Use and commercialization of non-timber forest products in western Burkina Faso
The farming system in Burkina Faso is featured by the omnipresence of trees owing to their non-timber products. These products are very important for the nutritional quality of rural populations and their contribution to income (particularly that of women). However, they remain undervalued. A better knowledge of the potential utilization of these products, and the constraints attached to their transformation and commercialization, would favour their promotion.
The aim of this survey is to study the traditional utilization of the various products in the households and their commercialization in village markets. About 100 households have been monitored to determine the frequency of use of these products in the meals of rural families. The trading and use of about 30 products has been followed in 10 village markets, over a whole year. These products were derived from 17 woody species. Five of these products, originating from Vitellaria paradoxa, Parkia biglobosa, Bombax costatum and Adansonia digitata, cost more than 200 CFA francs per kilogram. Compared with other products, NTFPs, especially foods, were the most frequently used. The raw forms of these products supply vitamins for the nutritional health of the rural population. Considering the importance of this role, one might expect to see these species cultivated in plantations, but the way of regenerating these species remains the traditional fallowing practice of the present farming system. The reasons for this can be found in some mythical beliefs about the reproduction of the local species, beliefs that are supported by local evidence. For example, the local species are thought to be slow growing. The growth patterns of the useful local species constitute a challenge to domestication that should be addressed by forestry research.
The parkland system is the most widespread system of agricultural production in Burkina Faso (Ouedraogo 1995, Boffa et al. this volume). Trees are present everywhere on the farmers' fields. Trees of useful species are selected in fallow land for retention, before bringing the land into cultivation. Thus tree regeneration is the result of the practice of fallowing. The main reason for maintaining woody species in the fields is the demand for food and traditional medicines, for both humans and animals. These products, which are currently undervalued, contribute to the enhancement of the nutrition of rural populations, a better family income (particularly for women) and the economy of the country. For the products to become commercially important, they must be utilized beyond the national borders. This requires better governmental policies in food technology and processing. The first step is the development of better knowledge of the potential utilization of the various products, and of the constraints associated with processing and commercialization. The aim of this survey is to contribute to better knowledge of these parameters in Burkina Faso.
Very little work has been done on this subject at a national scale. Pasco (1990) inventoried some 24 ways of utilizing the products of 21 woody species in the central part of the country. In 7 months of market observations he found 17 products in small-scale trade in the village markets. Hasberg and Coulibaly (1989) observed some 40 products in one of the larger markets in the southwest of the country. They found 15 products valued at over 200 CFA francs kg-1 (in 1989, 200 CFA francs = USD 1). Pasco had identified six of these. Their uses ranged from snacks to family meals.
This survey has identified the traditional forms of consumption of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and estimated the frequency of their use in rural households; it has explored the products that are for sale in local markets. In addition, this survey has examined the hypotheses that-
· the dependence of rural populations for these products and their commercialization is growing, because of the loss of forest resources, relative to population growth and deteriorating climatic conditions
· in commerce, parameters such as the time of production, product quality, the ecological zone and the marketing system, determine the prices charged for the products
The survey covers NTFPs that are consumed daily by rural populations, either raw or cooked, and that are more and more involved in small-scale trade in local markets.
The study zone of western Burkina Faso lies between latitude 10_ and 13° N and longitude 3°-6° W. The climate is Sudanian, with mean annual rainfall between 800 mm in the north and 1000 mm in the south. The vegetation is forest savanna. The agricultural landscape features the Sahelian parkland system, predominated by woody species that bear edible fruit, such as Vitellaria paradoxa Gaertn., Parkia biglobosa Benth., Tamarindus indica L. and Borassus aethiopum Mart.
The villages of the survey were the four (Dimolo, Kayao, Kawara, Yasso) where the Institute of Agricultural Research carries out studies on farming systems. They were chosen on the basis of a number of criteria to represent zones having a similar production system. In each village, we sampled 10% of the households (groups of people) sharing the same meal. Each family was chosen at random and followed for 6 days by women interviewers, to note the utilization of NTFPs and potential substitutes for them in the cooking of meals. In total about one hundred households were involved. The survey took place from January to April 1995: a dry period when the populations were not involved in farming activities and lived on the cereals which had just been harvested.
