John Moffett is TREE AID's Chief Executive Officer
Tree crops, also known as Non Timber Forest Products, are vitally important for generating income and reducing hunger. ‘The contribution of tree crop products to smallholder households: A case study of baobab, shea, and néré [dawadawa] in Burkina Faso’ is a 2015 report of the research carried out by TREE AID with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Canterbury Christ Church University
The research focused on the harvesting, processing, selling and consumption of tree crops, in particular, baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata), shea nuts (Vitellaria paradoxa) and nere (Parkia biglobosa). We wanted to know more about how these crops are used for household consumption or sold to obtain cash and also how households decide how to use income from tree crops. This is important for TREE AID to help us design and deliver tailored programmes that best support the people of Burkina Faso to make the most of their tree crops.
Interestingly, the research found that:
- There is a large difference between the Northern and the Southern regions of Burkina Faso in how they use tree crops. People living in the poor north of Burkina Faso, closer to the dry Sahel region are more reliant on tree crops than people in the south where rainfall is better.
Nutritious tree crops are a vital supplement during the labour intensive harvesting season, when food stocks are at their lowest and when the previous year’s harvest has been nearly used up.
- Household income is still mostly controlled by men but shea trading is creating opportunities for women to develop independent incomes and decide how that money is spent.
- Assisted natural regeneration (the protection of naturally grown trees), could be a preferable strategy to ensure women’s access to trees rather than encouraging them to plant new trees. It can avoid conflict between male landowners and female land users.
- Tree crops can provide regular income throughout the year. Baobab fruit, for example, is mainly collected and marketed in the dry season when less labour is needed on farms and women can dedicate more of their time to the harvesting, processing, storage and marketing of the fruit.
- Climate change is likely to severely impact access to food and access to tree crops needs to be preserved and strengthened to maintain and improve food security and nutrition.
TREE AID has been working in Burkina Faso since 1994. We’ve helped thousands of people make the most of their tree resources over the last 20 years. Forests covered 21 per cent of the country’s surface area in 2011 and forest resources can provide a decent income for poor communities. Shea butter, gum arabic, honey, nere seeds, tamarind and baobab are all tree products which are cornerstones of the Burkina Faso rural economy. However Burkina Faso still faces massive challenges in order to secure stable incomes for its people and ensure a healthy environment. It is the sixth poorest country in the world, nearly half of the population live in poverty and malnutrition rates remain chronically high. Burkina Faso is still the 13th most-hungry country in the world.
We are using the learning from this report to develop our tree crops programme to support the people of Burkina Faso to make the most from their trees.