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Jérôme Duminil presents the ARBOPOLIS project

Jérôme Duminil presents the ARBOPOLIS project co-financed by Agropolis Fondation: "Strengthening livelihoods, food security and nutrition in Central Africa through the development of local fruit trees".

In Central Africa, indigenous fruit tree species (IFTS) offer a great opportunity for developing sustainable diets and food supply chains. However, IFTS contribution to development objectives is constrained by lack of scientific knowledge.

What were the objectives of this project?

Arbopolis will contribute to strengthening African poor people’s livelihoods through better knowledge, promotion and harnessing of IFTS, using a participatory approach centered on the main project stakeholders as active agents and researchers, within a multi-disciplinary framework. The project focuses on a socio-economically important IFTS, Dacryodes edulis (Burseraceae) more commonly known as the African plum tree or safoutier/prunier in French. ARBOPOLIS aims to : (i) acquire a better knowledge of the species for its promotion and sustainable management; (ii) develop public awareness activities on the interplay between human management practices and species diversity.

What actions have you taken?

The project aims to characterize:

  • (i) safou’s value chain;
  • (ii) the heterogeneity of management practices, uses, consumer demand, and cultural values across geographical areas and socio-cultural/ethnic groups;
  • (iii) the different ethnovarieties recognized by locals;
  • (iv) species’ genetic diversity along the rural-urban continuum;
  • (v) the nutritional/sensory profiling of safou fruits from main ethnovarieties;
  • (vi) the acceptability and preferences for different safou fruit varieties with rural and urban consumers.

Besides getting new knowledge, Arbopolis will strengthen stakeholders’ engagement in urban agroforestry through co-production of knowledge, awareness raising and social learning for IFTS contributing to local diets, by collaborating with safou’s value chain actors, including municipalities and primary/secondary schools from Yaoundé.

What results did you achieve?

African plum trees are economically and culturally important for Cameroonians. Fruits can be cooked in different ways. During the fruiting season, up to 10 fruits can be consumed per day by locals. Consuming 6 fruits covers one fifth of proteins and lipid daily intakes, and more than 50% of mineral needs for Zinc, Magnesium and Copper.

Many varieties are recognized predominantly based on fruit morphology (size, colour, shape). 25 sensory descriptors were defined by a panelist and used to characterize consumer preferences. Generally, consumers prefer big and non-acid fruits.

A rich nomenclature is used by local people to name the fruits, and these names are often related to fruit morphology (size, skin color) and taste. Most often seeds used for plantation are not coming from farmers’ own field, but are given by a neighbor or are coming from the market. In the city of Yaoundé, seeds used for plantation frequently come from more than 50 km away.

The genetic diversity of the species is quite homogeneously distributed across the country, suggesting a large seed exchange network with no strong barrier related to ethnicity. African plum trees planted in the city present a large genetic diversity background, equivalent to what can be found in urban areas. This illustrates the role played by urbanites on species genetic diversity dynamic


Jérôme Duminil IRD

Network research unit : Diade

Scientific partners : CIRAD, Université de Dschang, Université de Yaoundé, IRAD, Bioversity International, AVENIR

Agropolis Fondation