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The participatory domestication of West African indigenous fruits

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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.

Keywords: Dacryodes edulis; Irvingia gabonensis; agroforestry; livelihood benefits; rural development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Agroforestry and Novel Crops Unit, School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4878, Australia 2: Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, England, UK 3: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), BP 2067, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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