Studies have shown that Ghana is endowed with diverse indigenous edible fruit trees (Boateng et al., 2005). These fruit trees have not received the needed attention from researchers. Nonetheless the fruits are enjoyed by people when in season. The popular ones among these fruits like Chrysophyllum albidum, Vitex doniana, Irvingia gabonensis and Dacryodes klaineana have markets in both rural and urban areas. Some of the fruits have received some form of domestication and are grown for income and nutrition.
Indigenous fruits could play a great role in the rural economy of West and Central Africa (Leakey et al., 2003). Naylor et al. (2004) in a study found that some orphan crops like tef, indigenous vegetables and fruits tend to be locally important but little attention is given to these by public or private investment. Strychnos spinosa, a fruit tree indigenous to tropical and sub-tropical Africa, has been introduced into Israel as a potential new commercial crop (Yaron et al., 2003).
The potential of edible wild fruits can be harnessed directly or indirectly (Osman et al., 1997). These potentials include the use as new fruit trees, multipurpose trees, rootstocks and sources of germplasm for breeding to improve the present cultivated fruits. Most of these fruit trees can be used in agro-forestry systems.
Tchiegang et al. (1999) reported that five wild fruits; Annona senegalensis, Syzygium guineense, Vitex madiensis, Vitex doniana and Ximenia americana were found to contain higher Fe contents than oranges and grapefruits. The five fruits were rich in sugars but relatively poor in vitamin C.
Indigenous edible wild fruits are enjoyed by people especially those in the rural areas. Some of the fruits like Chrysophyllum albidum and Vitex doniana, when in season are sold in both the rural and urban markets. Unfortunately most of these fruits are not researched into. To do effective domestication, cultivation and commercialization of these plants, they have to be collected, germinated, conserved and the plants studied.
Although most indigenous edible wild fruits get matured and ripen in the dry season, quite a substantial number of them fruit in the wet season (June-September). It was to capture edible wild fruit tree species that fruit during the wet season that a collection trip was organized in August 2005. The trip covered the forest areas of 3 Regions of Ghana namely, Central, Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
A collecting expedition for edible wild fruits was undertaken in August 2005
in Central, Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions of Ghana to collect edible wild
fruits that are in season during the wet season (Fig. 1).
Collection of edible wild fruits and nuts was undertaken in identified towns
and villages bordering forest reserves and other considerably large forests
in the Ashanti, Central and Brong-Ahafo regions of Ghana.
|| Location of collection sites for edible fruits in Brong Ahafo
Ashanti and Central Regions of Ghana
In each of the 3 regions, the Regional Forestry Officer was contacted for information
on the number of forest reserves in the region and the Districts in which they
are found. In a District containing a forest reserve, the District Forestry
Officer was contacted to know the locations of the forest reserve, other forests,
towns and villages bordering the forests. This was supplemented with information
from the local people and a list of the towns and villages bordering the forests
was compiled and sampled for visits. Towns and villages on the fringes of forests
were targeted because of experiences from earlier missions to collect fruits
and nuts. Towns and villages of at least 5 km apart were selected from the list
sampled and visited.
Collection of edible wild fruits had been undertaken during the dry season and there was the need to collect those that are in season during the wet season.
Information on edible wild fruits at the various sites they were found was collected through the administration of structured questionnaires, interviews as well as group discussions.
Regarding germplasm, fruits that had fallen onto the ground from tall trees were collected. For medium size trees, small trees and shrubs, fruits from the basal, middle and upper parts were collected. Fruits from each plant were taken as one accession. These were accompanied by a voucher herbarium specimen. Passport data on latitude, longitude, altitude, drainage, associated plant species and population size among others were recorded.
The fruit samples collected were kept in moist sawdust in polythene bags. The seeds were depulped 1-2 days after arrival at the base station. The seeds were sown after being given various treatments to enhance germination.
Four accessions were collected from Central Region and six accessions were
collected each from Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions to bring the total number
of accessions collected to 16 (Table 1). Out of the 16 accessions
there were 13 different species.
On the habits of the plants there were four shrubs, two climbers and ten trees
(Table 1). Of the climbers one was woody and the other was
herbaceous. There was one tall tree, six medium size trees and three small trees
bringing the number of trees to ten.
Regarding the habitats of the fruit trees, one tall tree Aningeria altissima
was found on top of a high mountain in a forest reserve where there were many
stands of the species. Two of the shrubs were also found in forest reserves
bringing the total number of plants found forest reserves to 3. Seven of the
trees comprising of small and medium size ones were found in food crop farms,
cash crop farms or in a home garden (Table 1). The two accessions
of Myrianthus arboreus GH7768 and GH7777 were found in fallow lands whilst
Salacia pyriformis was found in a secondary forest.
|| Habits and habitats of Edible Wild fruit trees in 3 Regions
Locations of edible wild fruits collected in 3 Regions
Edible wild fruits collected in the Brong-Ahafo Region were found in the western
part of the region on latitude 07°N and longitude 002°W. Location of
wild fruit trees in Central Region were found in latitude 05°N, longitude
001°W whist those in Ashanti Region were found in latitude 05°N
, longitude 001°W (Table 2 and Fig.
The habitats of the edible wild fruit trees are of interest given the need to have the plants improved. It is also interesting to note that out of the 16 accessions collected, only 3 were found in reserved forest and the rest found at places where the land had been cultivated before (fallow land, secondary forests) or where the lands were under cultivation (food crop farms, cash crop farms, home garden). This shows that edible wild fruit trees are recognized as important and were being given some form of domestication (Aiyelaabge, 1998). For those found in fallow lands or secondary forests it shows the importance to the farmers. In these land uses, the land had been cultivated before and allowed to fallow. The farmers did not destroy the plants when they were cultivating the land (Foudon and Manga, 2000). This also agrees with an observation by Cruz and Casas (2002) on Poleskia chende in Central America that there is artificial selection and sparing of desirable phenotypes of the wild edible fruit trees during vegetative clearing of the land for cultivation. Some of these might have been planted intentionally during the period of cultivation. Again for farmers to know the locations of these fruit trees shows the importance and the intimate knowledge of these plants to them (Styger et al., 1999).
It is also interesting to note that most of the fruit trees found in farms or in home gardens were either small or medium sized making the fruits easier to be harvested than from tall trees. Small trees were found below the lower canopy of the forest. Medium trees were found in the middle and lower canopies of the forest. Tall trees were those found in the upper canopy. The places visited for the collection of edible wild fruits were in the semi-deciduous rain forest areas.
It can be seen from Table 2 that the places visited in the
3 regions had different latitudes. Central region was found in latitude 05°N,
Ashanti Region, latitude 06°N and Brong-Ahafo Region, latitude 07°N.
This did not limit finding common plants like Spondias mombin
in all the 3 latitudes.
From the study it can be concluded that Ghana has diverse edible indigenous fruit trees which need to be exploited for nutrition and income generation. It is also seen from the study that these plants are important to the farmers and so some are found in their farms and home gardens showing that some form of domestication was taking place in some of the fruit trees. The fruit trees are used as traditional agroforestry trees in the farmers farms thereby helping to maintain forest cover.
This study was supported with funds from the Agricultural Services Subsector Investment Project (AgSSIP). We are also grateful to the Government officials, chiefs and people of the towns and villages visited for granting us access to their forests and farms and also helping us locate and identify some of the edible wild fruits.