The Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) is one of the most important indigenous trees occurring in at least 20 countries in the drylands of Africa running from the Sahelian in West Africa to East Africa. It is a non- timber tree that grows in the wild but socially and economically important to natural resource dependent communities as well as to industry for the range of products that can be derived from it. The t trees are spread in the dryland and sub-humid landscapes of eastern and northern Uganda. The fruits have traditionally been eaten while the dried kernel seeds are locally processed to produce vegetable oil and cake. Shea nut oil has a range of uses including: medicinal oil for treatment of skin and throat infections, cosmetics, cooking fat, and residual cake used as a livestock feed, wax, lubricant (machines and bicycles) and for soap making. Available evidencealso indicates that these numerous uses that the shea nuts have provide income from sale of various products. The traditional management practices used include: weeding, bush burning, pollarding, coppicing and pruning, by-laws set by local leaders like paying fines in form of goats if one is found cutting a shea nut tree. However, the shea nut trees are being threatened by increased demand for charcoal and the expansion of the charcoal belt to many dryland areas owing to perceived good charcoal quality that the shea nut trees provide. Like in other parts of Africa, the Government of Uganda has reinforced local traditional laws and by-laws with a ban on cutting of shea nut trees for charcoal production. This review paper has demonstrated the immense social, economic and cultural importance of the shea nut trees. It recommends increased sensitization of communities and enhancement of shea nut products value chain for maximum returns to rural communities; by so doing their conservation interests and actions on the shea nut trees will be increased.
Date of publication:
RUFORUM Working document series