]Two markets clusters were used, one in the northern part and the other in the southern part of the study zone. The market survey was organized in such a way that the five or six closest villages in turn provided the market to be studied. In other words, every fifth or sixth day the market was in the same village. One of the markets of each cluster of five or six village markets represented a district market. Like urban markets, the district markets could be better supplied with products and have relatively higher unit prices.
The use of NTFPs in the meals was closely observed-the ingredients of each meal, their monetary value and their means of acquisition noted. Analysis has stressed use of the forest products themselves and the substitution of alternative products. The investigation on the markets covered a whole year. The objective was to examine the various products that appeared and to see the price fluctuations during the year.
The same market was sampled every third market day. One objective was to list all the NTFPs that were traded. For this, it was decided to interview systematically anyone appearing on the market as a vendor. The choice of this approach was justified by the size of the village markets, and it favours a complete inventory of all the products. During the investigation, parameters like the nature of the products, their uses, their sources of supply, the quantities handled every market day were noted. We also purchased samples to determine the weights and unit prices. A descriptive analysis was used to explain the utilization and commercialization of the products. The factors that determined the prices were studied through variance analysis.
Observation of the households identified that some 30 NTFPs were used, raw or cooked, and that they came from 17 tree species of the savanna or traditional agroforestry parklands. Two levels of consumption were identified-transformed or raw. The first level concerned the NTFPs that are transformed and generally used as ingredients for meals. The second was snacks or a `fast-food' form-crude or fresh products that are generally eaten outside normal meal times and often when in the bush.
Sixteen types of meals were observed. In general, forest products were used more frequently than purchased substitutes. The nutrition of the population of this zone is based on maize or millet dough (tô), accompanied with a sauce. Four types of meals were the most frequent in the average household: sauce 6 times a week, tô 5 times, porridge with cereal 3 times, and couscous with cereal once. The principle ingredients of meals from forest products were young leaves and the fruits. These ingredients can be divided into fats, spices, vegetables and acidic products.
Szolnoki (1985) reported that as a general rule, the taste and digestibility of some dishes are enhanced by fat, especially karité (shea nut) butter from Vitellaria paradoxa fruits. It is the only tree product used as a cooking fat in the households of the zone and is used more frequently than other oils (table 1).
Shea nut butter and oil are used for tô-to prevent its surface from drying up, to improve the taste and to make it more appetizing. Another use of shea nut butter that should be mentioned is the frying of fritters and griddle cakes for sale in the markets. The occurrence of this activity in the marketplace was the reason that it was not observed in the household survey.
Table 2. Frequency use of karité butter and other oils (cotton oil, groundnut oil or sesame oil) for cooking in Burkina Faso
|Dough sauce (sauce de tô)||89||11|
|Cereal dough (Tô)||66||34|
High-quality shea butter is white, odourless and made from fresh nuts. Stale material results in a dark butter with an unpleasant bitter taste, which has to be disguised by adding garlic or lemon juice. Local research (IRBET & ISN/IDR 1988) has identified ways of handling shea nuts that result in good quality butter. Further research by food technology laboratories could examine other means of ensuring quality and, hence, value.
Spices are by definition substances used to season the dishes and give them a better taste. The NTFP used as a spice in the meals is soumbala, made from the fermented seeds of Parkia biglobosa, or néré. Purchased `Maggi' sauce and the fermented grains of Hibiscus sabdarifa (sorrel) are sometimes used to replace soumbala. Néré soumbola is used in tô 50% of the time and in couscous 71%; Maggi 34% in tô and 29% in couscous; and sorrel soumbala 16% in tô and not at all in couscous.
Given the low density of Parkia biglobosa trees, the fruits are plundered before they are completely ripe. The soumbala obtained from unripe fruit is generally of poor quality. Hasberg & Coulibaly (1989) report that the traditional authorities in Diongolo, a village in their study zone, have set a date for the start of harvest because otherwise the population pillages the Parkia biglobosa pods at night. Because of the resulting low quality, housewives tend to use Maggi spices when their purchasing power allows them to do so. Just a small quantity of Maggi is sufficient to improve the flavour. Pasco (1990) reports that women with big families associate Maggi with soumbala to get a better taste for the least cost. The consumption of Maggi spice is not without risk. Stocks are often past their `sell-by' date and old stock can be the cause of blood pressure diseases, according to local doctors.
