Setting priorities among indigenous fruit tree species in Africa: examples from Southern, Eastern and Western Africa Regions

Setting priorities among indigenous fruit tree species in Africa: examples from Southern, Eastern and Western Africa Regions

Priority setting in agricultural research: experiences with indigenous fruit tree species in Africa

Priority setting in agricultural research has received considerable attention in recent years, the objective being to determine the species for which domestication research (i.e. research regarding the selection, management and propagation of a plant) would be likely to have the highest impact.

This paper presents examples of priority setting among indigenous fruit species for domestication research in three regions of Africa: the humid lowlands of West Africa; the semi-arid Sahelian zone of west Africa; and the Miombo woodlands of southern Africa. An example is also given from southern Africa of setting priorities amongst indigenous fruit products.

The first chapter of a book entitled “Indigenous fruit trees in the tropics: Domestication, utilization and commercialization”, The first chapter of a book entitled “Indigenous fruit trees in the tropics: Domestication, utillization and commercialization”, which explores what role "underutilised" indigenous fruit trees can play in meeting the rural development goals of the new millennium.

The authors conclude that several lessons were learnt from these priority setting exercises, which can be divided into two areas: the role of priority setting in domestication research and methods for setting priorities.

Points highlighted include:

  • prioritisation proved to be an effective tool for developing a short list of target species for domestication research and for setting priorities among them
  • through the process of setting priorities, the teams conducting domestication research gained sound evidence for defending their choice of species on which to conduct their study.
  • this, in turn, contributed to greater motivation amongst team members, stronger linkages with policy makers and greater confidence among donor agencies that domestication research would yield fruitful results.
  • the main method used in the priority-setting exercise (the survey of farmer preferences among species) proved to be popular amongst participants, whilst the valuation survey was less successful.
  • one weakness of the priority setting exercise was that it did not explicitly assess the market potential of different species and products. In the future, the chapter argues, formal assessments of market opportunities could be added to the exercise.
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