African palm products
The emphasis in this and subsequent chapters will be on products currently known to be derived from palms. (Examples of the array of artisanal palm products are shown in Figures 3-1, 3-2 and 3.3.)
With respect to more important economic species, some production statistics are available; however, as regards most of the minor palms no data are obtainable and anecdotal information must suffice. Focusing on present-day usage screens out exotic and outdated utilizations and permits a closer look at those palm products which have stood the test of time and remain of either subsistence or commercial value and hence have the greatest economic development potential. It needs to be stated that keeping a focus on palm products promotes re-examination of the current species as product sources as well as encourage assessment of new potential species not currently being exploited.
At this point, some observations regarding contemporary palm products are appropriate and some terminology needs to be introduced to give clarity to the discussions in this and future chapters. Obviously, not all of the possible products can be derived from a particular palm all of the time because one product typically precludes another in practical terms, or some products are mutually exclusive. All of the major domesticated palms, for example, are chiefly cultivated for products derived from their fruits; also, fruits are the most important product of a number of wild palms. Therefore, if fruit production is the prime objective, any other product extraction from the same tree that would retard or reduce fruit production should be avoided.
A clear example of a practice that will directly and adversely affect fruit production is tapping the inflorescence for sap; also, cutting leaves for basketry can impair the normal growth of the tree and reduce its resistance to pests and disease.
Palm Product Categories
In assessing and evaluating palms for the many products they can and do provide, it is instructive to consider the individual products as falling into three different general categories: primary products, secondary or by-products and salvage products.