The participatory domestication of West African indigenous fruits

Journal articles or issues
January 2003
Kate Schreckenberg, Roger Leakey, Zac Tchoundjeu

This study obtained quantitative data on fruit and nut traits from two indigenous fruit trees in West Africa (Irvingia gabonensis and Dacryodes edulis), which have led to the identification of trees meeting ideotypes based on multiple morphological, quality and food property traits desirable in putative cultivars. The same data also indicates changes in population structure that provide pointers to the level of domestication already achieved by subsistence farmers. D. edulis represents 21–57% of all fruit trees in farmers’ fields and plays an important part in the economy of rural communities. An investigation of the socio-economic and biophysical constraints to indigenous tree cultivation found that indigenous fruits could play an even greater role in the rural economy of West and Central Africa. The opportunity to build on this through further domestication of these species is considerable, especially as retailers recognise

customer preferences for certain D. edulis fruit traits, although at present the wholesale market does not. This project was linked to a larger participatory tree domestication programme within ICRAF’s2 wider agroforestry programme with traditionally valuable indigenous trees. Together these projects provided insights into the value of domesticating indigenous fruit trees, which are of strategic importance to poverty alleviation and sustainable development worldwide.

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