From left to right, top to bottom: Opuntia monacantha, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia stricta, Opuntia sp. “Vilovilo”; cactus pear; Madagascar; seed oil; livelihood; Madagascar Conservation & Development

Potential of Opuntia seed oil for livelihood improvement in semi-arid Madagascar

Hendrik Hänke, Jan Barkmann, Corina Müller, Rainer Marggraf

Abstract


The coastal area of the Mahafaly Plateau in southwestern Madagascar is prone to droughts, as well as to other environmental risks, resulting in frequent crop failures, famines, and extreme poverty. Thus, the identification of potential complementary livelihood sources has been identified as a crucial step for the sustainable development of the region. In this contribution, we assess the potential of prickly pear seed oil production as an income alternative for local communities. The prickly pears are cacti in the genus Opuntia Mill. and they are highly abundant in the region, particularly as living fences on farmland. From the seeds of its fruit, high-priced seed oil can be extracted. To investigate its economic potential, we inventoried prickly pears in field hedgerows through vegetation inventories and estimated the amount of seed oil that could be produced per household based on field sampling and laboratory analysis. To assess the socioeconomic impact of a potential large-scale project of regional Opuntia seed oil production, we conducted interviews with 51 farming households on human Opuntia consumption, the utilization of its cladodes as fodder, and other livelihood functions.

Five different prickly pears occur in the research region. We found that two out of these five species are highly important socioeconomically (Opuntia monacantha and O. streptacantha) and contribute >50% to total food intake during periods of food shortage. Likewise, these species are consumed as a key water source and used as livestock fodder. In contrast, the other three Opuntia species are barely eaten by local residents or by livestock (O. dillenii, O. stricta and O. phaeacantha). These species are more spiny, and their fruits are virtually inedible due to a much higher seed content. The combination of low nutritional value and high seed content suggests promising seed oil production potential for these types of Opuntia. To avoid competition between human nutrition and the commercialization of local Opuntia seeds, sourcing strategies should exclusively target the fruit of the two high seed species. However, investments for oil mills, skilled staff, and adequate logistics would be needed to create local value from this underrated resource in the Mahafaly region.

 

Résumé

La zone côtière du plateau Mahafaly, dans le sud-ouest de Madagascar est caractérisée par un climat sec et aride, et est sujette à des risques environnementaux à l’origine de fréquentes récoltes de moindre qualité, de famines et d’une pauvreté extrême. L'identification de moyens  complémentaires a été reconnue comme un étape clé pour le développement durable de la région. Le potentiel de la production d'huile obtenue à partir des graines de figues de Barbarie (Opuntia Mill.) a été évalué à titre d’alternative pour générer des revenus par les communautés locales. Les figues de Barbarie sont les fruits de cactus du genre Opuntia Mill. qui sont communs dans la région ; les figuiers sont plus particulièrement utilisés pour servir de haies vives pour border les champs. Les graines des fruits contiennent de l'huile qui peut atteindre un prix élevé. Pour étudier le potentiel économique de cette huile, un inventaire des figuiers de Barbarie a été réalisé dans les haies vives bordant les champs, suivi d’une estimation de la quantité d'huile qui peut être extraite des graines par les ménages en procédant à des échantillonnages sur le terrain et à des analyses en laboratoire. Pour évaluer l'impact socio-économique d'un éventuel projet à grande échelle de production d'huile de graines de figues, 51 ménages ont été interrogés sur les différentes utilisations locales des figuiers de Barbarie.

Cinq espèces d’Opuntia ont été rencontrées sur la zone d’étude dont  deux espèces (O. monacantha et O. streptacantha) sont importantes d’un point de vue socio-économique. Lors des périodes de pénurie alimentaire, elles représentent plus de 50% de l'apport alimentaire pour les gens de la région. Ces deux espèces sont aussi consommées comme une source d'eau clé et sont utilisées comme fourrage pour le bétail. Les trois autres espèces d'Opuntia sont à peine consommées qu’il s’agisse des gens de la région ou du bétail (O. dillenii, O. stricta et O. phaeacantha). Ces espèces sont plus épineuses et leurs fruits sont pratiquement immangeables en raison d'une teneur en graines beaucoup plus élevée. La combinaison d'une faible valeur nutritive et d'une forte teneur en graines suggèrent un potentiel prometteur pour la production d'huile de graines. Afin de ne pas mettre en péril les valeurs nutritives des figuiers pour les gens de la région avec la commercialisation des semences, les stratégies d'approvisionnement devraient cibler exclusivement les fruits des deux espèces qui présentent le plus de graines. Des investissements, comme ceux destinés aux huileries, un personnel qualifié et une logistique adéquate sont nécessaires pour créer une valeur locale à partir de cette ressource sous-estimée dans la région Mahafaly.


Keywords


Opuntia; seed oil; livelihood improvement; Madagascar; food security; rural development

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References


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Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510