Northern Uganda's Shea Trees

A Shea Tree A Shea Tree

Northern Uganda's Shea Trees Featured

Northern Uganda's once hostile ecosystem is experiencing restoration through shea trees whose flourish is enhancing the livelihoods of hundreds of Ugandans in the region.

Northern Uganda is endowed with a highly diverse and rich ecosystem, full of indigenous trees species of which shea trees (Vitellariaparadoxa) or Yaa (Acholi), Ikungu (Ateso), Kumara (Lugbara), and Yao (Langi) form part of the indigenous tree species community. Its vast tracts of land with suitable climate and soils support the growth of shea trees. For a long time, the trees have been grown and managed on small scale for home consumption and sale to local markets to generate household income. Nevertheless, over the recent years, the crop is gaining popularity especially in northern Uganda due to its high economic potential.

For a long time, the trees have been grown and managed on small scale for home consumption and sale to local markets to generate household income. Nevertheless, over the recent years, the crop is gaining popularity especially in northern Uganda due to its high economic potential.

Amanubo Amos is a conservationist who hails from Northern Uganda. As Africa's Bio Voice for Uganda, he explored the conservation and livelihoods landscape of the shea trees in this region.

Despite holding a significant value as a potentially major cash crop, the shea production in the region has been lagging far below that of other export cash crops due to the insecurity that prevailed in the region which greatly hampered the promotion of shea trees as a full time economic nexus to sustain livelihoods. However, in absence of the development of the industry in the past, indigenous knowledge took precedence in the growth, processing and management of shea trees thereby sustaining its potential to act as a supplement to household income on a rather small scale.

The shea sector faces significantly gross obstacles and challenges in the restoration of shea trees, these range from low production, poor seed system, fluctuating prices and value addition systems, competition from other forms of vegetable oils such as sunflower, dependency on rain fed system, competition from other short-term agricultural cash crops as well as ineffective regulatory frameworks to control the most notable challenge, that is energy needs (charcoal and wood fuel production). Due to the relatively long time it takes to become productive, the trees have been less preferable and its cultivation infamous especially to crop farmers, only being planted not as the main crop but rather left on woodlands or managed in agroforestry and fallow systems.

Despite the outlined challenges, the potential of shea trees to become a major export crop and a nexus for promoting green economy development is undoubtedly very high. Given its excellent growing conditions, and availability of land for shea cultivation, it is becoming a very popular commodity among smallholder farmers. However, efforts still need to be made to integrate the rotational value of farming shea trees with other food crops to achieve income diversification and food security as a way of covering short term livelihood needs. Aggregation of smallholder farmers to large farmer groups and promoting production under farmer organizations to improve extension and knowledge transfer whilst linking producers to markets to strengthen roles in the production chain would greatly enhance the attractiveness of the crop to rural farmers.

Author

Amanubo Amos

Amanubo Amos

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