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The present research aimed at assessing the biodiversity of wild edible trees and cultural values that support their maintenance in the traditional agroforestry systems of Benin. A number of selected sites in each of the 3 climatic zones of the country were surveyed and data were collected through a field exploration and a semi-structured survey among 435 selected households throughout the country, using a questionnaire. A total of 43 wild edible trees were found in the traditional agroforestry systems of Benin. Three main reasons support peasant ambition to conserve or to grow wild edible trees in their field. The first one is the contribution of species as food followed by its use in traditional medicine and ceremonies. Another important reason supporting the choice to conserve wild edible trees in traditional agroforestry is the farmer’s perception of the availability of species in natural vegetation. At the end, cultural communities’ based conservation of wild edible trees has been discussed.
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255
Specific Richness and Cultural Importance of Wild Edible Trees in
Benin
A.E. Assogbadjo, R. Glèlè Kakaï, G.F. Vodouhê and B. Sinsin
Faculty of Agronomic Sciences
University of Abomey-Calavi
05 BP 1752 Cotonou
Republic of Benin
Keywords: underutilised trees, biodiversity, social value, agroforestry systems, ethnic
groups, conservation, West Africa
Abstract
The present research aimed at assessing the biodiversity of wild edible trees
and cultural values that support their maintenance in the traditional agroforestry
systems of Benin. A number of selected sites in each of the 3 climatic zones of the
country were surveyed and data were collected through a field exploration and a
semi-structured survey among 435 selected households throughout the country,
using a questionnaire. A total of 43 wild edible trees were found in the traditional
agroforestry systems of Benin. Three main reasons support peasant ambition to
conserve or to grow wild edible trees in their field. The first one is the contribution
of species as food followed by its use in traditional medicine and ceremonies.
Another important reason supporting the choice to conserve wild edible trees in
traditional agroforestry is the farmer’s perception of the availability of species in
natural vegetation. At the end, cultural communities’ based conservation of wild
edible trees has been discussed.
INTRODUCTION
Land use changes associated with agriculture and livestock have modified natural
ecosystems of arid zones, creating complex landscapes with patches of transformed and
untransformed areas (Shachak et al., 2005; Kyndt et al., 2009). These systems are full of
indigenous species that provide important environmental services or economically
valuable products traditionally obtained from natural forest (Leakey and Simons, 1998).
Indeed, wild food plants play a very important role in the livelihoods of rural
communities (Assogbadjo et al., 2008). They serve as alternatives to staple food during
periods of food deficit (Vodouhê et al., 2009) and are also one of the primary alternative
sources of income for many rural communities (Fandohan et al., 2010).
Ecological and genetic studies have established important bases for understanding
the natural history and functioning principles of natural arid ecosystems (Shachak et al.,
2005; Assogbadjo et al., 2006). In contrast, few studies have analysed the cultural values
that support the conservation of wild edible trees in the parklands systems by local
communities. However, to date, rising population pressures have resulted in clearance of
forested land for cultivation in all African’s countries. Consequently, most of the
agroforestry tree species as well as the cultural and endogenous knowledge related to
them are facing a very high risk of extinction.
To fill in this gap, the present research aimed at assessing the biodiversity of wild
edible trees and their cultural importance in the traditional agroforestry systems of Benin.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The study was conducted in the three climatic zones of Benin (114,622 km2 and
6,752,569 inhabitants in 2002), located between 6° and 12°50’N and 1° and 3°40’E in
West Africa. The zones studied were: the Sudanian zone located between 9°45’-12°25’N,
the Sudano-Guinean zone located between 7°30’-9°45’N and the sub-humid Guinean
zone (Dahomey Gap) located between 6°25’-7°30’N. The three climatic zones were
selected because they host different agroforestry systems and ethnical groups vary
Proc. 2n
d
Int. Symp. on Underutilized Plants Species
“Crops for the Future – Beyond Food Security”
Eds.: F. Massawe et al.
Acta Hort. 979, ISHS 2013
256
significantly among them suggesting different cultural areas.
Within each climatic zone, the ethnobotanical surveys consisted of an assessment
of the farm diversity of wild food species and socio-economical factors that support
farmers’ choice of the species used in these systems. Data were collected through a field
exploration and a semi-structured survey among 435 selected households throughout the
country, using a questionnaire. The most culturally important species as ranked by locals
were determined for each climatic zone by adding together the order in which each
participant mentioned the species and dividing it by the total number of participants
(Martin, 1995).Finally, Principal Component Analysis was applied on a matrix of
frequencies of choice of the considered species for each of the uses listed during the
survey to describe the reasons that support peasants’ choices.
RESULTS
A total of 43 wild edible trees (24 families) were found as present in the traditional
agroforestry systems in Benin during the survey (Table 1). The most represented family
was Leguminosae (seven species), followed respectively by Annonaceae, Sapotaceae,
Sterculiaceae (four species), Anacardiaceae (three species), Rubiaceae and Verbenaceae
(two species). Seventeen families were represented by only one species.
