The revelation was made in Yaounde on February 4 by the Deputy Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF, Dr. Tony Simons.
The occasion was the 2nd Tree Domestication Day and the official installation of the new Regional Coordinator of ICRAF for West and Central Africa. The event was chaired by the Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation, Dr. Madeleine Tchuinté under the theme "Better Trees for a Healthier and Wealthier World."
While presenting a paper on "International Efforts on Indigenous Trees; A Contradiction," Dr. Tony defined tree domestication as planting the right tree in the right place. He harped on the importance of domesticating trees hitherto found only in the wild and said products from such trees are of enormous nutritive and economic value to the local population today.
Tony drew applause when he announced that Cameroon is classified the first amongst some ten top countries in the world as far as the promotion of agroforestry is concerned. Talking on the importance of domesticating indigenous fruit trees, the Regional Director of ICRAF for West and Central Africa, Dr. Zac Tchoundjeu, said the forest doesn’t entail only logs but other diverse products that serve as food and medicine for the treatment of numerous ailments.
Non-timber forest products include bitter cola, jangsang, eru, Africa plum, bush mango, kolanuts, yohimbe, African yellow back, ebene, bibolo, yellow stick, acacia Senegal, amongst others.
Zac observed that some products from tree domestication attract higher incomes than cocoa and coffee in the world market, noting that for poverty to be effectively combated, farmers should be encouraged to integrate such trees in the cultivation of cocoa and coffee.
He also called on researchers to encourage the multiplication and domestication of tree species whose products can generate income as well as those that can serve as medicine for the treatment of ailments.
According to Dr. Tchuinté, the activities of ICRAF are in line with government’s policy of promoting conservation and protection of the environment in the Congo Rainforest Basin for the wellbeing of future generations. She said such moves build up the efforts of re-afforestation being undertaken by the Ministries of Forestry and Wildlife, and Environment and the Protection of Nature.
"Agroforestry is a powerful tool not only in the fight against poverty but also fights desertification and contributes in biodiversity conservation," the Minister stated. Other speakers included the Director General of IRAD, Dr. Simon Zok, Dr. Roger Leakay and Dr. Ann Degrande.
Dr. Degrande used the occasion to present ICRAF projects: "promoting rural innovation through participatory domestication" to be executed in Cameroon, Congo and Nigeria; and "increasing small-scale farmer benefits from agroforestry tree products in West and Central Africa to be carried out in Cameroon and DRC. The projects would be funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, and the Belgian Development Cooperation respectively.
Stakeholders at the occasion were acquainted with what ICRAF is doing in the domain of tree domestication especially as it is at the heart of global issues including desertification, climate change, poverty alleviation, food security and healthy ecosystems.