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Mpingo tree

Latin name: Dalbergia melanoxylon

Areas: | Tanzania | Mozambique |

IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Mpingo tree

“The wood of mpingo is dark, beautiful, lustrous and increasingly rare. FFI and our partner are working with local communities to develop systems for harvesting mpingo sustainably. This enables villagers to apply the same principles to manage other timber species, ensuring that trees are valued, livelihoods enhanced and habitats for wildlife protected.”

Bruce Liggitt

FFI Africa Programme Manager

An image relating to Mpingo tree

The mpingo tree is one of Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI’s) longstanding flagship tree species. Its dense black wood, which gives the tree its other name, the African blackwood, is in demand for making professional musical instruments.

Mpingo trees can be found across 26 African countries, from northern Ethiopia, to Angola in the south and from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east.

Mpingo facts:

  • Has the ability to survive fires that sweep through grasslands destroying other vegetation
  • The dark heartwood is one of the most valuable timbers in the world
  • Between 7,500 and 20,000 trees are felled for musical instruments such as clarinets, oboes and bagpipes each year
  • Many local people, such as the Makonde tribe in Mozambique and Tanzania, carve mpingo into ornaments that are sold to tourists

Illegal logging and over-harvesting have decimated mpingo tree populations in Kenya and much of northern Tanzania over the last 30 years.

FFI is working with our local partner the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative to help Tanzanian communities use their mpingo trees in a sustainable way. The world’s first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified mpingo wood was harvested in December 2009.

FFI is also a partner of the Sound and Fair campaign, which promotes sustainably produced woodwind instruments.

Ensuring a market for FSC instruments means communities have an incentive to continue their sustainable harvesting.

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Did you know?

Mpingo trees grow extremely slowly, not reaching harvestable age for between 70 and 100 years.

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