The Medicinal Power of Trees
June 29 2016

4,250 trees of over 65 species have so far been measured in the Dambwa Forest since our carbon dynamic monitoring programme started.  A further 2,031 young trees (less than two centimetres in diameter) have been enumerated, although regeneration has been observed in only 25 species.

The most common tree in the Forest (21.5% of all stems) is Baphia massaiensis, the Sand Camwood.  This tree is commonly found in dense stands on deep Kalahari Sands, which is found throughout the Forest.  Growing up to 10 metres tall, the tree can be harvested as a coffee substitute by roasting and grinding its seeds, and for making toothbrushes by taking a piece of branch about the size of your finger and fraying the end into a brush.  This species has a symbiotic relationship with some soil bacteria which help to fix atmospheric nitrogen.  Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the tree itself, but other plants nearby also benefit.  The species is commonly eaten by elephants, although much more so during the hot dry season (Aug – Oct) and wet season (Nov – Mar) rather than now during the cool dry season.

Photo: © Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Baikiaea plurijuga, Zambezi Teak, is the second most common tree at 15.6% of all stems observed, however it has many more uses and is therefore most at risk of over-harvesting.  The wood is dark, hard, strong and durable, and therefore is ideal as a source of timber.  The bark is also used in medicine, including to treat syphilis, and to relieve toothache.

Photo: © Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

63% of all stems in the Forest surveyed so far are from five species, the other most common being: Diplorhynchus condylocarpon, Horn-pod tree (10.2%), Grewia monticola, Silver Raisin (9.3%) and Combretum zeyheri, Large-fruited Bushwillow (6.4%).

So far our survey has focussed on the southern and eastern areas of the Dambwa Forest.  We will soon re-focus in the north of the Forest, where the habitat changes, and we expect Mopane trees to dominate.

About the Carbon Dynamic Monitoring Programme

Zambia is ranked as having one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.  Principal drivers of deforestation are agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, wood extraction (e.g. for fuel or charcoal production) and fire, whilst the underlying drivers are high levels of poverty, low employment and employment opportunities, insecure land tenure, weak institutional capacity, and lack of synergy in forest management policies.

The Dambwa Forest was gazetted as a protected forest area in 1976 as a source of wood for timber, fuel and other forest products for the Livingstone community. A Joint Forest Management programme was established in 2002 to deepen democracy in management of forest resources between the Zambian government and the local communities

Rural households are highly reliant on forest products, yet there is substantial scope for the forest sector to alleviate rural poverty.  Effective forest management is based on good knowledge of existing forest resources, yet current data on Zambia’s forests is outdated and incomplete.  This study therefore seeks to contribute to knowledge of the status and trends of forests in Zambia.  The ultimate aim is to provide information to the Forestry Department to assist development of appropriate forest management strategies for the long term sustainable use of forest resources by local communities as a poverty alleviation strategy.

ALERT is partnered in this project with the Forestry Department, the Joint Forest Management Committee, and Copperbelt University, who are also supervising the project.

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ALERT offers a research internship, which includes assisting this survey.  Click here for further details.

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