Productivity and abundance of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in and around rural settlements and protected areas of the Bushbuckridge lowveld, South Africa

Abstract

Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst. subsp. caffra (Sond.) Kokwaro is a common species throughout the semi-arid savannas of southern Africa, and is sought after by rural communities. It is frequently maintained in homesteads and fields in an agroforestry situation. It has also been identified by a number of international and national institutes as a key species for domestication and commercialisation. Yet, the sustainability of the resource and local user knowledge and practices have not been considered. This study reports on the abundance and productivity of S. birrea in four rural villages and neighbouring protected areas in the Bushbuckridge lowveld of the Limpopo Province, South Africa, where its common name is marula. The density of marula stems was measured in homestead plots, arable fields and the surrounding communal rangelands of each village. Fruit production was assessed by regular counting of fruit fall from marked trees of known size. Within the villages, fruit production was monitored via local community groups. Additional monitoring of fruiting was conducted on marked trees within local protected areas. The proportion of households planting or nurturing marula trees was determined through interviews with a stratified random sample of households. The density of marula trees was significantly higher in protected areas than the neighbouring communal lands, fields or homesteads. However, the majority of trees in protected areas were small, while those in homesteads were large and mature. Density of adult fruit-bearing female trees, was similar between the protected areas and homesteads, but less in fields and communal lands. S. birrea trees were maintained in 79% of homesteads and 58% of fields. Mean fruit yield per tree was significantly higher from village trees (>17 000 fruits) than protected area trees (

Citation

Shackleton, C.M.; Botha, J.; Emanuel, P.L. Productivity and abundance of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in and around rural settlements and protected areas of the Bushbuckridge lowveld, South Africa. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods (2003) 13 (3) 217-232. [DOI: 10.1080/14728028.2003.9752459]

Productivity and abundance of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in and around rural settlements and protected areas of the Bushbuckridge lowveld, South Africa

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