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Implications of Local Knowledge of the Ecology of a Wild Super Sweetener for Its Domestication and Commercialization in West and Central Africa

Wojciech S. Waliszewski, Seth Oppong, John B. Hall and Fergus L. Sinclair
Economic Botany
Vol. 59, No. 3 (Autumn, 2005), pp. 231-243
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4256988
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Implications of Local Knowledge of the Ecology of a Wild Super Sweetener for Its Domestication and Commercialization in West and Central Africa
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Abstract

Despite its local use as a fiber and international trade in thaumatin, the intensely sweet protein derived from its fruit, little ecological information about Thaumatococcus daniellii (Benn.) Benth. is in the public domain. Here, we combine systematic studies of the local knowledge of plant collectors and cultivators in Ghana with a thorough evaluation of the plant's natural distribution in order to explore possibilities for increasing the contribution that it makes to sustaining rural livelihoods in West and Central Africa. The natural range goes well beyond where commercial collection and cultivation have been previously reported. Local knowledge was found to be detailed and explanatory. Its acquisition has refined our understanding of the ecology of the plant, although some significant gaps remain, particularly with respect to pollination. The market for thaumatin is ripe for expansion, and the plant has untapped potential as an intercrop for rubber and cocoa. Further domestication needs to be accompanied by consideration of impacts on the livelihoods of those who presently collect fruit from the wild, and of opportunities for increasing the value that accrues within Africa through the development of local processing capacity.

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