The Shea tree in addition to its famous moisturising butter, shea provides vital food and income for about 80 million people in the sub-Saharan Africa. Shea is one of the few species of trees retained in parklands of the agricultural landscapes as other trees have been removed for fuelwood and charcoal production and also to make way for crops and livestock.
A research by Birdlife International, VBN (Birdlife in the Netherlands) and RSPB (Birdlife in the UK) established a potential link between the dramatic decline of the many species of birds that migrate through the Shea zone of Africa and the lack of suitable habitat in Shea growing regions. The worldwide loss of habitat diversity has also been linked to the declines in insect pollinators. However, very little is known about Shea pollination, but experts believe that the parkland monocultures may not be ‘bee-friendly’, hence contributing to the lower yields.
The project which started in May 2015 and ended in July 2016 was sponsored by the Birdlife International and sought to;
The project enlightened farmers and chiefs about the role insects play in boosting Shea yields and how they can help manage their farmland to benefit nature and people’s livelihood. It was established that bees are the most important pollinators of Shea and that increasing their population will boost livelihoods by increasing Shea yields.
Going forward it is key to demonstrating the livelihood benefits of insect pollinators to the communities for a more diverse bird friendly parkland in Ghana.
The research team
Shea fruit with nuts
Setting up a pollination experiment
Insects trapped on a yellow trap
Insects trapped in a pan trap
Yellow trap on a shea tree