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The role of government and community leaders in domestication and protection of the Shea tree in Nigeria.

E.C Okolo
C.C Okolo
L.O Enaberue


The shea tree is very important to people of its area of distribution. The significance of the shea tree results from its excellent ecological role in the ecosystems which support it. It also serves a multiplicity of uses for a variety of stakeholders ranging from the socio-cultural, nutritional, medicinal and the economic. The significance of the shea tree to local populations was documented as early as 1797. During the 1970s and 1980s, more and more of the shea trees were cut and their regeneration disrupted by fire and grazing. But in recent years, there has been a revival of the practice of protecting, domesticating and managing shea trees, as people became increasingly concerned about the lack of trees near their homes and the socio-economic losses due to destruction of shea trees. From this time on, research on the shea tree has been characterized by the intermittent nature of the activities, the isolation of the stakeholders from one another resulting in a weak level of domestication of the species. Nonetheless, important scientific experiences have been gained in the socio-economy of the species, on the processes of transformation, the distribution of the species and its genetic diversity as well as in its management in the parkland systems. This paper outlines the factors that need to be considered when planning, developing and implementing local resource management strategies. It is argued that a successful community-based management of shea resources requires a greater recognition of the role that local communities can play in conserving, domesticating and managing shea trees.

Key words: Shea tree, domestication, protection, community leaders