Strengthening African livelihoods, food and nutrition security using indigenous fruit tree species
Strengthening the livelihood of African rural and urban people using indigenous fruit tree species requires acquiring new knowledge on (i) the inter-relationship between human behaviours (management practices and consumer choices) and genetic, nutritional and sensory diversity of the species; (ii) the contribution of fruit tree species on diet and food security.
Background and motivation
Driven by urban consumer demand, selective pressure from farmers and consumers for food tree species is weakening their genetic bases. This affects food tree species’ adaptiveness to withstand environmental changes. Our work focuses on a key food tree species in Cameroon, Dacryodes edulis. More than half the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, likely rising to 70% by 2050. This challenges food supply and security. Establishing resilient food systems by integrating/strengthening rural-urban linkages would benefit both smallholders and the urban poor. Fruit tree species are a key component of food systems, where exotic/indigenous fruit tree species (IFTS) are key elements of urban agriculture. Trees are important in increasing cities’ resilience by boosting climate change mitigation and adaptation, yet they attract scant attention. IFTS are often critical for local livelihoods/ecosystems. However threats such as deforestation and climate change call for establishing sustainable IFTS management strategies. Cameroon had >70% urban population increase 2005 -2015 and 18% forest-cover loss 1990 - 2010. Achieving sustainable tree/forest management needs characterization and impact assessment of current management practices including aspects of species’ adaptive capacity linked to their genetic diversity. IFTS contributions to diet and health and consumer demand are also poorly understood. ‘Arbopolis’ will characterize interplays between human practices, genetic diversity and sensory/nutritional aspects along the rural-urban continuum in Cameroon, focusing on an economically-important IFTS: Dacryodes edulis. Management practices differ in different areas, where different genetic profiles prevail. We assume geographically local genetic resources are used when D. edulis trees are planted in rural areas against a range of genetic resources in urban areas, originating in various villages and/or brought to cities through market chains and/or from local sourcing from pre-existing forests. At each level, selection occurs and farmers’ and consumers’ choices strongly influence IFTS management. Species’ contribution to diets also depends on people’s sociocultural status and household position along the rural-urban gradient. Planters and consumers are thus key actors in shaping the genetic makeup of species. Understanding relationships between management practices, genetic diversity and consumer preferences will help to sustainably manage genetic resources, allowing adaptable/resilient food systems.
People, especially urbanites should be environmentally sensitized and especially to the role of indigenous fruit tree species in strengthening their livelihoods. Arbopolis will work with Yaoundé municipality and schools to raise environmental awareness. Setting up/running a school garden will be part of awareness-raising, also generating extension opportunities, by providing seedlings for home gardens/public areas to improve quality of urban life.
Project financed by the Agropolis Foundation (2017-2019).
Project partners: Jérôme Duminil (project's coordinator, UMR DIADE, IRD); Geneviève Fliedel (UMR QUALISUD, CIRAD); Christèle Vernière & Claire Mouquet (UMR NUTRIPASS, IRD); Stéphanie Carrière (UMR GRED, IRD); Marie-Louise Avana & Hilaire Macaire Womeni (Dschang University); Abdon Awono (AVENIR); Mesmin Tchindjang (Yaoundé University); Joseph Fumtim (IRD); Jean Kuate (IRAD); Barbara Vinceti and Marlène Elias (Bioversity International).