the variety of foods in children's diets, women's monthly purchases, and child-related expenses did not significantly vary in the two groups of women. However, the study was undertaken in a year of low production and market value; it is therefore possible that Vitellaria nuts play a more significant economic role in women's purchasing power in better years. There was no relationship between the time allocated to Vitellaria-related activities and children's nutritional health. Rather, the nutritional status of children was more closely related to women's economic level than to the use of Vitellaria products. It was positively associated with higher diet diversity and frequency of animal product consumption.

An important aspect in the social organization of NTFP gathering, processing, and marketing is the interdependence of users of different gender, age and ethnic group (Schreckenberg, 1996). Skills are acquired through cooperation in joint activities and passed from mother to daughter, father to son, and between co-wives or friends. Interdependence is also evident in the complex network of specialized actors, from suppliers of raw materials through processors to sellers, as actors rely on one another. This interdependence is also financial. Women often pay the suppliers of raw materials only after they have marketed the processed products, so that sales are done on credit. This is particularly common between family members and near neighbours, and is considered more risky between strangers and distant neighbours where payment can be less easily forthcoming. Women are, however, vulnerable to the consistency of suppliers (Schreckenberg, 1996). Interdependence can also occur between ethnic groups. For example, the indigenous Anii in Kodowari, Benin, are active in the sale of raw and processed agricultural products, but rely on Peulh women for the processing of most NTFPs, unlike the Otamari and Logba who process them themselves.

Knowledge of the medicinal and veterinary uses of plants is usually confined to adults, and the competence of specific individuals is recognized by villagers of Kumbija, Senegal (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990). Knowledge is systematically extensive among Peulh groups, while it varies according to families among Socé and Wolof households which are more agriculturally oriented.

Socio-cultural and spiritual values of parkland products

Parkland trees do not only play subsistence and commercial roles. Trees and forests in general are present in all aspects of culture including language, history, art, religion, medicine, politics, etc. (Falconer, 1990). Cultural values attached to forests can hardly be separated from their more material functions. This section illustrates a few of the symbolic and socio-cultural values people attach to trees and forests.

Fig. 7.10 The social importance of trees is not always recognized. Meetings often take place in the shade of large, conspicuous village trees.
R. Faidutti

Fig. 7.10

Products derived from trees are used as investments in successful community integration and social relationships. For example, in The Gambia the exchange of at least a portion of fish and hunted meat harvests with other households and relatives was often more valued by individuals than sale, as it builds and maintains long-term social bonds which make reciprocity possible in times of need (Madge, 1995). Such investments and the redistribution mechanism result in reduced risk and continued access to resources. Typical parkland products such as P. biglobosa soumbala and V. paradoxa butter are kept for social needs such as gifts for births and weddings, or dowries (Crélerot, 1995; A.S. Ouédraogo, 1995).

Fig. 7.11

Fig.7.11 Cool shady conditions provided by large tree canopies are ideal for rural Sahelian markets.
R. Faidutti

Trees are a part of the landscape which traditionally carry an element of sacredness. As such they are often regarded as a link between the living and the dead and a residence of spirits, for example of ancestors or important historical figures. Thus, a variety of social, cultural and religious activities are held under sacred trees or in sacred forest sites. Each village in West Africa has an ‘arbre à palabres’ (discussion tree), where political and social meetings are held and political, judicial and social decisions made. Several studies report on the importance of sacred groves as sites for initiation rites and ceremonies where moral and cultural values and practices are taught to younger generations. Lebbie and Freudenberger (1996) describe several types of sacred forests used by traditional gender-based village organizations. Their functions include training in matters concerned with relations with nature and the use of natural resources, warfare, behaviour of young women with their future husbands and the village community, and household and child care. They can also be the location for foetal burial, women's fertility association meetings and prayer ceremonies, or be protected due to the occurrence of legendary or mythical events. They are also a site for ritual healings and a place where villagers find specific plant medicines.

In villagers'eyes the most important value of some savanna woodlands in Zimbabwe consists in the sacred areas they contain. The conservation of these areas according to ancestral guidance is essential for good rainfall, upon which productivity relies. Therefore, an important function of these sacred forests is the annual rain-making ceremonies (Hot Springs Working Group, 1995). Rituals for land fertility and good harvests may also be held in similar sites.

A number of forest/tree products are used in traditional religious rituals and healing treatments (Stoller and Olkes, 1987). For instance, the consumption of palm wine was valuable in customary rites concerning marriage and funeral ceremonies and the bark of Kaba senegalensis was used in children's naming ceremonies (Madge, 1995). In northern Uganda, when Vitellaria nuts are very scarce, some people have adamantly refused to sell their remaining stocks, at any price, in favour of saving them to process butter for traditional ceremonies (Masters, 1999).

Folklore, tales, and proverbs also reveal the major symbolic significance of trees in West African thought (Calame-Griaule, 1980; Kaboré, 1987). Their symbolic function can be fecundity, power to bestow life, death and rebirth, wisdom, authority and custom. For communities which have migrated, trees such as Ceiba pentandra (Trincaz, 1980) or V. paradoxa (Bergeret and Ribot, 1990) believed to come from the community's original location serve the same purposes. They therefore maintain cultural continuity and villages are sometimes founded around these large trees.

