Item Details

Title: Folk Classification of Shea Butter Tree (Vitellaria paradoxa subsp. nilotica)
Ethno-varieties in Uganda

Date Published: June, 2011
Author/s: Samson Gwali, John Bosco Lamoris Okullo, Gerald Eilu, Grace Nakabonge, Philip Nyeko & Peter Vuzi
Data publication:
Funding Agency :
Copyright/patents/trade marks: Ethnobotany Research & Applications
Journal Publisher: Ethnobotany Research & Applications
Affiliation: Makerere University, P. O. Box 7062 Kampala, UGANDA, National Forestry Resources Research Institute, P. Box 1752, Kampala, UGANDA,


Folk knowledge has been the basis for selection and improvement
of many food crops such as potatoes, sorghum,
yams, cassava and rice. In Uganda, there is strong
potential to utilize folk knowledge to select and domesticate
the shea butter tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C.F. Gaertn.
subsp. nilotica (Kotschy) A.N. Henry & Chithra & N.C.
Nair), an important economic tree species. Farmers report
high variation in fruit yield, tree form and pulp taste. In this
study, we documented shea tree folk classification by interviewing
300 respondents, 15 focus groups and 41 key
informants across three farming systems of Uganda. Data
were analyzed using Kruskall-Wallis and Spearman’s
tests, Chi-square, Multivariate, Factor and Discriminant
Function Analyses. Folk classification and nomenclature
of shea tree ethno-varieties is based on fruit/nut organoleptic
(color and taste) and morphological attributes. Interestingly,
despite the socio-cultural importance of shea
oil, it does not feature as a factor in the folk classification
and nomenclature of shea tree ethno-varieties. There
was no significant difference in classification knowledge
across the three farming systems (Kruskal – Wallis ?2 =
28, df = 28, p > 0.05; Spearman’s R > 0.8, p < 0.0001) although
there was significant influence from ethnicity of the
respondents (Pillai’s trace = 0.817, p < 0.001). While this
study provides a record of shea tree ethno-varieties and
associated classification criteria, there is need to validate
these ‘ethno-varieties’ using detailed morphological, biochemical
and molecular analyses.