Elaies guineensis, local name Dura, is originally found in palm groves throughout the humid tropical forests of West Africa. The Liberian state seal contains an icon of the oil palm, representing prosperity. It is semi-domesticated (a F2 hybrid is mostly planted in villages without access to improved varieties such as Tenera) being selected for its many uses as cooking oil, palm butter and palm kernel oil.
In Gbobayee Village, this palm row lines the main street in a prominent, rather stately display.
A row of oil palm trees in Gbobayee Village
Palm fronds protect this young oil palm tree from grazing animals
The smell of charcoal making is pungent, unmistakable and in many respects, a wholesome, earthy smell. Charcoal is easier to transport to market, easier to use in the kitchen and causes less respiratory problems in closed spaces. Charcoal making is an ancient craft requiring virtually no technology with skills varying according to climate and species. Its efficiency in converting raw biomass into concentrated KJ energy can be greatly improved via simple, or specialized kilns.
Charcoal making from plantation thinnings or trees with little timber value provides jobs. But does charcoal making from the last rainforest giants, as they fall and are cleared for “improved” agriculture is not a sustainable livelihood.
- Making charcoal by heaping logs and covering with soil
This carbon neutral, renewable energy source will disappear, unless more trees are planted very soon in Liberia and elsewhere.
Read more about charcoal making in Liberia as reported this year by the BBC Africa
A family makes charcoal from remnant forest trees by the side of the main road, about 2 km from Gbobayee Village
Arriving in Sanniquellie, you are greeted by a broad tree lined avenue that gives year round shade. The trees are mostly Acacia mangium, native to far northeast of Queensland, Australia and used extensively throughout the tropics with large industrial plantations is Indonesia and Brazil for paper and chemical pulp. They are known for their fast growth and ability to grow on acid, low fertility, compacted soil. They are popular as street trees where growing conditions are often hash.
On the other end of the avenue, shade is hard to find and the language of commerce speaks for itself.
This avenue is over 100 meters long
Mornings on the avenue, students, workers and street vendors go their way
Raceme of flowers and elliptical leaves with parallel venation
Knocked and twisted, but not down and out
The tree frames the view on the avenue
Like most things in life, the message is simple
Good to know that solutions are available
Tree Wisdom: Keep Positive and Charge On!
Native to the Brazilian Amazon, Hevea brasiliensis is one of the best known NTFPs, or non-timber forest products. Like Brazil nuts, rattan, chicle, shea butter, baobab fruits and many other useful medicinal plants they can deliver valuable products without the need to cut the trees or clear the forests. By scoring the bark, a sticky white latex (sap) is collected that is used for surgical gloves, condoms, tennis balls and carpet backings among other uses. “Save the Rainforest, Save Condoms!” is more than a slogan, it is a real project in Brazil linking natural rubber harvest and a new condom factory…
NTFPs gained huge international recognition through Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper. He worked to maintain his forest based livelihood and organized his community to defend their way of life. The world would be a better place if he had not been brutally murdered 10 days before Christmas 1988.
Today, rubber plantations are found throughout the tropics and mostly now grown in large plantations outside of its native range such as Guatemala, Malaysia & Borneo.
Like most tree plantations, the trees in Liberia are shrouded in controversy because of land ownership, pricing, wages and biodiversity issues. And like most tree plantations, at least those established on long-deforested or long-degraded land, tree plantations provide at least some measure of vertical habitat structure, canopy cover, and watershed protection.
By age 25 years or so, rubber trees start to decline in health and productivity. Many rubber plantations in Liberia are in the process of being replaced using improved tree varieties. Wood is often used for charcoal.
A pan-tropical tree, Ceiba pentandra, is named for the bounty of cotton that shrouds its seeds. It is a fast growing, canopy emergent tree with versatile, light wood. Located in Seyikimpa Village, we called this one Beauty. For she is strong and bold and all her features can be described in one word, Beauty.
A sea of roots holds Beauty to the Earth
At the base of Beauty, people meet