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Oleh: Dr. G.F. Townsend, Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Biology, Univsersity of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Terbit: 01 September 1984

Next to food, firewood is the most scarce item in developing countries. More than one third of the world is dependent upon firewood to supply their energy needs and ninety percent of the people in the poorest countries depend upon it as their chief source of fuel.

What better way is there to solve the firewood problem than by planting fast growing trees that will not only produce firewood but also food and fodder? Some of the most suitable trees for this purpose are also valuable honey producing trees that have nitrogen fixing properties which will support grasses.

The growing of trees could make a community almost self‑sufficient. A large proportion of the honey produced in tropical areas comes from trees, in contrast to the temperate regions where it is produced mostly from forage crops. Some of these, such as Prosopis species will produce food for humans and fodder for animals within three to five years from seed, even under arid conditions. It can be thinned for firewood and will support the growth of dryland grasses. Moreover, the trees will support a traditional income from beekeeping in the form of honey and beeswax. Work in Kenya has shown that beekeeping can in many cases double or triple the family income, with no requirement for land and very little investment. With suitable infrastructure, no investment was needed at all.

The trees in Table 1 are the most suitable for this purpose.Many of these trees are very adaptable to dryland conditions where the problem is most acute. For additional information consult the book Firewood Crops volumes 1 and 2 [National Academy of Sciences 2101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C.20418, USA].

Table 1. Honey producing trees suitable for multiple uses.

Species Name

Common Name

Other Uses

A. Humid Areas

Avicennia nitida

Calliandra calothyrsus

Gliricidia sepium

Gmelina arborea

Guazuma ulmifolia

Lagunc­ularia racemosa

Syzygium cumini

White mangrove Red calliandra




Black mangrove

Java plum

Firewood, animal fodder, fast­‑growing.

Firewood, fencing, animal fodder.

Firewood, timber.

Firewood, timber, animal fodder, edible fruit.

Excellent charcoal.

Resins, tannin, pulp.

Firewood, shade.

B.Tropical Highlands

Eucalyptus globulus

Grevillea robusta

Inga vera

Southern blue gum

Silk oak


Firewood, tools, poles, pulp.

Firewood, cabinet wood, shade for coffee or tea.

Firewood, furniture, shade, food, seed pulp.

C.Arid Regions

Acacia senegal

Acacia tortilis

Albizia lebbek

Albizia citriodora

Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Eucalyptus citriodora

Pithecellobium dulce


P. pallida

P. juliflora

Gum acacia

Umbrella thorn

East Indian walnut


Red gum

Spotted gum

Manila tamarind


River algarrobo

Charcoal, poles, implements, gum arabic, animal fodder, food ‑‑ dried seeds.

Firewood, fence posts, animal fodder.Fast growing.

Firewood, furniture, animal fodder. Tolerates salt.

Firewood, poles, railroad ties, citronella.

Firewood, excellent charcoal, termite‑resistant wood, pulp.

Firewood, posts, general construction, fodder, food ‑‑ pods.

Firewood, posts, general construction, fodder, food ‑‑ pods.

Firewood, fence posts, fodder ‑‑ leaves & seeds, food ‑‑ seeds, erosion control.

Fast growing, tolerates salt and arid conditions up to 300 meter elevation.

Tolerates very arid regions up to 1500 meters. May become a weed.

Notes on Prosopis

There still seems to be considerable confusion over the proper name for the Prosipis varieties. I would suggest you obtain Prosopis chilensis or P. pallida. P. pallida is very suitable when it is lowland near the coast as long as the elevation is under 300 meters. P. chilensis will grow at much higher elevations. As far as I can gather, P. juliflora would be the best for the very dry zone areas, although some claim that it has weed character­istics similar to the mesquite. This would not matter in the desert or semi‑desert areas of Africa where anything that will grow is suitable. It is certainly adaptable to those areas with its deep roots and low rainfall requirements.

It is generally recognized that what is needed most in the desert or semi‑desert areas of the tropics is a plant which will grow under difficult circumstances with low water requirements that will grow quite fast and have multiple uses. I know of no plant which suits this purpose better than P. juliflora. It is still recognized as the most important plant that was ever introduced into Hawaii. The introduction of Prosopis juliflora, sometimes called P. pallida, into Hawaii made this area the world's largest producers of honey in the early 1930's.

Over 1,000 hectares of P. juliflora have been introduced into the coastal desert of Piura in Chile. It is recommended that plants be established about 16‑17 m (50 feet) apart. Because it is the not the best source of food for livestock when used alone, it is suggested that between the plantings drought‑resistant grasses should be planted. Grasses grow well under Prosopis as it provides both humus and nitrogen. In the Chilean situation, land containing the planting was turned over to the families living on the project site within three years of its establishment. It was estimated that it would be in full production by the end of the fifth year. Sheep were introduced after trees had grown sufficiently that loss of their small branches will not interfere with production of the pods. There are two harvests a year for seed and correspondingly two crops for honey and wax.

To propagate these trees, the seeds must be placed on a screen and boiling water poured over them. Otherwise they will not germinate satisfactorily. If this is done, they should germinate within a few days.

Other Honey Producing Plants

Table 2 lists other important honey producing plants.


Table 2. Other important tropical honey producing plants.

Species Name

Common Name

Acacia sp.

A. drepanolobium

A. mellifera

A. zanthophloea

Actinodaphne angustifolia

Alseodaphne semecarpifolia

Antigonon leptopus

Berberis lycium

Brassica spp.

Cajanus cajun

Carvia callosa

Conocarpus erectus

Coriandrum sativum

Croton megalocarpus

Dombeya goetzenii

Eucalyptus spp.

E. camaldulensis

E. melliodora

E. robusta

E. sideroxylon

Eugenia jambos

Gmelina arborea

Gouania lupuloides

Hevea brasiliensis

Lepedagathis cuspidata

Litchi chinesis

Lysiloma bahamensis

Madhuka indica

Mimosa domingensis

Nephelium litchi

Pegnamia pinnata

Plectranthus rugosus

Premna coriacea

Prosopis spp.

P. chilensis

Rivea corymobsa

Sapindus laurifolius

S. mukerossi

Schefflera spp.

Sesamum indicum

Synadenium grantii

Tamarindus indica

Terminalia alata

T. arjuna

T. bellerica

T. chebula

Thelepaepale ixicocephala






Coral vine



Pigeon pea






Red gum

Yellow box

Swamp mahogany

Red ironbark

Rose apple


Indian vine

Para rubber tree



Wild tamarind

Common mohwah



Indian beech


Firebrand teak




Soap nut

Soap nut



African milk bush



Winged myrobalan

Belleric myrobalan

Chebulic myrobalan