Allanblackia I

Allanblackia, Standard Setting & Sustainable Supply Chain Management Project

Phase I: March 2005 – June 2008 
Project Coordinator: Samuel KOFI NYAME
Location: Ghana

Project objective: 
The objective of the project was to contribute towards the sustainable development and trade of a new forest-based commodity i.e. the oil of the seeds produced by the Allanblackia tree, liable to promote economic development locally and nationally in Ghana. This was expected to be achieved by diversifying income sources, improving livelihoods of poor rural communities and fostering sustainable tropical forest management in Ghana. The specific objective of the project was to provide instruments to guide sustainable collection of Allanblackia seeds as well as the equitable sharing of benefits among stakeholders.

Project location and partners:
For coordination purposes, the project headquarters was located in Accra, Ghana but implemented in five target communities, namely: (1) Mpataho, (2) Appeasuman Kwafokrom, (3) Wassa Berekum, (4) Simpa, and (5) Mmerewa. Direct technical partners included FORIG, ICA and Technoserve, with occasional technical collaboration from Unilever.

Distribution and description of Allanblackia
The genus Allanblackia, belonging to the Clusiaceae family (which worldwide contains ~ 40 genera), appears to consist of nine (possibly 10) tree species, all restricted to Africa. Taxonomy within the genus appears somewhat complex, with some species having numerous synonyms, and the divisions between taxa are indeterminate; to help delineate the relationships and boundaries between species, molecular genetic studies are currently underway, though no results are yet available. All members of the genus are apparently dioecious (separate male and female trees), with trees being single stemmed, up to 40 m tall, with whorled branches, long-lived and long-fruiting, and the biggest fruit of all plants in African rainforest (particularly A. stuhlmannii).

According to recent review (2002 onwards) of available literature (including of previous botanical inventories) and herbarium specimens, combined with selected field surveys initiated by Unilever as part of the Novella Project, Allanblackia species are mainly distributed in the wet evergreen rainforest (and, sometimes, surrounding farmland) of the lowlands of Sierra Leone, along the Gulf of Guinea, through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to the uplands of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. The names and current known distributions of the nine presently determined species of Allanblackia are given in Table 1. Two members of the genus appear to be endemic to DRC and two to Tanzania. In some cases, the distribution of species is sympatric (that is, distributions are very proximate or overlap on a local scale; examples are A. floribunda and A. stanerana in Cameroon, and A. stuhlmannii and A. ulugurensis in Tanzania). Also shown in Table 1 is the conservation status of species according to IUCN reports; three species (A. gabonensis, A. stuhlmannii and A. ulugurensis; the last two endemic to the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania) are considered vulnerable in status, due to habitat loss and degradation and/or small initial population areas.

Inventories of the densities of Allanblackia trees through the range of the genus are patchy (only certain geographic areas covered) and surveys are ongoing, but at some of those sites for which data are currently available, species can (especially in wetter areas) be found at high stand densities (including of mature individuals, for example in some Tanzanian forests), sometimes being one of the dominant trees. In addition, at a subset of locations, it is observed that Allanblackia trees are retained when other forest trees are cleared, possibly for local use of the oil or to attract bush meat, and are sometimes apparently retained in niches less favourable for crop production; this means that reasonable densities of remnants can sometimes be found in farmland after forest cutting. Although Tanzanian stands can reach high densities, the actual overall size of the Allanblackia resource in Tanzania appears to be fairly limited, because of the relatively small geographic areas in which the genus grows (the small mountains of the Eastern Arc).

The above observations on natural stand density and farmland retention of trees indicated good potential at a number of locations across west, central, and east Africa for initiating harvesting programmes for Allanblackia, although it seems likely that inventories have sometimes overestimated fruit availability. This appears to be due to a number of reasons, possibly including insufficient attention to the issue of dioecy (~ half only of mature trees are likely to fruit), possible masting (year-to-year variation in fruit production) and the patchy nature of tree distributions.