Traditional agroforestry systems in Guinean zone turn out to be the most
diversified with 29 species (17 families) followed by Sudanian zone with 22 species
(16 families) and Sudano-Guinean zone with 16 species (14 families). The common
species to the three climatic zones are Adansonia digitata, Annona senegalensis, Blighia
sapida, Borassus aethiopium, Diospyros mespiliformis, Parkia biglobosa and Vitex
doniana. The most frequent species (cited by at least 20% of participants) were Psidium
guajava, Blighia sapida, Vitex doniana, Irvingia gabonensis, Parkia biglobosa and
Dialium guineense in Guinean region, Parkia biglobosa, Vitellaria paradoxa and
Adansonia digitata in Soudano-Guinean region and Vitellaria paradoxa, Parkia
biglobosa, Tamarindus indica, Borassus aethiopum and Diospyros mespiliformis,
Adansonia digitata and Vitex doniana in Sudanian region (Fig. 1a,b,c).
The study shows that the most culturally important wild edible trees in traditional
agroforestry systems in the Guinean zone (Psidium gujava, Blighia sapida and Vitex
doniana) are different to those identified in Sudanian and Sudan-Guinean zones (Parkia
biglobosa and Vitellaria paradoxa) (Fig. 1a,b,c). Therefore people from Guinean zone
valued different species compared to people from Sudano-Guinean and Sudanian zones.
A number of both native and exotic wild edible trees occur in the traditional agroforestry
systems with dominance of indigenous tree species (98.5%). The most culturally
important wild edible trees are indigenous, with the exception of Psidium guajava
species.
Results from PCA revealed three main reasons that support peasants’ ambition to
conserve or to grow wild edible trees in their eld: their contribution to food, their use in
traditional medicine and ceremonies and the farmers’ perception of their availability in
natural vegetation.
DISCUSSION
The study reinforced the evidence (Acharya, 2006; McNeely and Schroth, 2006;
Ouinsavi and Sokpon, 2008) of the farms as biodiversity reservoirs; a role played by
traditional agroforestry systems. From the 43 species identified during the study only
seven were common to the three climatic zones (Adansonia digitata, Annona
senegalensis, Bighia sapida, Borassus aethiopum, Diospyros mespiliformis, Parkia
biglobosa and Vitex doniana). These species used by almost all ethnic groups throughout
the country for food, medicine and ceremonies (Vodouhê et al., 2009) have the potential
to receive a management and conservation strategy for their sustainable use.
More than 98.5% of the woody species present on the farmlands are local wild
edible trees that farmers protect or grow in their fields. The high number of endogenous
species raises the question of their importance to rural populations who rely on them to
257
improve their livelihood. These results confirm those from Atta-Krah et al. (2004),
Acharya (2006), McNeely and Schroth (2006), Ouinsavi and Sokpon (2008), who
revealed that traditional agroforestry practices support biodiversity through in situ
conservation of tree species. The findings highlighted the importance of local socio-
economic, cultural and environmental factors to the diversity of traditional agroforestry
systems as shown by Montambault and Alavalapati (2005), Acharya (2006), McNeely
and Schroth (2006), and Bellow et al. (2008).
The wild edible tree diversity varies from one climatic zone to another. The most
diversified zone is the Guinean zone where farmers integrated about 29 wild edible trees
into their farms. The high diversity observed in this region (the most populated of the
country) could be explained by the socio-economic conditions of the farmers. Indeed, due
to demographic pressure, the land area cultivated by farmers reduces from year to year.
Therefore to complement the decreasing income from their fields, farmers utilise more
wild edible trees. This finding is consistent with results from Archarya (2006) and Bellow
et al. (2008) who concluded that for small farmers the maintenance of diversified tree
cover within a small farm area is an element of their livelihood strategy.
Concerning the effects of ethnic group affiliation on the diversity of wild edible
trees in traditional agroforestry systems, the results showed that in Guinean and Sudano-
Guinean zones, people valued culturally the same species while communities from Sudan
zones valued other species. This reinforces the importance of cultural differences in
ethnobotanical knowledge between ethnic groups (De Caluwé et al., 2009). Various
authors have suggested that differential ethnobotanical knowledge among similar groups
is related to specialised cultural transmission (Gaoué and Ticktin, 2009). But in the case
of this study, many other reasons could explain this situation. The first one could be found
in the cultural proximity of people from Guinean and Sudan-Guinean zones compared to
the people from Sudanian zone (Fig. 1). In fact, the Sudano-Guinean zone is a transitional
zone between the southern and the northern parts of the country and it shares many
characteristics with the Guinean zone. People from the two regions are culturally close
and used practically the same food resources. According to ethnic group distribution in
the country (Floquet and Akker, 2000), the same ethnic groups can be found in these two
zones. Indeed, a large part of Sudan-Guinean population is made up of Fon, the main
ethnic group in the Guinean region.
