Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Towards a Better Understanding and Use of Underutilized Plant and Tree Genetic Resources

9 - 13 November 2009, Bamako, Mali. International Workshop on Statistical and Spatial Analysis of Diversity Data: Towards a Better Understanding and Use of Underutilized Plant and Tree Genetic Resources

The main objective was to strengthen the capacity of young scientists to use statistical, GIS and modelling techniques for analysis of diversity data on underutilized plants and tree genetic resources. Knowledge to analyse plant morphological/ molecular diversity, distribution and relationships with the environment was provided by using modern / state of the art tools.Practical exercises were be a major component of the course.

1. Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy, and Ethnobotany, Ghent University, Belgium (UGent)
2. Centre for Underutilized Crops, Southampton University, UK (SOTON)
3. Institute for Rural Economy, Mali (IER)
4. Bioversity International, Italy (Bioversity)
5. R&Dproject DADOBAT fundedby the European Commissionunder FP6-INCO-DEV (DADOBAT)

The DADOBAT project aims at developing sustainable production systems of baobab and tamarind in three West-African countries based on characterisation, conservation and use of local genetic resources. This is expected to have a positive impact on food security and income generation in the countries involved in the project. Issues of new crop/niche development are addressed through a holistic research approach and multidisciplinary research activities.

Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is a multipurpose, widely-used African tree. Baobab occurs scattered in savannahs, often near dwellings. It has numerous medicinal properties and (non-)food uses. Young leaves, rich in minerals/vitamins, are cooked as spinach and sauces. Fruit pulp is high in Vitamin C, and is dissolved in water or milk and drunk, used as sauce or fermenting agent, etc. Seed kernels are eaten fresh, dry or ground and used in cooking, as thickening/flavouring agent, or roasted. Seeds are also a source of cooking oil. Bark fibre is used for rope, basket nets, fishing lines and weaving.
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica Lam.) is grown for subsistence and some commercial production in Asia and Latin America, however it often occurs wild in the tropics. In Africa unimproved trees are often commercially exploited, but are considered as underutilised crop. Tamarind fruit pulp is the richest known natural source of tartaric acid and is used for flavouring chutneys, sauces and juices. Sweet varieties can also be consumed as table fruit. Its leaves are a source of food and medicine. Tamarind wood is used for timber, tool handles, charcoal and fuel wood. Seed kernel powder, the major industrial product, is an important material used in sizing of textiles and paper.

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