Commercialization

For the success of a domestication program, there must be markets for the products. Many of the products from tropical trees are already sold on local and regional markets, and a few have broken through into the international marketplace. For example, while the pulp of the bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis) is eaten fresh, its extracted kernels and those of the related species, I. wombolu, are traded regionally throughout the year. From Cameroon, this trade extends to Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon (Falconer, 1990; Ndoye, 1995). Similarly, the trade of kola nuts extends from humid zone countries of West Africa up into the dry zone where there is a big demand by the Muslim community (Falconer, 1990). Chewing sticks likewise are traded northwards in West Africa, with a street value put on the trade from Kumasi market in Ghana of about U.S. $9 million/year (Falconer, 1992). Again, in Cameroon the bark of Prunus africana (Pygeum) is exported to Europe where pharmaceutical products estimated to be worth $150 million/year are produced for worldwide trade and treatment of prostate gland disorders (Cunningham and Mbenkum, 1993). In southern Africa, some indigenous fruits are marketed locally as wines and jams, with a liqueur from Sclerocarya birrea fruits (Amarula) now on the international market. In Amazonia, products from the peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) are also being exported. The palm heart trade has been estimated at around $50 million/year (Clement and Villachica, 1994), with the fruits also having a similar value.

Commercialization is both necessary and potentially harmful to farmers. Without it the market for products is small. On the other hand, it is potentially harmful to rural people if it expands to the point that outsiders with capital to invest come in and develop large-scale monocultural plantations for export markets.

Leakey and Izac (1996) have examined some of the issues requiring consideration to ensure the economic viability of small-scale production and under what conditions small-scale production can be competitive with large-scale production.

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