Million-dollar boost to the people and biodiversity of West Africa

24 February 2010 | News story

An IUCN initiative that works to improve the livelihoods of people in West Africa has received a major boost in the form of a CHF 1.9 million grant from Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The rainforests of West, Central and Eastern Africa are the source of a commodity which is bringing both economic growth and biodiversity benefits to the region. An edible oil from the seeds of the indigenous Allanblackia tree is being used as an alternative for palm oil as a base for products ranging from margarine to soap, and has huge market potential.

In 2003, with the help of IUCN, a public-private partnership was formed to ensure that commercial development of Allanblackia, from harvest to market, is carried out fairly and sustainably to benefit both people and nature. Internationally the partnership includes IUCN, the World Agroforestry Centre, Technoserve, Novel International and Unilever, whilst at the country level, partnerships of NGOs and private companies are also supporting sustainable development of the supply chain.

Based on the achievements of the first phase of the project, a second phase has been designed to support the scale-up in production of Allanblackia oil, putting systems in place to ensure the business is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. A key focus is on improving access to markets for local people. The grant from SECO will be used to further explore the potential for Allanblackia markets for the benefit of rural producers and to make the links with forest restoration in the region.

In Ghana alone, there are about 4,000 Allanblackia collectors. It is expected that by 2012, 20,000 individuals will be supplying Allanblackia oil in five countries generating a potential total rural income of US$ 2 million. This translates into an average small-scale farmer earning an additional US$ 100 per year. On the biodiversity front, each tree provides an ‘anchor’, helping to restore forest landscapes.

The Allanblackia partnership is supported by IUCN’s Livelihoods and Landscapes initiative through education programmes and awareness-raising of the need for sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products. In Western Ghana, a tree nursery and ownership certification programme have been established with the Forest Service Division aiming to increase tree cover and connect agricultural and forested areas.

IUCN is now working with partners in Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon and Liberia to mirror the success experienced in Ghana and share ‘best practice’ that will guide the development of the Allanblackia business across Africa.

For more information contact:

Chris Buss
Programme Officer, IUCN Forest Conservation Programme
t. +41 22 999 0265
e. chris.buss@iucn.org