Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 513–533 | Cite as

Local Values, Social Differentiation and Conservation Efforts: The Impact of Ethnic Affiliation on the Valuation of NTFP-Species in Northern Benin, West Africa

  • Katja Heubach
  • Rüdiger Wittig
  • Ernst-August Nuppenau
  • Karen Hahn


Non-timber forest products contribute significantly to rural livelihoods in the West African savannas. This study investigates differences in use preferences for native woody species in six categories of plant use and their economic returns among five ethnic groups in Northern Benin. Ethnobotanical survey data from 230 households revealed that both ethnic affiliation and location significantly impact species’ valuation. Of a total of 90 species, 61 % were used for medicinal applications, 41 % as firewood, 39 % for construction, and 32 % as human foods. While certain plant species were used by all rural dwellers, others were used exclusively by particular ethnic groups. Vitellaria paradoxa, Parkia biglobosa and Adansonia digitata are key economic species for all groups. Conservation measures should consider multi-purpose trees fulfilling subsistence and cash needs while taking into consideration cultural differences in use preferences.


Savannas Use values Non-timber forest products Sub-Saharan Africa Economic value Benin 



The present study was conducted at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and funded by the research funding programmed “LOEWE – Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-Ökonomischer Exzellenz” of Hesse’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts. The authors are grateful to Gnanando Saidou and Laurent Akissatom who assisted in field work and especially all respondents who took part in the survey. Sincere thanks go further to Prof. Brice Sinsin (University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin) for scientific and logistic support. Furthermore, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katja Heubach
    • 1
    • 5
  • Rüdiger Wittig
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ernst-August Nuppenau
    • 4
  • Karen Hahn
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Nature ConservationHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Sciences - UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (LOEWE BiK-F)Frankfurt/MainGermany
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Geobotany, Institute of Ecology, Evolution and DiversityJ.W. Goethe-UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  4. 4.Institute for Agricultural Policy and Market ResearchGießenGermany
  5. 5.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Frankfurt (BiK-F)Frankfurt/MainGermany

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