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Focus on... Wild trees

Where harvests fail due to erratic climatic conditions, many subsistence farmers have few alternative options available to provide food and income. For other communities, however, wild tree crops have traditionally provided an important source of food, which is particularly valued during the 'lean' season when other staples are in short supply. The Gruni people in northern Ghana, for example, rely on the leaves, flowers, fruit pulp and seed of wild baobab trees when sorghum, millet and groundnut are limited.

In this issue, we focus on the value of wild trees and the varied products they provide, and on the strategies being adopted to sustain wild populations, as well as the methods employed for growing some of these species on-farm. From the Amazon rainforest to the miombo woodlands in southern Africa, we also highlight a selection of initiatives which are helping communities access more lucrative markets.

Chewing Chicza - organic rainforest gum

Chewing Chicza - organic rainforest gum

For over a century, chicle latex was an essential ingredient in chewing gum until the evolution of synthetic chicle substitutes in the 1950s. Now, this sustainably produced natural gum is making a comeback, as a new, biodegradable and organic chewing gum.

Date published: July 2009

African blackwood - a sound choice for the woodwind musician

African blackwood - a sound choice for the woodwind musician

African blackwood is the perfect choice for making woodwind musical instruments, but in south east Tanzania, most is illegally felled. However, in 2009, two communities will be the first to sell African blackwood which has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), guaranteeing sustainable harvesting and a fair price paid to the forest managers.

Date published: July 2009

Açaí: a nutrient-rich staple with export potential

Açaí: a nutrient-rich staple with export potential

Packed full of anti-oxidants, the purple berry-like fruit of the açaí palm, which grows in the Amazon rainforest, is the latest 'superfood' in the United States. Sambazon, a company making açaí fruit drinks, sources fruit from biodiverse groves certified for environmental stewardship.

Date published: July 2009

Agarwood - the sweet smell of success

Agarwood - the sweet smell of success

In Southeast Asia, indiscriminate felling of Aquilaria trees to harvest their prized, fragrant, resinous heartwood has endangered the species. In a bid to conserve what remains of the wild populations, two organisations are offering a profitable and sustainable alternative to uncontrolled exploitation.

Date published: July 2009

Mongongo - a tough nut worth cracking

Mongongo - a tough nut worth cracking

Across southern Africa, mongongo nut kernels, which are rich in protein and skin-enhancing linoleic acid, have provided food and skin care for over 7,000 years. With growing demand from international moisturiser brands, mongongo has become a new source of income in south west Zambia.

Date published: July 2009

A better way for Indian bay

A better way for Indian bay

Harvesting bay leaves on the vertiginous slopes of the Himalayan foothills is hazardous, with the trees also threatened by inappropriate harvesting methods. But for six self-help groups in Uttarakhand state, a new initiative has improved their harvesting and doubled what they earn for each kilo of dried leaves.

Date published: July 2009

Novel approach for Allanblackia

Novel approach for Allanblackia

With increasing demand for a high value edible oil derived from Allanblackia seeds, a private-public initiative has been established in five African countries to set up supply chains and to encourage farmers to cultivate the tree for commercial purposes.

Date published: July 2009

Domesticating wild trees in Botswana

Domesticating wild trees in Botswana

In the Kalahari region of Botswana, wild foods such as marula and mongongo fruit have supported rural communities for millennia. But with the prospect of lengthier and potentially dangerous journeys gathering wild foods, communities have begun to explore a different path: domestication of useful wild plants.

Date published: July 2009

 

 

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