Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 585–618 | Cite as

Eating from the wild: Turumbu, Mbole and Bali traditional knowledge on non-cultivated edible plants, District Tshopo, DRCongo

  • Céline TermoteEmail author
  • Patrick Van Damme
  • Benoît Dhed’a Djailo
Research Article


Wild Edible Plant (WEP) knowledge is very important for the survival of many African communities and may constitute a genetic resource pool for the development of novel food products. Only very limited and general information on WEPs of the Tshopo District, DRCongo, is available in international literature. Ethnobotanical research was carried out in 3 ethnic groups, Turumbu, Mbole and Bali, in 3 different territories of the Tshopo District. In 3 villages per ethnic group, WEPs were inventoried and their properties discussed in focus groups. Via ‘walks-in-the-woods’ with key informants all WEPs were collected to constitute a reference herbarium. Preferences in taste, commercial, nutritional and cultural value, were discussed during participatory ranking exercises. A total of 166 WEPs (165 species and 2 varieties) in 71 families, together with their uses, preparation methods, availability and commercialization possibilities were documented. Comparisons between the 3 ethnic groups showed that the use and knowledge of WEPs is clearly culturally defined with high diversity between ethnic groups. Therefore, we should make a difference between species with regional importance and ethnospecific species when it comes to priority setting for further study and participatory domestication. Based upon the preference ranking exercises, Anonidium mannii, Landolphia owariensis and Megaphrynium macrostachyum are some of the species with regional importance. Participatory domestication aims at ameliorating nutrition security and diversifying and increasing local farmers’ income whilst protecting the tropical rainforest from overexploitation.


Domestication Ethnobotany Neglected crops Species priority setting Under-utilized species Wild foods 



The authors thank the Turumbu, Mbole and Bali communities for sharing their knowledge and hosting us during fieldwork, and the collaborators at the University of Kisangani and IFA-Yangambi for their assistance during field research. The staff of the herbarium in Meise (Brussels) also deserves a word of thanks. The WEPs Research Project in Tshopo District, executed by University of Ghent in collaboration with University of Kisangani, was financed by the VlIR-UOS (Flemish Inter-University Council, University Development Cooperation; ZEIN2004_3000; MPRDC2007_25). The first author obtained a grant from the Belgian Leopold III fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation to finish data-collection within the Mbole and Bali communities.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Céline Termote
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patrick Van Damme
    • 1
  • Benoît Dhed’a Djailo
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy and EthnobotanyUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of Genetics, Plant Improvement and Biotechnology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of KisanganiKisanganiDRCongo

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