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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Botswana: Ecology and Conservation


In light of southern Africa’s growing population and economy, as well as the increasing international market for Adansonia digitata products, it seems important to ascertain whether or not rural baobab harvesting is having an impact on the health of the trees and whether it could be improved or expanded to increase benefits to communities. This study focused on 72 trees in and around the village of Gweta, Botswana, examining local usage and harvesting practices and exploring their correlations with the health of the trees. Results suggest that baobab harvesting in its current form is detrimental to the trees’ health and may not be sustainable in the long term, given Botswana’s rapid population growth. Human usage was linked to increased branch loss and to the severity of infection by rot fungi. However, recovery from these effects seems possible with time, meaning that altering harvesting practices and techniques could result in a marked improvement in both the trees’ health and their yield. This would protect the baobabs—and their important ecological niche along with them—while increasing long-term benefits to the community. Further research is necessary, but this study’s preliminary recommendation is to refine methods of fruit, bark, and root removal and to promote the protection of a set percentage of the area’s trees in order to facilitate recovery. If these goals can be met, it may be possible to sustainably expand Gweta’s local baobab usage or perhaps even to delve into larger economic ventures.


Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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