"Country Onion" (Afrostyrx lepidophylus): Spice and Medicine of the Cameroon Rainforest.

Title"Country Onion" (Afrostyrx lepidophylus): Spice and Medicine of the Cameroon Rainforest.
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsThomas, Rhiannon C.
Academic DepartmentEnvironmental Science
Thesis AdvisorMuir, Patricia S.
DegreeHonors Bachelor of Art in International Studies in Environmental Science
Number of Pages57
Date Published06/2004
UniversityOregon State University
Thesis TypeUndergraduate
KeywordsCameroon, markets, onion, sustainablilty, village economies

Afrostyrax lepidophyllus, known as "country onion" in West African Pidgin, is a little-studied tree native to rainforests of West Central Africa. While visiting two villages in the Rumpi Hills of southwest Cameroon, I walked forest transects and interviewed villagers to study A. lepidophyllus. I found that use of its seeds as a spice is widespread throughout the region, and that the plant is important to villagers as food and for income. Seeds, bark, and leaves are important as medicine. Women, in particular, are the main collectors, processors, and sellers of A. lepidophyllus seeds. Afrostyrax lepidophyllus is particularly interesting because it is a mast fruiter. The unpredictable availability of seeds creates extreme price variations, which affect village economies and how villagers collect, store, sell, and use the plant. I found that many villagers take advantage of price variation by selling seeds when they are scarce, but that strategies could probably be improved to increase village livelihood. Current harvest of A. lepidophyllus appears to be sustainable, but any increase in harvest should be accompanied by a thorough assessment of the resource base. Afrostyrax lepidophyllus could become an integral part of sustainable forestry in the area.