Threatened existence: Saba senegalensis in southeastern Senegal
The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the system of a wild fruit, Saba senegalensis, as found in southeastern Senegal today. A particular focus was on the sustainability of this system at current harvest rates. Nontimber forest products (NTFP), such as Saba senegalensis, provide important economic and nutritional benefits to populations worldwide. A sustainable Saba harvest is defined by the author to provide a secure, consistent income flow to the local people, while maintaining a healthy Saba population. Specific research objectives were: 1) to describe the Saba system; 2) to analyze the sustainability of the harvest at current levels; 3) to identify sources of people's income and the role the income derived from the harvest of Saba plays in rural livelihoods; and 4) to discuss the vulnerability of the system and explore the ability of the local people to regulate the system.
This analytical case study was carried out at the Fongoli study site in southeastern Senegal between May and August 2002, with a follow-up trip in December and January 2002-2003. Two main methodologies were used: interviews and participant observation.
The Saba senegalensis system, as analyzed in this research, includes the men, women, and children harvesters; the primate species for which this is a keystone food source; the forest ecosystem; and the market economy (including the buyers, sellers, and middlemen). This analysis will include a brief survey of local food production and use practices to provide the context for how Saba fits into this production and consumption system.
The system participants influence one another in numerous ways that have a compounding effect upon the local economy, culture, human livelihoods, and environment. Women are the main harvesters; therefore they have the most to gain, or lose, economically. A portion of this study seeks to establish the econo~c impact of this harvest on the women harvesters in this region, specifically the role of the income derived from this harvest and its effect on the well-being of the women and their families. This will help to understand communities' level of dependence on the Saba harvest.
The complexity of the Saba system helps to make it strong, but it also leaves many points of vulnerability. This study analyzes the weaker points of this system and evaluates the system's ability to withstand possible disturbances. Competition among stakeholders within systems is becoming a prominent issue in natural resource management. It is the hope of the researcher that this study can provide a modest contribution to the understanding of such issues for future conservation work and management within similar systems worldwide.