Food oil of good quality is important for health, food security and income. Women in rural Africa traditionally extract oil from seeds of numerous native trees, but the potentials are far from fully realized. During two projects, QUALITREE and TREEFOOD, we investigated ethnobotanical knowledge in Mali and Burkina Faso, analyzed physiochemical properties of over 30 native oil trees and made a literature review of native tree oils from West Africa. Local knowledge about oil production is often confined to local areas or specific ethnic groups. Screening of oils from native species revealed very good potentials for ameliorated use, production, sale and export. Examples of highly interesting oil species are Adansonia digitata, Afzelia africana, Balanites aegyptiaca, Carapa procera, Lannea kerstingii, Lophira lanceolata and Pentadesma butyracea. Few species (mainly Elaeis guineensis and Vitellaria paradoxa) are highly investigated and used, despite the fact that there is clearly an extraordinary potential for improving health, food security and economic development in poor communities via diversified, increased and improved oil production. Marketing interests of oil includes both local and international markets. However, in many cases tree planting or nature protection in collaboration with local communities are needed to ensure sufficient and continuous oil supplies. Such activities have a potential to improve local biodiversity and give opportunities for carbon certification and sale.
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