||Background and aims – Bitter and sweet African bush mango trees belong to the family Irvingiaceae and
produce valuable non-timber forest products in humid lowland areas of West and Central Africa. The bitter
and sweet types are treated as distinct taxa at the variety or species level. They have not been studied in the
western part of their distribution range, and many aspects of their large-scale utilization remain unknown.
In this study, we link differences in socio-cultural groups to the agroforestry status of bush mango trees in
order to identify the key factors influencing their abundance and conservation in the study area.
Methods – First, we gathered uses and local management strategies from nine main socio-cultural areas
in Benin and Togo, part of the Dahomey Gap. Second, occurrence data were obtained throughout the Gap
and imported into DIVA-GIS and MATLAB to calculate the spatial pattern of the density and analyse its
structure and variation relative to three factors: the country, the phytogeographical zone and the dominant
soil category. Third, agroforestry system characteristics and farmers’ social status relative to 841 trees were
used in a multinomial logistic regression to identify anthropogenic factors driving the intensive cultivation
of bush mango trees. Finally, the impact of socio-cultural activities on extent and density of bush mango
tree populations was analysed.
Key results – In the entire study zone, the sweet mesocarp is consumed and the endocarp of bush mangoes
is commercialized. The application of endocarp-based diets and socio-therapeutic uses are common to
communities in Benin. Sweet bush mango trees are generally found either in home gardens or cultivation
fields where they may occur at high densities (up to 1020 trees per 25 ha). Bitter trees, however, are
confined to the Volta forest region in Togo and occur at low densities (< 462 trees per 25 ha) in the wild,
sometimes in protected areas, in forest gardens and in fields. This indicates a clear difference in cultivation
methods between the bitter and sweet trees. Farmland status, farmer socio-cultural group and type of bush
mango trees determined the cultivation intensity.
Conclusion – The fact that small farmlands are converted into sweet bush mango tree orchards indicates
that farmers actively cultivate bush mango trees in the study area. Diversity of indigenous knowledge,
however, is not correlated either to intensive cultivation or domestication efforts and local genetic
conservation program. Where slash and burn agriculture and intensive collection of fruits jeopardize bitter
trees, traditional fishing systems (using bush mango twigs), a traditional selection strategy, and intensive
land commercialization severely threaten sweet bush mango tree genetic resources.
||Benin, conservation, domestication, Dahomey Gap, ethnobotany, geostatistics, Irvingia,
kriging, spatial distribution, Togo.