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Story Publication logo May 4, 2023

The African Plum Tree, an Illegally Exploited Species? (French)


a tree and a lake

The African plum tree and the false palm are threatened with extinction in Burundi.

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This story excerpt was translated from French. To read the original story in full, visit Yaga Burundi. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

Image by Ejoheza News. Burundi, 2023.

The African plum tree, an endangered species, is sold illegally in the markets of Bujumbura. Environmentalists are calling on the environmental authority to punish these traders in order to curb the abusive and illegal exploitation of this tree. OBPE wants to reassure. An investigation.

Sunday. 10:00 am. The area around the Kinama market is not empty. Although it has been raining in Bujumbura since last night, the market is still very busy. Since the renovation of this market, no vendor is allowed to display his goods outside.

However, the sidewalk of the cobblestone street behind this market is occupied by herbal vendors. Cars try to make their way through the din of horns. This is where the traditional practitioners of the economic capital Bujumbura buy their supplies. One of the vendors entices customers: "Those who are looking for umugombe, umunazi, umurinzi, umahangahanga, umuremera, come! We sell at low prices."

The identity of suppliers is well guarded.

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However, the exploitation and trade of one of these species has been prohibited in Burundi since 2008. This is the "umuremera," the African plum tree. This seller says that the price of the bark of the African plum tree is 10,000 BIF. Ditto for its fruit. When asked where he extracts the bark, he dismisses the question: "Buy or leave me alone."

Inside the market, there is also a place reserved for traditional practitioners. There, the African plum tree is highly prized. It is a very lucrative business. It is sold in powder form. Jérémie*, a traditional practitioner, does not hide the price of this product: "A spoonful of the powder from the bark costs 3000 BIF. For the powder from its fruits, the price climbs to 4000 BIF per spoonful. When asked about the identity of his suppliers, he gives evasive answers. When we ask again, he is embarrassed and continues to dodge the question. "We are waiting for them to supply us because we cannot reach the place where they are planted because it is protected by military and eco-guards," he says.