Socio-economic potentials and threats to the African walnut in tropical lowland rainforests of southwest Nigeria
The African walnut, Plukenetia conophora Mull-Arg (Syn. Tetracarpidium conophorum) is an important climber species that contributes immensely to food security and poverty alleviation in communities within the humid tropical forests of West and Central Africa. However, the challenges facing its year-round availability have not been fully documented and precise data on its contributions to livelihoods of forest dependent households is lacking. Therefore, this work was carried out to fill this knowledge gap as well as make suggestions on ways to promote the use and sustainable development of this valuable product. Snowball and simple random sampling techniques were used to collect data from harvesters (8) and marketers (51) within and around Omo and Shasha Forest Reserves, Southwest Nigeria. Data obtained were analysed by means of descriptive and inferential test statistics. An estimated 30.01kg of African walnut was extracted per month between May-September each year in Omo and Shasha Forest Reserves, contributing about ₦615,833.30 to the rural economies of both areas. About 17.0% of respondents generated income between ₦11,000.00 - ₦20,000.00 per month, representing up to 50.0% of their monthly income during production period. Factors and threats affecting product availability were: seasonality (64.3%), destruction of parent plants (28.6%), consumption of nuts by wild animals (28.6%), pest and diseases infestation (7.1%), and spoilage during storage (7.1%). Income generated by respondents were impacted by sex (χ2 = 7.714, df = 2, p = 0.021), level of education (χ2 = 8.476, df = 2, p = 0.014) and trading experience (r = 2.413; p = 0.019). An improvement in the production, processing and marketing of African walnut will better the living conditions and enhance the status of both harvesters and marketers. These will have multiplier effects on the conservation of the available germplasm in the wild.
Keywords: African walnut; NTFPs; household income; tropical lowland rainforest