Though seen by many as an edible mango-like fruit, bush mango (Irvingia wombolu) has been described by forest adjacent communities in Cameroon as “gold that grows on tree”. This is attribute has been orchestrated by the breath-taking financial returns which they get from the sales of this non-timber forest product in Cameroon and neighbouring Nigeria.
“A 25kg basin of dried bush mango seeds ranges between XAF 30,000 and XAF 90,000 at the Mamfe main market, depending on the time of the year. Money gotten from the sales of these seeds help us to pay school fees, provide for our homes etc. Bush mango is thus, a major cash crop in this area. Without it, families will starve and most of our children will not be able to go to school,” Noel Ojong, a Mamfe denizen attested, adding that “I am who I am today because of bush mango, we cannot do without it”. Prince odisso of Mamfe corroborated Mr. Ojong, noting that bush mango is a great livelihood source to many families, beside cocoa.
It is against this backdrop that the rewilding team of Ecological Balance last April 2021 nursed over 1500 bitter bush mango seeds at their central nursery in Bomaka – Buea, SW Cameroon, which will be planted in some community forests and forest gardens in the South West Region of Cameroon. Beside this, forest adjacent communities will equally be trained on how to add value to the spice in order to reap more benefits.
Bitter bush mango (Irvingia wombolu) is a big tree that grows up to 40m in height with good trunk diameter. Its wood is good for timber. The tree species is known and cherished in Central and West Africa for its fruits and seeds. The edible mango-like fruits are very delicious and eaten fresh. The seeds of its fruits have been widely commended for its role in inducing weight loss and eliminating obesity. Some preliminary research also suggests that bush mango reduces blood sugar and lipid level in type 2 diabetes as the extract is rich in fibre. Bush mango has also been known from time immemorial as a popular spice used in many delicacies like the ‘tanchoh soup’ in Mamfe-Cameroon, and ‘ogbono soup’ by the Igbos in Nigeria and many other countries of the sub-region.
By Njiafu Benardin