Table 1. Allanblackia species and their apparent distributions



Status of species (IUCN) 
A. floribunda  Nigeria to DRC Not listed
A. gabonensis Cameroon, Gabon Vulnerable, habitat loss and degradation (VU A2c)
A kimbilensis DRC (Kivu), Uganda Not listed
A. kisonghi DRC Not listed
A. marienii DRC Not listed
A. parviflora Sierra Leone to Ghana Not listed
A. stanerana  Angola, Cameroon, DRC Not listed
A. stuhlmannii Tanzania (Eastern Arc) Vulnerable, habitat loss and degradation (VU B1+2c)
A. ulugurensis Tanzania (Eastern Arc) Vulnerable, habitat loss and degradation (VU B1+2c)

 The AB tree has several local names in Ghana depending on the region. It is known as Sonkyi in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Western regions; Atrodua in the Eastern region, Osono dokono, kusieadwe or kusieaduane, Apeseaduane and Bohe in the Western region.

The AB tree is very useful because its nuts have a special fatty acid composition of about 60% stearic and 35% oleic acids - giving the oil special physical and nutritional properties and a great potential for use in novel products.

A fully grown matured tree can produce between 25 to 30 kgs of seeds (all things being equal). This may vary from year to year because of the year – year variation in production. The AB nut oil yield is established at 35% and the yield of oil per tree estimated at between 10 – 12 kgs.

In Ghana the AB starts flowering from April, fruits in June and starts dropping from October or November in one year depending on the area till April the following year.

Uses of the AB tree and oil
The AB has many uses. Amongst these are; Nutritional - cooking - alone or mixed with palm kernel oil; making margarine; Medicinal - heated fat smeared on aching joints and wounds (reported too in Tanzania), dried leaves as medicinal tea against chest pains (reported in Tanzania); Energy – fuel wood, fat for lighting; Building materials - timber for building and Others - hunters appreciate the tree as fallen fruits attract a lot of animals, even as the seeds are used as bait in traps for giant rats. Oil from the seeds is also used in soap making even as the tree itself provides shade to wildlife and humans.

Beneficiaries and target audience
At the local level, poor rural communities were targeted, in their role as primary collectors and sellers of Allanblackia seeds in Ghana. They were therefore at the centre of the supply chain model needed for the production and trade of Allanblackia oil and consequently the main target beneficiaries of the project. Additional local beneficiaries included small-scale private sector enterprises, haulage contractors, nurserymen and women, input suppliers and millers. At the national level, the development of a new export commodity was expected to add value to Ghana’s national resources. This would be relevant in promoting pan-African economic development through expected south-south markets, poverty reduction, and sustainable forest management. At the global level, beneficiaries include consumers who would seek to ensure that the supply of edible oil or edible oil-based products was procured from sustainable sources. In this regards, the project sought to address the concerns raised by consumers, retailers including Swiss business interests. For example, considering the negative effects that Oil Palm plantations could have on local biodiversity, this project on the other hand had the potential to contribute to the global public goods by enhancing the overall wellbeing of the tropical forest belt in Africa.

Project Results (Outcomes)

At the end of its implementation cycle, the project had achieved the following five main results:
1. Best-practice guidelines for Allanblackia harvesting were adopted by industry and collectors; 
2. Biological and socioeconomic baselines were established; 
3. Institutional and legal aspects regarding Allanblackia harvesting were clarified; 
4. Allanblackia supply chain was assessed as environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically viable; 
5. Primary producers were trained and made aware of good practice harvesting methods. 

Project organization and implementation structure: The following chart depicts the organizational structure and relationship between the different project partners. Partners in the green frames are financial, and are represented at the global and field levels. Partners in the blue frames are involved in project execution, represented at the global/regional levels (supervision) and the field levels (implementation). The partner in the red frame i.e. Unilever plays an advisory role with some field activities. Unilever is expected to benefit from some key outputs of this project.


Plan de projet Alllanblackia

Plan de projet Alllanblackia

Photo: Samuel Kofi Nyame

Une vue aérienne d'écosystèmes d'Afrique centrale et occidentale