Power, policy and the Prunus africana bark trade, 1972-2015

A. Cunningham, V.F. Anoncho, T. Sunderland

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. Ethnopharmacological relevance After almost 50 years of international trade in wild harvested medicinal bark from Africa and Madagascar, the example of Prunus africana holds several lessons for both policy and practice in the fields of forestry, conservation and rural development. Due to recent CITES restrictions on P. africana exports from Burundi, Kenya and Madagascar, coupled with the lifting of the 2007 European Union (EU) ban in 2011, Cameroon's share of the global P. africana bark trade has risen from an average of 38% between 1995 and 2004, to 72.6% (658.6 metric tons) in 2012. Cameroon is therefore at the center of this international policy arena. Methods and materials This paper draws upon several approaches, combining knowledge in working with P. africana over a 30-year period with a thorough literature review and updated trade data with "ground-truthing" in the field in 2013 and 2014. This enabled the construction of a good perspective on trade volumes (1991-2012), bark prices (and value-chain data) and the gaps between research reports and practice. Two approaches provided excellent lenses for a deeper understanding of policy failure and the "knowing-doing gap" in the P. africana case. A similar approach to Médard's (1992) analyses of power, politics and African development was taken and secondly, studies of commodity chains that assess the power relations that coalesce around different commodities (Ribot, 1998; Ribot and Peluso, 2003). Results Despite the need to conserve genetically and chemically diverse P. africana, wild populations are vulnerable, even in several "protected areas" in Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the forest reserves of Madagascar. Secondly, hopes of decentralized governance of this forest product are misplaced due to elite capture, market monopolies and subsidized management regimes. At the current European price, for P. africana bark (US$6 per kg) for example, the 2012 bark quota (658.675 t) from
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)323-333
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2016


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