Towards the development of Miombo Fruit Trees as commercial Tree Crops in Southern Africa
Summary Many rural households rely on indigenous fruit trees as sources of cash and subsistence in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), but until recently there has been little effort to cultivate, improve or add value to these fruits. Since 1989 the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF: now the World Agroforestry Centre) initiated research-and-development work on more than 20 priority indigenous fruit trees in five SADC countries aimed at improving income in rural communities. A participatory approach was used in all stages of their domestication, product development and commercialization. Country-specific priority species were identified in five countries based on discussions with a wide range of users. These species have now become the focus of a regional tree domestication programme. An impact analysis indicates that a robust domestication programme will create incentives for farmer-led investment in the cultivation of indigenous fruit trees, as an alternative to wild fruit collection, especially where there is a decrease in fruit abundance. In Zimbabwe, the returns to family labour of collecting wild fruits are two to three times greater than other farming activities. These returns will be further increased by domestication.