Soup is the most commonly cooked meal in the houses of the region. Several elements enter into its preparation. However, vegetables are the base that one combines with other products. The leaves of Adansonia digitata (baobab) were used in soups 41% of the time and the flower parts of Bombax costatum 12%; vegetable products consumed in soups included okra (26%), sorrel leaves (8%), Ceratoteka sesamoides leaves (5%), sesame (4%), beans and eggplant (2% each).
In addition, the leaves of Corchorus spp., Securidaca longipedunculata and Vitex doniana are important soup vegetables for the dry season. However, the consumption of these species was not observed during our investigation.
The cooking of meals such as tô and porridge is based on water and cereal flour. To give these meals a sour or potassic taste, women add some acidic or alkaline products. The former seems to improve the keeping quality of the tô. The results showed that 71% of porridges and 53% of the tô cooking are treated with acidic or alkaline products and that a number of different products were used (table 2).
Table 2. Use frequency of acidic or alkaline products in cooking in Burkina Faso (in percentage)
|Fermented juices from cereal flour||18||16|
|Fermented juices from local beer residues||3||6|
Leaf and fruit products of tamarind (Tamarindus indica) are the most commonly used tree products for the souring of meals. Compared with the substitution products, which are cereal or beer residues, juice and lemon, the Tamarind products tre the ones most used in the houses. The sourness of juice from beer residues is obtained by keeping it for two or three days. Potash is a filtrate of ashes obtained by calcinating vegetable matter. The composition varies from region to the region.
The average size of a household in the study area was 11 people. Estimates of the quantities and values of tree products used for each meal were obtained during the household and market survey (table 3). The values obtained are clearly higher than Pasco's (1990). This can be justified by the poor forestry resources of the study zone and the existence of very competitive substitution products.
Table 3. The quantity (g.) and value (francs CFA)*
of an average household (11 people)
intake of non-timber forest products in Burkina Faso, according to the type of meal
|Soumbala of P.biglobosa||21||46||-||-||-||-||17||37||21||46|
|Soumbala of H.sabdarifa||16||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|A. digitata leaves||19||188||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Flower parts of B. costatum||20||72||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|H. esculentus fruit||32||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Leaves and fruit of T. indica||-||-||16||-||17||-||-||-||-||-|
* 200 CFA francs = USD 1 in 1989
To make a sauce of baobab leaves or from the flower parts of Bombax costatum, the housewife should invest 40 CFA francs on average to obtain the main ingredients. This is a high price for women who generally have no profit-making activities, nor any financial support from their husbands for condiments.
Women most frequently buy karité butter and néré soumbala, rather than obtain the tree products free (table 4). Not all women master their processing. Women, even if they manage to collect the fruits, prefer to sell them fresh and to buy the finished product from processing specialists when they need it. This is because the technologies themselves take a lot of time. The flowers of Bombax costatum are less frequently bought, however, because they need no processing. Baobab leaves are bought because they are scarce.
Table 4. Proportion of meal ingredients bought and obtained free
|Soumbala of néré||90||10|
|Leaves of baobab||85||15|
|Soumbala of Hibiscus esculentus||65||35|
|Leaves of Corchorus sp.||5||95|
The products eaten as snacks by individuals are difficult to quantify and were not recorded in this survey. The main species are, however, known from market surveys and the literature (von Maydell 1983, Pasco 1990) (table 5). The frequency of use and quantities eaten by families have not been estimated.
Consuming fruits direct from trees is important for the nutrition of rural populations, as it maximizes vitamin intake (Szolnoki 1985). Various products are available at different times of the year and complement the basic foods such as cereal dough, which is relatively low in vitamins and minerals. These snacks are therefore important for the health of the people.
Table 5. Tree species contributing to nutrition as snacks in Burkina Faso
|Tree species||Product||State and mode of consumption||Production period|
|white pulp that covers the seeds of dry fruit||sucked as snack; ground into flour, and used in juice, added to millet couscous||January-March|
(karité or shea nut)
|pulp of fresh mature fruit||grated directly||June-August|
|Balanites aegyptiaca||pulp of mature fruit||sucked as snack after skin is removed||November-December|
|fresh aril of the seed||detached from the seed and consumed raw||March-July|
|Detarium microcarpum||fruit pulp||sucked as snack, fresh or boiled after skin is removed||February-May|
|powdery pulp||eaten directly as snack or boiled into an edible paste or porridge||March- August|
|Saba senegalensis||pulp of fruit||sucked as snack||May-June|
|Sclerocarya birrea||nut||eaten like groundnut||June-August|
|Ziziphus mauritiana||pulp of the fruit||eaten directly or ground into flour, formed into fritters||January-February|
|Trees for honey||nectar taken and turned by the bees into honey||consumed directly or as sweetener in other dishes||March-June|
These fruits become available at the time that farmers are starting their annual farming cycle and when food stocks are low. This makes them especially important during the cultivation period. Eating these snacks provides the energy for work.