Analysis of costs and benefits of parkland production

Farmers recognize the value of maintaining trees in their agroecosystems and have practised tree conservation for centuries. In turn, scientists are interested in measuring the overall advantages and disadvantages associated with mixed tree/crop systems in comparison with pure annual cropping systems. Such evidence can have a significant impact on policy formulation.

Estimates are complicated by the many sources of annual variation in factors governing tree and crop production and tree-crop interactions, many of which were outlined in Chapters 3 and 4. For a given geographical area and the characteristics of its soil and parkland tree cover, these variables include nature of the crop, horizontal crop rotation, tree density changes over time, tree species, tree size, rainfall and climatological conditions. Crop yields are subject to agricultural practices and climatic conditions. The fruit production of parkland trees fluctuates heavily, depending on environmental and genetic conditions.

Fig. 7.12 Marketing traditional soap made from palm kernel oil and ash, Bassila, Benin.
K. Schreckenberg
Fig. 7.13 Marketing Faidherbia albida pods in Mopti, Mali.
R. Peltier
Fig. 7.12Fig. 7.13

Physical gains and losses associated with Vitellaria and Parkia parklands in southern Mali were quantified in economic terms by Bagnoud et al. (1995b). The study adopted tree-crop interface models based on a series of existing data including:

Taking into account the lowest annual market values of annual and tree crops, gains were three to four times higher than losses on average, resulting in a range of gross returns from 4 800 to 10 600 FCFA/ha/year over a complete crop rotation (three to five years) in the three villages considered. Inputs from Parkia trees were two to three times as high as those of Vitellaria trees, so that the economic return rose significantly with increasing P. biglobosa densities. Wood accounted for only 5 percent of gains. In the net economic return which discounted costs of chemical inputs, agricultural machinery and traction (but not labour), gains were 5 to 11 times higher than losses. The analysis of gross returns is considered more important by farmers, however, as these fixed costs are indispensable in their production systems. Both gross and net balances were less positive when highest market prices were used, and it was assumed that farmers could stock their harvests.

Studies in Burkina Faso showed that yield depression measured under Vitellaria canopies 4.5–5.5 m in diameter and with densities of 12–31 trees/ha was compensated by the slight grain yield increase in the area surrounding crowns, resulting in a small positive field-scale influence of trees on crop yields (Boffa et al., 1999). This surplus amounted to 300-4 800 FCFA. Average kernel production measured on 54 randomly selected trees over three years was 2.4 kg/tree. Thus, based on Vitellaria densities averaged across family and women's fields, kernel production per hectare was 52 kg (Boffa et al., 1996a). Vitellaria parkland production including both tree influence on crop yields and kernel production was, therefore, associated with an economic gain of between 1 700 and 6 200 FCFA if kernels were sold at harvest time, and 3 000–7 500 FCFA if they were sold at the highest seasonal prices. These figures would be slightly higher if the kernels were processed and sold as butter. However, they do not include gains from the few P. biglobosa trees and other species found in these fields. Parkia products (seeds and flour) are worth five times the average price of Vitellaria nuts (Lamien et al., 1996).

Based on the estimate that 8 Vitellaria paradoxa and 2 Parkia biglobosa trees/ha produce 5 kg of kernels and 25 kg of fruit respectively, Kessler (1992) estimated that these parkland products would yield about 8 000 FCFA, while causing a 6 percent reduction in sorghum yields costed at 1 500 to 3 000 FCFA depending on average crop yields. Parkland trees would therefore be associated with a benefit of 5 000 to 6 500 FCFA per hectare.

Fig. 7.14 Young girl selling Adansonia digitata leaves.
K. Schreckenberg
Fig. 7.15 Boiled Borassus aethiopum seedlings for sale.
K. Schreckenberg
Fig. 7.14Fig. 7.15

In spite of the differences in production measurements or references used, all three studies demonstrate the economic profitability of maintaining V. paradoxa and P. biglobosa parkland trees in crop fields. Tree production more than compensates for the possible negative influence on crop yields. Benefits may accrue to women only or to both female and male household heads or members, depending on local tree tenure arrangements. A knowledge of the specific intra-household distribution of tree-related rights is therefore necessary to arrive at a complete analysis. Economic analyses have so far been limited to only these parkland types and are based on crop production data collected in single years. Ideally they should be carried out for other prominent parkland species on a multiple-year basis in order to reflect the long-term scale of farmers' agroforestry strategies. The economic value of maintaining F. albida in parklands should most often be positive, due to its generally positive effect on crop yields and the production of fodder (pods and foliage) and fuelwood. This could easily be established from the existing data.

