Mpingo Fact Sheet
- Miombo* woodlands containing Mpingo and other species once
covered vast areas of the African savannah from Ethiopia to South Africa.
- Populations of Mpingo suitable for commercial harvesting are now found
mainly in Mozambique and Tanzania.
- Known locally in Tanzania in the KiSwahili language as the Mpingo
- International musical instrument trade brings in $1.5M to local Tanzanian
economy (ca. 1992).
- A thorny member of the rosewood family whose roots support a specialized
bacteria which increases soil fertility.
- Miombo woodlands including mpingo as one of its mixed species serve as a
barrier to spreading desertification.
- The leaves of mpingo serve as fodder for migrating wildlife.
- Becoming increasingly known as The Tree of Music for its
qualities as a material for woodwind instruments.
- Premier wood in the world for Ornamental Turning.
- Estimated 3 million trees exist today, according to "The Tree of
- One typical mill on the southern coast of Tanzania processes 600 trees
- 60 years are required to produce commercially viable trees.
- Of the current population, only about 20%, or 600,000 trees, are suitable
- At the current extraction rate of 20-30,000 trees per year, the
harvestable population diminishes at a rate of 5% per year.
- Human-caused burning kills younger trees which are not yet resistant to
the effects of fire and causes defects in growing trees.
- Replanting and controlling fires are the first steps in replenishing the
* "The Miombo Woodlands system is taken to include all those
Southern and Central African ecosystems which occur under a hot, subhumid, seasonally-wet
climate on soils derived from acid crystalline geologies. The components of this system
include woodlands on well-drained soils, and hydromorphic grasslands (called dambos) in
drainage lines. Miombo occupy about 5 million square km, and support about 100 million
people with food, fuel, building materials, medicines and water." This definition is
taken from the Miombo Network. In depth information about the Miombo ecosystem is
available on the International
Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Report 41 page of the Miombo Network website.
** Source for most of the information on this page is the 1992 BBC
Television Documentary "The Tree of Music" aired on US PBS television stations
on the Nature series. All of the numbers for tree populations and use are
estimates, as no firm inventories of Mpingo populations exist and the extraction rate is
also uncertain because much illegal felling goes unreported in the local forestry
statistics which are derived from the selling of licenses to cut mpingo, a protected
species in Tanzania.
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ABCP Website maintained by James E. Harris, © 2000.
Last revised 21 Apr 2008.