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Food tree species constitute an important subset of the tree species that Bioversity International scientists study.

Many wild tree species yield fruits, nuts and other food products and that are important for the livelihoods of rural men and women.

Tree food products complement agricultural crops in several important ways that enhance nutrition and food security.

Research highlights

Conserving a valuable medicinal tree

Bioversity scientists worked with a team of African and Austrian scientists to analyze and map the diversity of African cherry (Prunus africana) to define conservation priorities.

The species is of great commercial interest due to the preparation of medicinal products from its bark to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy and as a result, has been over-exploited in much of its range in the mountainous areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Its high genetic diversity is threatened as the number of trees are steadily diminished, reducing current and future economic opportunities for rural communities.

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Shea tree - the tree of life

Shea butter is perhaps best known by consumers in the West in the form of an ultra-nourishing cream sold by cosmetics retailers like The Body Shop and L’Occitane. Yet, for women in rural villages across West Africa it is much more than a simple beauty product.

The authors of the recently-published 'Negotiating Across Difference: Gendered Exclusions and Cooperation in the Shea Value Chain' highlight that although there is interest in improving prospects for producers in international value chains, little attention is being focused on how differences among producers can enable some, but not others, to benefit from value chain opportunities.

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Fruit tree and tree crop diversity

For more than 30 years, Bioversity International has worked closely with fruit tree and tree crop professionals and farmers around the world to share experiences, challenges, and new methods and approaches regarding the integration of diverse knowledge sources, the cross-fertilization of ideas, and the co-production of new innovations in tropical and Central Asian fruit trees, cacao and coconut.

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Pamir Biological Institute, Kyrgyz Agrarian University, Research and Production Association 'Bogparvar' (Tajikistan), Garrygala Research and Production Centre on Plant Genetic Resources of Research Institute of Farming (Turkmenistan), the Institute of Genetics and Plant Experimental Biology (Uzbekistan), Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology, the Government of the Netherlands, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement, Centre national de recherche agronomique (CNRA, Cote d’Ivoire), Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery Industries of Europe, the European Cocoa Association and the Federation of Cocoa Commerce Limited, Cocoa Research (UK) Ltd., Cocoa Research Association Ltd., Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, Comissão Executiva do Plano da Lavoura Cacaueira/Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau (Brazil), Corporación Colombiana de Investigación Agropecuaria, Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola, Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, Instituto de Cultivos Tropicales (Peru), Instituto Nacional Autónomo de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (Ecuador), International Cocoa Organization, International Cocoa Quarantine Centre, University of Reading, Malaysian Cocoa Board, Mars Global Chocolate, Mondelez International, Nestlé, United States Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Tropical Agriculture Research Station, Universidad Nacional Agraria de la Selva (Peru), Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cuzco (Peru), World Cocoa Foundation.

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Related research

Related publications - African Food Tree species leaflet series