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1.1 Accessibility of information
1.2 A guide to the references
1.3 A view of the literature

As forest products feature in nearly all aspects of people’s lives in the West African region, information about them can be found in anthropology (e.g. Motte 1982), nutrition (e.g. Hladik et al 1987), geography (e.g. Ardayfio 1986), botany (e.g. Ake Assi 1984), rural economics (e.g. Ewusi 1986), agriculture (e.g. Engel et al 1984), and forestry (e.g. Faure et al 1980). Although few studies attempt to assess the importance of NTFPs quantitatively, the collage of descriptive accounts, when supplemented by a few case-specific analytic studies (e.g. Okafor 1981) do indicate their importance to rural people.

This report only provides an indication of available information, and demonstrates the kind of search that is needed to find any information at all. For example, information on the use of plant medicines can be gleaned from different types of studies. Botanical surveys of medicinal plants often describe the species used by different groups of people to cure particular ailments. The surveys often also describes the habitats in which they are found. Evaluations of medical systems may include estimates of the number of traditional healers, or the number of people who do not have access to “modern” health care. Pharmacological studies provide some information on the effectiveness of traditional treatments that use medicinal plants, while anthropological studies provide insight into the beliefs associated with their use, and information on who uses them when. As was noted earlier, the most insightful information on the value of forest products on the household level comes from studies which evaluate the impact of forest conversion or decreases in access to forest areas.

1.1 Accessibility of information

A great deal of the information that is reviewed here comes from unpublished studies from research centers throughout West Africa and in Paris. The most detailed information comes from student theses (Masters and PhDs). In some countries of the region, Government Ministries collect information on the use of non-timber forest products. When compared with other countries in West Africa., the Senegalese Forestry Department has the most thorough information on the production and trade of non-timber forest products.

Studies by NGOs (such as Save the Children), international governments and aid agencies provide another good source of information. It can be difficult for outsiders to gain access to unpublished research studies and Government reports. On the other hand, information gathered by international agencies and foreign researchers is often inaccessible to those in country. Finally, it should be noted that most West African research centers do not have large collections of information on work being done in neighboring countries (at least this is the case for those centers that were visited). (This problem is compounded by the fact that information is available in French or English with very little interchange.)

1.2 A guide to the references

The information which was reviewed is presented in the Annotated Bibliography. References are arranged alphabetically by author. Each entry provides a brief review of the document and highlights relevant information from that piece. Often these summaries provide more detailed information than is found in the text (i.e. species names, details of traditional forest management or NTFP production practices). Author and subject indices are included to facilitate research into a specific subtopic.

1.3 A view of the literature

- Forestry Literature
Information regarding the local importance of NTFPs can be found in the following general subject categories:

Non-timber forest products - otherwise classified as secondary forest products or non-wood forest products. Most commonly these discussions focus on NTFPs gathered for industrial or export purposes. Some information is available from Forest Services on products extracted from Reserve areas.

Tree guides - many include descriptions of tree product uses. There are many, especially older examples. They generally contain interesting information, but do not discuss the relative importance of different products.

Fuelwood - when compared to the arid regions of West Africa, there is very little information on household fuelwood consumption, fuelwood marketing or supply. The most interesting studies are Kamara’s in Sierra Leone, Ardayfio’s in Ghana and Moss and Morgans’ long term study in southern Nigeria.

Agroforestry - some research has been conducted on the potential for agroforestry development in the area. This information is generally included in studies which evaluate farming systems in general. A great deal of information is available from southern Nigeria and Cameroon. There is a little information available on species trials.

-Wildlife Literature
The greatest amount of research on the utilization of wildlife comes from Asibey in Ghana and Ajayi in Nigeria. Though their research has been conducted in limited regions of Ghana and Nigeria, many of their findings are relevant to the West African region as a whole. These studies have focused on the contribution of these foods to the diet in very general terms. There have also been a number of market studies (especially in urban areas) in both Ghana and Nigeria.
- Botany Literature
There is a great deal of relevant historical and contemporary information in this discipline. Botanic surveys provide a great deal of information on the ecology and botany of commonly used species. There are many descriptive accounts of the ways in which different people from this region have and still do use the forest resources the early work of Dalziel et al (1937) for example, on the useful plants of tropical West Africa (a revision and updating of this work is being undertaken by Burkhill, it will contain information on more than 4000 species). Irvine’s study on the woody plants of Ghana (1961), though dated, is extremely useful as it describes the economic and cultural uses of more than 350 species. Abbiw in Ghana and Ake Assi in Côte d’Ivoire provide a great deal of information on the current and historic use of forest plants. The National Herbarium in Cameroon (their data are presented in the National Flora) is accumulating a great deal of data as well. Finally, Vivien is also preparing information on more than 200 species of edible forest species found in southern Cameroon.

