26 June 2019

Trees in the spotlight! The African Wild Olive (Olea europaea)

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The evergreen African Wild Olive grows in the Afromontane forests in Sudan, Somalia, Eastern tropical Africa, up to South Africa. She prefers the drier highland forests between 1250 to 3000 meters above sea level. With its many branches and rounded crown, it grows between 5 to 15 meters tall, often next to the Juniperus (the East African pencil cedar).

In Tigray, Ethiopia, this tree is mostly distributed as a relic tree in monasteries, villages, churches and in Afromontane natural forests.


Not to be confused with the Meditteranean olive tree

For those that are getting excited about tossing some African olive oil in their next salad, unlike the Mediterranean olive trees, the African Wild Olives are not edible or commercialized. This is mainly because this fruit is very thin and has small seeds, and therefore the amount of oil that could be extracted from the seeds is too small and too difficult. However, in ancient times the Ethiopian Orthodox church used some of the extracted oil during the mass ceremony (as a holy ointment) and to polish the holy wooden materials used for ceremonial purpose.

A tree with many purposes

This tree species is very useful for dryland restoration, as it is drought and frost resistant and flower within 4-5 years, potentially giving fruits every year. 

Furthermore the tree is searched after for its durable timber, especially great to make ornaments and jewels. The leaves make good livestock fodder during the dry season and when burnt, the smoke from its leaves and stem is being used to fumigate food and liquid containers. If that wasn´t enough, the root or the bark is often used to treat malaria.


However, because of the many uses of this tree, it has been over-harvested dramatically in Tigray, resulting under threat of local extinction. It is because of this, that WeForest is now focusing on extreme protection and reforestation of this valuable species.


Manon Koningstein

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer (CMCO)

Manon is responsible for the Marketing and Communications at WeForest. She holds a European master's degree in Intercultural Communications from Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She has over six years of experience working on communication for development, especially focused at topics as gender, agriculture and forestry, with previous work experiences with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Manon has lived for over nine years in Latin America, is currently based in Spain and speaks fluent Dutch, English...