There is an important marketing link between people from all climatic zones as far
as seeds of Parkia biglobosa and Vitellaria Paradoxa are concerned. Indeed, P. biglobosa
seeds are processed and used throughout the country as a flavouring agent (Vodouhê et
al., 2009) while the pulp of the fruit is consumed daily in some localities, and used to
make juice. V. paradoxa kernels are processed into butter used as oil to cook food and in
traditional medicine. This reinforced the demand of these products and could explain their
large integration in traditional agroforestry systems. This confirms the opinions of Boffa
(1999), Styger et al. (1999) and Lovett and Haq (2000) that phytodiversity in traditional
agroforestry is mostly dominated by tree species that are useful for the local population.
One of the reasons that support peasant ambition to conserve or grow wild edible
trees in their fields is the species contribution as food followed by its use in traditional
medicine and ceremonies. Therefore, it is expected that wild edible trees integrated into
the systems provide products which can be used locally by households’ members but also
commercialised to generate additional income to support households, especially during
the dry season when people are facing food shortage problems. Another important reason
supporting the choice to conserve wild edible trees in traditional agroforestry is peasant
perception of species availability in natural vegetation. For example, Adansonia digitata,
Dialium guineense and Vitex doniana (in Guinean zone); Vitellaria paradoxa and
Adansonia digitata (in Sudan-Guinean zone) are perceived by local communities as
threatened species and this reason explains their integration into traditional agroforestry
systems. This is good a strategy for a sustainable use of these species and shows the role
of endogenous biodiversity conservation played by traditional agroforestry systems
(Acharya, 2006; McNeely and Schroth, 2006; Kabir and Webb, 2008).
258
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Publication of this paper has been supported by Crops for the Future through a
grant provided by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the
benefit of developing countries.
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Tables
Table 1. Biodiversity, distribution and major uses of wild edible tree species in the
traditional agroforestry systems of Benin.
N° Species Botanical family Climatic zones Uses
1 Adansonia digitata
B
ombacaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4
2 Annona senegalensis Annonaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2
3
B
alanites aegyptiaca
B
alanitaceae S 1,2,3
4
B
ighia sapida
B
ignoniaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 4
5
B
ombax costatum
B
ombacaceae Sg, S 1,2,3
6
orassus aetiopum Arecaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
7
B
rillantaisia madagascariensis Acanthaceae G1, 1
8 Carpolobia lutea Polygalaceae G1, 2
9 Chrysophyllum albidum Sapotaceae G1, 2
10 Cola acuminata Sterculiaceae G 1,2, 3
11 Cola gigantea Sterculiaceae G1
12 Cola millenii Sterculiaceae G, Sg 1
13 Cola nitida Sterculiaceae G1, 2, 3
14
D
einbollia pinnata Sapindaceae G1, 2
15
D
etarium microcarpum Leguminosae S1,2
16
D
ialium guineense Leguminosae G1, 2
17
D
iospyros mespiliformis
E
benaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
18
F
icus sp.
M
oraceae S1, 2
19 Garcinia kola Clusiaceae G1, 2
20 Gardenia erubescens
R
ubiaceae Sg, S 1, 2
21 Irvingia gabonensis Irvingiaceae G, Sg 1, 2, 4
22 Lannea microcarpa Anacardiaceae S 1,2,3
23
M
imusops andongensis Sapotaceae G1
24
M
onodora myristica Annonaceae G1, 2, 3
25 Parkia biglobosa Leguminosae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
26 Picralima nitida Apocynaceae G1
27 Piliostigma thonningii Leguminosae G1, 2
28 Psidium guajava
M
yrtaceae G, Sg 1, 2
29 Pterocarpus santalinoides Leguminosae G1, 2
30 Scleroclaria birrea Anacardiaceae S1,2
31 Spondias mombin Anacardiaceae G, Sg 1, 2
32 Strychnos spinosa Loganiaceae S1,2
33 Synsepallum dulcificum Sapotaceae G1
34 Tamarindus indica Leguminosae Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4
35 Tetrapleura tetraptera Leguminosae G1
36 Uapaca togoensis
E
uphorbiaceae S1, 2
37 Uvaria chamae Annonaceae G1
38 Vitellaria paradoxa Sapotaceae Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
39 Vitex doniana Verbenaceae G, Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4
40 Vitex simplifolia Verbenaceae S1, 2
41
X
imenia americana Olacaceae Sg, S 1, 2, 3, 4
42
X
ylopia aethiopica Annonaceae G2, 4
43
Z
iziphus abyssinica
R
hamnaceae S1, 2
Legend: G = Guineo-Congolian zone; Sg = Sudano-Guinean zone, S = Sudanian zone. For uses: Food = 1;
Medicine = 2; Ceremony = 3; Food processing = 4; Other use = 5.
261
Figures
Fig. 1. Most culturally important wild edible trees in traditional agroforestry systems in
Benin.
262
... Nvc is the number of 'credible properties'; Nvpc, the number of 'probable credible properties' and Ntv, total number of identified properties. The GCLP-value showed the importance of a plant property: GCLP < 25% (little important); 25 ≤ GCLP < 50% (fairly important); 50 ≤ GCLP < 75% (enough important) and 75 ≤ GCLP < 100% (very important) (Assogbadjo et al., 2011b;Camou-Guerrero et al., 2008). ...
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