Furthermore, the ground pulp of P. biglobosa forms a flour that is often taken to the field as the only meal for the day. Mixed with water into a dough, or bulked up with millet flour, its consumption supplies the farmer with energy, because of its high glucid content in (table 6).
The chemical composition of some NTFPs has been investigated by several authors: Szolnoki (1985), Bergeret & Ribot (1990) and Pasco (1990), as summarized in table 6.
Table 6. Food value of some non-wood forest products
Data from Bergeret A. and Ribot J.C. (1990), Pasco L. (1990)
* = grams per 100 g of matter ** = milligrams per 100 g of matter
Two categories of tree products from the parkland and forest savanna, were identified in this study:
· products available for only a very short period (1 to 3 months), which were mostly consumed as snack foods;
· products available for at least 4 months on the markets; these products can be dried or processed for storage and are often the main ingredient of meals
In general, product price is governed by its availability and condition of acquisition, place of origin and the kind of market. Traditionally the ownership of the trees in forest savanna and parkland was communal. Nowadays the ownership of trees in young fallows and parkland is private (Lamien & Bayala 1994). Only people exploiting these lands and their relations are permitted to gather products from these trees.
This study identified three means of product acquisition:
· gathering from the trees in farm land and from newer family fallow lands
· gathering from the trees of old communal fallow lands or by theft from other families' farms
· purchasing from suppliers
The means of acquisition had a significant effect on the price (table 7), the products purchased from a supplier being the most expensive.
Table 7. Average product price per kilogram in
1994/95 (francs CFA)
of various non-tmber forest products in Burkina Faso, according to the means of acquisition
(numbers in brackets = no. of samples)
|Products||Personal trees||Communal trees||Supplier|
|Bombax flower parts||268.3||(7)||377.7||(29)||-||-|
In 1994/95, 500 CFA francs = USD 1
Product price was also determined by the ecological zone. Markets in the north were more expensive than those in the south (table 8). This is related to the northern area being drier (700 mm vs 1000 mm) and having a greater population density (60 vs 9 inhabitants km-2). These two factors continue to make tree products more scarce in the northern area. Prices therefore reflect the laws of supply and demand.
Table 8. Average product price per kilogram (francs
CFA) of non-tmber forest products in Burkina Faso,
according to the ecological zone (numbers in brackets = no. of samples)
|Products||Northern zone||Southern zone|
|Bombax flower parts||389.2||(29)||194.7||(7)|
In 1994/95, 500 CFA francs = USD 1
Contrary to expectation, and with the exception of shea nut and shea butter, the village markets were not significantly cheaper than the district markets (table 9). Market prices were also strongly affected by the time of year and availability of the products.
Table 9. Price per kilogram (francs CFA) of
non-tmber forest products in Burkina Faso,
according to the type of market (number in brackets = no. of samples)
|Products||District markets||Village markets|
|Bombax flower parts||309.5||(13)||383.2||(23)|
In 1994/95, 500 CFA francs = USD 1
For example, the nuts of Vitellaria paradoxa averaged 34 francs CFA, while the butter and soap made from them averaged 306 and 257 francs CFA respectively. These figures compare with those of Hasberg & Coulibaly (1989) of 69, 345 and 289 francs CFA for the nuts and for yellow and grey butter respectively. The price of the nuts was lowest from May to July, the period of nut harvest (fig. 1). Trading started in August and September, and the price rose with the increased demand as traders intervened. But the demand from the traders did not last because the possibilities of distribution on the regional and international scale were limited and often uncertain. IRBET & ISN/IDR (1988) report that the products of karité from Burkina were detrimentally affected by mishandling, which lowered the quality and price. The period of August to September corresponded to the period when the great majority of the women devoted themselves to roasting and processing their nuts into butter or into soap. This caused a decline of the price of these processed products. Prices then rose again as women became more involved in the cropping activities.