Parkland resources matter to local people in a number of ways which are not always recognized. There are direct use values including consumption and sale, indirect use values consisting of environmental functions, and non-use values, i.e. cultural, religious and existence values (Pearce et al., 1989). Most of the available studies including those referred to above focus on the value of resources which are marketed. Giving values to subsistence uses may be difficult if the resource is not commercialized or cannot be substituted by a marketed commodity. In Kenya, participatory environmental valuation or contingent ranking was used in order to estimate the values of non-traded products of the Oldonyo Orok Forest (Emerton, 1996). The various forest uses or activities were depicted by pictures, which were ranked by villagers according to their importance. Their financial value was then estimated against a ‘yardstick’ chosen among locally significant and easy-to-monetize commodities. In this particular case, grazing and water worth KES 2 000 (US$40) per household were considered priority resources, and the annual benefits of forest use to the local pastoralist community (1 000 people) were estimated at KES 5 million. Consequently, allowing local communities to maintain these values is a strong incentive for the conservation and sustainable management of this forest.

The value of indirect environmental functions is more difficult to establish, as the consequences of the resource's loss for related ecological services and economic activities need to be assessed (Guijt et al., 1995). Non-use values of forest lands are often as or more important to rural communities than their economic value and are also difficult to estimate. Methods rely on estimates of what farmers are willing to pay for them. However, the essential values of resources may simply not be quantifiable. Much like natural forests, agroforestry parklands provide a variety of subsistence uses and market activities, as well as significant environmental services and socio-cultural and spiritual values. Clearly, the continued maintenance of many parklands is in itself an indication of their value to the local people, even if the exact values are difficult to quantify.


Consumption of parkland foods is important in terms of frequency of use, percentage of consumers, and quantities involved. This is illustrated by consumption patterns for Vitellaria paradoxa butter and Parkia biglobosa seeds, respectively around 10 and 3.6 kg/yr/person in West Africa. Parkland foods provide a high percentage of specific nutritional requirements, especially micronutrients. They contribute to higher palatability of the staple foods they accompany, and a higher dietary diversity. As they often become available during the hungry season, and some of them can be processed for storage and eaten throughout the year, these foods enhance people's seasonal food intake. Farmers also rely on them during emergencies such as famines and illnesses.

Traditional medical systems include the use of most parkland (and forest) species. An abundant literature exists on the medicinal treatments which parkland species are used for, but relatively little is available on use patterns and relative importance, knowledge regarding proper processing, chemical composition and pharmacological suitability, effectiveness and evaluation of cost relative to modern practices.

Many parkland products are marketed locally but good quantitative data on their commercialization are relatively rare. The examples of Pterocarpus erinaceus, Borassus aethiopum and Hyphaene thebaica are reviewed in this report. Generally few people are involved in tree-related marketing activities on a regular basis, but many participate in such activities on a seasonal basis. Minimum annual income generated from parkland items may be in the order of US$10–35 for the second group. Parkland products can cover up to 20 percent of weekly expenses for those regularly involved in commercialization, and for those involved on a seasonal basis they may be the source of large lump sums to cover annual expenditures, savings and loan repayments.

Two parkland products are exported internationally in quantities of several tens of thousands of tons annually, generating important national revenues. Gum arabic from Acacia senegal is a water-soluble exudate produced predominantly in Sudan and used in numerous food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and other industries. Karité or shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) nuts make a high quality vegetable butter. Besides being a primary cooking fat in semi-arid West Africa, its main international application is as a cocoa butter equivalent (CBE) used by European and Japanese industries, and increasingly also as a base for cosmetics products. Constraints to the development of the Vitellaria market include an irregular annual supply of low quality, a recent decline in chocolate demand in Eastern Europe, dependence on cocoa markets and competition from other CBEs. However, the adoption of European norms authorizing the use of Vitellaria for cocoa butter substitution, and improved quality and differentiated supply of butter for the cosmetics sector, as well as domestic opportunities, could promote this market.

Activities for the production and commercialization of parkland products are generally divided by gender. Men tend to be involved in collection and other tasks which require skill and risk, while women are responsible for most of the less risky collection, processing and commercialization activities. Compared with men, a higher proportion of women's income is usually related to parkland production.

The fact that gathering activities do not require initial cash investment is an incentive for poor segments of village populations (poor women, immigrants and unmarried individuals). They provide a relatively higher percentage of income (despite sometimes lower absolute quantities) for the poor than for groups with a higher resource level. Quantities gathered are also determined by consumption patterns and food preferences which can be linked to ethnic groups. Wealthier women have the time and labour availability to invest major efforts in the collection and commercialization of parkland products, yet they can also afford commercial substitutes and may prefer to rely on purchased rather than gathered foods. In contrast, due to their numerous responsibilities and limited labour, poor women may have limited time to dedicate to NTFP activities. Similarly, poor women choose processing activities which do not require investment, or may take out loans to do so which, however, make them vulnerable to impoverishment. They also engage in daily marketing activities which yield immediate returns, while wealthier women can afford to market items for which payment is delayed. Collection, processing and commercialization activities surrounding parkland products are the source of a strong interdependence between participants which promotes social integration, transfer of technical knowledge and economic exchanges.

Available cost-benefit analyses all point to the economic profitability of integrating trees in crop fields, but have focused so far only on Vitellaria paradoxa and Parkia biglobosa. Analyses have mostly only taken direct use values into account, because indirect use values, such as environmental functions, and non-use values such as cultural and religious functions are more difficult to evaluate.

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