‘Tis the season for frankincense, a suitable restoration tree for the Horn of Africa

There’s one more reason to be jolly this season: the frankincense tree—source of one of the precious gifts of the Magi in the Christmas story—is being called “a suitable tree species for use in dryland restoration under a changing climate.”

Bag of Frankincense at Spice Souk. Photo by Liz Lawley via Wikimedia Commons

Based on studies on frankincense trees (Bosweillia neglecta) from southern Ethiopia, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partner researchers are calling for this tree’s expanded application in the restoration of drylands in the Horn of Africa.

In this region, covering Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and parts of northern Kenya, frankincense is tapped from Bosweillia and several other dryland trees found naturally in dry tropical forests and woodlands. When injured, the bark exudes a fragrant watery sap, which is collected and left to harden into the frankincense resin. Bosweillia neglecta tree produces a particular, earthy frankincense known as ‘Borena type’.

An important commodity, frankincense is used in pharmacology, as a flavouring, in cosmetics and in perfumery, and is traded locally and internationally. The incense is used in many religious and cultural ceremonies around the world; indeed, no Ethiopian coffee ceremony is complete without the sweet, heady aroma frankincense releases when heated over hot coals.Read more

 

Put Soils First, African Soil Seminar concludes

Group photo. The African Soil Seminar brought together government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates. Photo by IISD

For three days, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) was abuzz with stakeholders concerned about the state and fate of Africa’s soils. Over 150 government, UN and NGO officials, researchers, agricultural technology providers and human rights advocates were attending the first ever African Soils Seminar, 28 – 30 November 2016.

“Soils are the basis of our survival,” said the co-chair Wanjira Mathai, who directs wPOWER Hub and chairs the Green Belt Movement founded by her mother Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Read more. . .

What will it take to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa?

The challenge is massive, but so is the promise. Healing 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land in Africa will bring countless benefits: fresh air and water, food and energy —the very stuff of survival. It will also build people’s climate resilience, and contribute in a big way to global climate change mitigation goals.

Land restoration aims to bring back ecological functionality to degraded ecosystems. It can be achieved by introducing or allowing trees to grow on landscapes and using sustainable land management techniques such as terracing steep hillsides, minimizing tillage and building structures to stop soil erosion. Curbing free-grazing of livestock and managing water also support land restoration. Read more. . .

Two books launched at ICRAF Science Week 2016

Kimutai Maritim, the Assistant Director of Veterinary Services in Kenya, was the chief guest at the launch of Traditional ethnoveterinary medicine in East Africa: a manual on the use of medicinal plants.

A veterinary epidemiologist with long experience in the Kenya livestock sector, Maritim congratulated the authors on the publication. He said the book was timely and important, and it described important plant species, some of which may be facing local extinction in Kenya. Read more. . .

What makes a farmer grow a tree? It depends.

Is it enough to recommend tree species to farmers? Or even to supply them with the right seedlings and advice on growing them?

Across Africa bold campaigns, such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), are underway to get more trees into farming landscapes, as a means to restore land, protect watersheds, and meet people’s food and energy demands sustainably. The success of these programs will be greatly influenced by farmers’ decisions to plant, keep and nurture the trees for the long haul. And as it turns out, these decisions depend heavily on the ecological and socio-economic realities farmers find themselves in, which vary widely. Read more. . .

In Kenya, farmers see early rewards from adding legumes and trees to their farms

Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF
Jane Achieng displays bean varieties at Piny Oyie market at the Suna West site, Kenya. Photo by Danyell Odhiambo/ICRAF

Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.

Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs. Read more. . .

Success factors for land and water management in Africa

At present, large expanses of land in rural Africa are degraded as a result of over extraction of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal. The problem is exacerbated by poor crop and animal husbandry practices, such as growing crops in unsuitable ecological zones and on steep slopes, as well as unplanned grazing on Africa’s vast rangelands. Soils in degraded landscapes erode and lose their biodiversity and fertility, and the hydrologic functions of surrounding watersheds are diminished, leading to loss of water quantity and quality; land and water management, after all, are two sides of the same coin.

Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT
Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT. Photo by Stephanie Malyon / CIAT. www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/?p=7981

A side event convened by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) at the seventh Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW7) sought to share knowledge on how to better manage the continent’s water and land resources, as a means to support higher and more sustainable agricultural productivity and better livelihoods for people. The session contributed recommendations to the just-ended conference convened in Kigali by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, FARA, the apex continental organization responsible for coordinating and advocating for agricultural research-for-development. Read more. . .

The right tree for the right place: vegetationmap4africa v2 includes smartphone app

Tree enthusiasts on the move can now identify species as they go, and at the same time gain a deeper understanding of their natural environment, thanks to a new version of vegetationmap4africa (www.vegetationmap4africa.org).

Field testing of the new vegetationmap4Africa App. Photo by Roeland Kindt/ICRAF
Field testing of the new vegetationmap4Africa App. Photo by Roeland Kindt/ICRAF

The new version of the map (ver. 2.0), which has been developed by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the University of Copenhagen and partners, was launched on 7 September 2015 at the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban. The map is expected to help those involved in landscape restoration to make better decisions on suitable tree and shrub species to.. Read more…