Figure 1. Price changes (francs CFA) during year for Vitellaria paradoxa products
500 francs CFA = USD 1
The products of P. biglobosa are seeds and their by-products: the soumbala and the pulp of the pod, which forms a yellow flour. The average price per kilogram is 128 francs CFA for the grains, 477 francs CFA for the soumbala and 43 francs CFA for the flour. These prices fluctuate during the year. The harvest is in April-May, when prices are low (fig. 2). After this period, the seed prices increase regularly until they reach a value of about 200 francs CFA in December. The price of soumbala rises from 410 francs CFA at harvest to between 450 and 500 francs CFA for the rest of the year. Seed storage occurs while traders wait for this price rise. It logically causes a rise of prices, which then declines as stocks are used to make soumbala. The flour is marketed for only 8 months because of storage problems. Its price is highest shortly after the harvest period.
Figure 2. Prices changes (francs CFA) during the year for Parkia biglobosa products (1994-95).
500 francs CFA = USD 1
Young leaves of baobab are available from May to July (fig. 3). The women dry them immediately for storage and use them in January-April, when it becomes more difficult to find soup vegetables. This is associated with a rise of the price of dry and powdered leaves following a growing demand from the traders. The low price in October-November is said to be because the baobab leaves cause lips to crack in the cool season.
Figure 3. Prices changes (F CFA) during the year for Adansonia digitata products (1994-95)
500 francs CFA = USD 1
Fruit and leaves are available in October and May respectively (fig. 4). They both play the same role, that of souring meals, and they can be processed and preserved for a time. The average price per kilogram of fruit is 116 francs CFA, whereas the price of leaves is 102 francs CFA. These values are lower than Hasberg & Coulibaly's (1989), owing to the fact that latter were obtained on urban markets. The fruit prices rise to their highest value from February to April. The period corresponds to the preparation for Muslim fasting. T. indica products are in particular demand to sour or even to sweeten the fasting porridge.
Figure 4. Price changes (F CFA) during the year for Tamarindus indica products (1994-95)
500 francs CFA = USD 1
Bombax flowers are used as vegetables for soups. Flowering occurs between November and January when the price is 260 francs CFA, this rising to 580 francs CFA when the product becomes rare (fig. 5). These prices are higher than previously recorded (Hasberg & Coulibaly 1989, Pasco 1990) but this is probably because of differences in availability between years and sites. In this case the higher price seems to be found in sites where the tree is common-so apparently increasing the demand.
Figure 5. Price evolution during the year for Bombax costatum products (1994-95).
500 francs CFA = USD 1
In general, we can conclude that the evolution of prices of NTFP during the year conforms to the theory of demand and supply. However, we observe a certain irregularity in the evolution of the prices that can be explained by two phenomena. On the one hand, most of the sales people are not specialists in marketing. A woman will never sell all her stock, even at the moment when the price received by the supplier is at its highest level. On the other hand, as for cereals, groundnuts, farm animals, the stocks of NTFP constitute a kind of saving. The farmer therefore sells only to solve a problem. P. biglobosa seeds, for example, are often exchanged for cereals to bridge a period of poor availability.
We have shown the omnipresence of NTFP in the daily nutrition of the rural population of Burkina Faso. Products from various tree species of the parklands agroecosystem are used as major ingredients of the diet throughout the year and also contribute important snacks during the period when other foods are scarce. Thus, it is clear that these products are extremely important to the welfare and health of the rural population. Despite this importance, the tree products continue to be produced by the traditional practice of fallowing and preserving the useful trees in the subsequently created fields. Tree planting is not a tradition because it is believed that the trees are slow growing and that `you will not see the fruit of the tree you have planted yourself'. To motivate people to domesticate local tree species, genetic selection is needed to promote faster growth, earlier fruiting and improved yield and quality. It must be mentioned, however, that the corollary of domestication is an increased value for their products. This could occur through expanded trade and better postharvest technology.
We could not conclude without grateful thanks to IFS (International Foundation of Science), whose financial support has permitted to carry out this work, and Dr Elias Ayuk, ICRAF agroeconomist and our research project adviser.
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Plate 6. A trader purchasing shea nut butter at a village market in Burkina Faso. (photo: N. Lamien)
Plate 7. A lady frying Parkia biglobosa flour cake with shea nut butter (photo: N. Lamien)
Plate 8. Commercialization of soumbala (fermented grains of Parkia Biglobosa) at a market in western Burkina Faso. (photo: N. Lamien)
Plate 9. A girl selling soumbala in the street (photo: J. Baxter)