Africa’s Indigenous Fruit Trees: A Blessing in Decline
For probably as long as people have lived in Africa, they have eaten culturally and traditionally important indigenous fruits such as baobab, desert date, black plum, and tamarind. Farmers have been able to enjoy the fruit of these plentiful wild trees without developing any knowledge of how to propagate them successfully; they haven’t needed to.
However, the trees’ natural habitats are being lost, mainly to widespread deforestation resulting from population growth, the cutting of trees for firewood or charcoal, and in some cases industrial agriculture or other business interests. With this loss, questions arise over where the trees will grow in the future, if at all—and whether they will continue to provide the same wide range of benefits if they do survive.
Fruits native to the African continent offer nutrients that often come up short in local diets, and they grow on trees that provide a range of ecosystem services. But deforestation is threatening Africa’s indigenous fruit trees.