Nordic Journal of African Studies 4. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Trees and forests are an integral part of the everyday life of the inhabitants of the study villages, throughout the year. The benefits offered by forests are both indirect and direct. Wood used for cooking remains the most important product from the forests. Forests are also essential to livestock production since cattle are grazed in the forest. Leaf litter is also transported to home gardens and used as fertiliser. The most explicit value is that for the fruits that could be sold for a profit. A large part of the income of a rural family comes from the sale of agricultural products, which can be considered as indirect products of forests since they are produced in swidden fields or gardens where leaf litter and other forest residue are used as fertilizer. Other benefits of trees, such as for shade and as windbreaks, are also highly valued.
The néré tree (Parkia biglobosa) was considered the most important and beneficial tree species in the local forests. It is also commonly used in many ways in other countries (Arbonnier, 2002). For example in the rural villages of Guinea Bissau the smoke from burning the seed capsules of néré is used to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes indoors at night (Pålsson and Jaenson, 1999). The use of extracts from néré is also commonly and effectively used to treat snakebite victims in rural areas of Nigeria (Asuzu and Harvey, 2003). Agunu et al. (2005) have investigated that the aqueous methanol extracts from the néré have pharmacological properties to aid against diarrhoea, which support its use in traditional medicine for the treatment of diarrhoea. Bayala et al. (2005) have reported that the leaves of néré had a higher nutrient content and contained more ash and lignin than the leaves of the shea butter tree. Leaf litter of néré also decomposed more rapidly (Bayala et al., 2005). In the study area spice, sumbara was the most important product from the néré.
As also indicated by Campbell et al. (1989), rural people understand the issues and problems, are anxious to see improvements in their conditions, and are prepared for radical transformation – but only if they are equal participants in the process. Unfortunately international development planners and consultants often emphasize technical and descriptive data and overlook important historical changes in the social and economic conditions that affect natural resource management strategies. A comparison of four planning documents prepared in Guinea during 1987-93 with historically examples from field research demonstrates how the documents overlooked important factors necessary to understand the local techniques for soil management and from women’s organisational experiences (Astone 1998). Therefore local beliefs and the level of knowledge should seriously be taken into account while promoting tree plantations, living fences and other agroforestry practices in Fouta Djallon.
In addition to the protection of fields from the damage caused by animals, living fences could provide other benefits such as leaf litter for composting, fuel wood, fodder, and fruits. These fences near homes could actually provide many of the same general benefits as forests. For example Madany (1991) has reported