The medicinal use of plants is actually well documented. There are a number of historic botanic works which have recorded the vast array of medicinal uses of forest plants in the West African region (e.g. Dalziel et al, Irvine, Walker et al, Portère). Some authors note that the diversity of medicinal plants being used is declining (e.g. Okigbo). Of particular note is the work being carried out by the ACCT (Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France) and Adjanohoun in Bordeaux. Ethnobotanical and anthropological studies also often contain detailed information on useful and medicinal plants.

-Plant Medicine and Ethno-medicine Literature
The literature on traditional plant medicines is vast. Information can be found in botanical (e.g. Ake Assi), pharmacological and chemical studies (e.g. Dwuma-Badu). Some studies focus on treatments used for specific ailments or diseases. Others focus on the multiple uses of a particular species (this is especially true for studies examining the phytochemical properties of a particular plant). There are also several country and regional botanic studies which include information on common plant medicines.

A Country Summary of Research on Plant Medicine

For Ghana and Nigeria see Abbiw (1989), Ayensu (1978), Puri et al (1964), Sofowora, Oliver and Gbile. These studies all discuss plants used for treating illnesses common throughout the region.

For Cameroon see Oliver-Bever, Thomas et al and Djoko et al. Oliver-Bever (1986) discusses the medicinal uses and chemical composition of traditionally valued species.

For Guinea see the work of Gouterel; he discusses both the common use of medicinal plants and exploitation of species for the export market.

For Senegal see Kerharo, ENDA, Tall and Engelhard et al. These studies address the common uses of plant medicines throughout Senegal, with the exception of Tall’s study which focuses on the Senegal river region. Kerharo incorporates information on traditional Senegalese medical practices with an analysis of the therapeutic uses and chemical composition of more than 550 plant species. For each species he provides detailed information on the botany, habitat, uses (and methods used), chemical composition and pharmaceutical properties.

Comparatively little research has been conducted in Sierra Leone on the use of medicinal plants. MacFoy and his students provide the most up to date information.

In Côte d’Ivoire the most extensive work has been carried out by Ake Assi and Adjanohoun. Ake Assi’s Flora of Côte d’Ivoire includes descriptive information on the medicinal uses of plants. He also includes a list of diseases and their associated plant remedies.

Adjanohoun and colleagues have conducted ethnobotanic surveys on the use of medicinal plants in many countries of the West African region. For example in Côte d’Ivoire (1979) they list more than 300 species and include a description of their geographic distribution, and their use by different ethnic groups. They also describe common use of these species. In Togo (1986), they identify more than 340 species of plants used to treat more than 200 illnesses. In Centre Afrique (Ake Assi 1985) they identify 90 plants used to treat 85 different illnesses.

-Anthropology and Ethnobotanical Literature
Anthropological studies (e.g. Motte, 1982) provide a great deal of detailed information about the day to day use of forest plants and animals. In addition, they often include information about the local values and beliefs associated with forests or particular forest species (e.g. Hladik et al 1987). This kind of information may be particularily important for those planning to build on traditional forms of forest area “management”. There is also a great deal of information to be gleaned from ethno-linguistic studies which examine the role of forest myths in stories and language (e.g. Calame-Griaule 1970).
-Farming Systems Studies
The distinction between farm, fallow and forest areas is often not clear in the region. Thus, farming system studies can contain a great deal of information on the use of on-farm and forest trees (e.g. Okafor 1986, and Engel et al 1984). In some recent studies the role of fallow and shade trees has also been explored (e.g. Herren-Gemmill 1988, Okafor 1986, Ume-Okafor 1987). Farming system studies sometimes discuss the equipment that is used for farming, crop storage and processing. These give useful information on the inputs forest products provide.
-Nutrition and Food Consumption Studies
Generally these studies do not include a great deal of information on the commonly consumed forest foods. However, the entries in the bibliography on food consumption and wildlife both provide good indications of the kinds of information that are available (e.g. Akinyele et al 1983, Asedam 1982, Orraca-Tetteh no date, Smith 1979). Data on the nutrition composition of forest foods is presented in Okafor 1981, Okigbo 1975, Osei-Manu 1980, Pélé et al 1967, Duke et al 1986, and Asedam 1982. Information on the consumption of wild animals has been conducted primarily in Nigeria and Ghana.
-Building Materials and Housing Studies
Descriptive information on “traditional” housing materials can be found in botanical studies (e.g. Abbiw 1987, Irvine 1961, Ake Assi 1984, Walker et al 1961, Téhé 1980 and Profizi 1983). Information on the plants that are used and the methods of house construction can also be found in anthropological studies (e.g. Motte 1982, Pelissier 1966). Some interesting information can be gleaned from socio-economic studies and surveys which record housing types usually as indicators of wealth (e.g. Gartlan 1987). Some geographic studies describe the housing situation and the extent of “modernization” (e.g. Blanc-Pamard 1980). It is difficult, however, to find information on the quantities of materials used for house construction, the problems in finding desired materials, and estimates of the building materials used and needed at a regional level.

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