FIELD GUIDE TO ACACIAS OF EAST AFRICA

NEW FINDINGS

During the ten years of my field research and travel around East Africa for this book, I have found three new species of acacias. The new species have been verified by Mr.Geoffery Mwachala, a taxonomist at the East African Herbarium, and papers have been written and sent to the Kew Bulletin for publication (subject to approval).

While working on this book, I have also found a few other species and subspecies which I have not yet documentation due to time constraints and the remoteness of the areas in which they are located. These new findings will be included in future publications.

The Importance of acacias in East Africa

In East Africa, indeed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, trees fulfil important economic and socio-economic functions. The foliage and pods of acacias provide food for both domesticated animals and wild herbivorous mammals. The trees also serve as principal sources of energy, providing fuel wood and charcoal, and yielding materials for building and many other domestic purposes. They go a long way towards meeting the needs of agropastoralists and nomadic herders, who live in intimate contact with their environment.

Acacia trees have profound significance in religious beliefs and ceremonies an their various components are central to traditional medicine. Indeed, acacia trees are precious, fragile and irreplaceable repositories of ingredients fundamental to the treatment of a surprising number of human ailments. Indigenous acacia species are part of East Africa’s legacy and heritage. Not only are they natural resources and objects of beauty to be admired; they are also symbols of East African savanna life.

The acacia is one of the most common plant genera occurring in this region and is the most important in economic terms. Today, a great deal of natural forest and savanna vegetation has been cleared for agriculture and farming purposes, to fuel industries and the production of charcoal. Every tree lost makes Africa poorer. There is an urgent need to cherish what remains and to try to return some of the land to its original, pristine condition. It is important to grow and nurture as many trees as possible, including acacias, some of which are already endangered so that we can save our indigenous national heritage.

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