A study was conducted to identify the general uses and determine the nutritional components of oil nuts, fruit pulp and leaves of Balanites aegyptiaca. Information on general uses of the plant (Balanites aegyptiaca) was collected through household survey using a semi structured questionnaire. A total of 100 respondents comprising both females and males were interviewed. The results indicated that 60% of respondents use the leaves of the plant for soup, 93% of respondents lick the pulp of the fruits and none of the respondents has ever extracted oil from the nuts. Fresh leaves and dried fruits of Desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca) were collected from the study area and their nutritional compositions were determined. The fruits pulp had 15.57% of moisture, 84.43% of dry matter, 8.87% of ash, 0.97% of crude fat, 6.71% of crude protein, 5.19% of crude fiber, 83.45% of carbohydrate, 348.61% of energy, 78.26% of nitrogen free extract and 0.453mg/g of vitamin C. However, the leaves had 61.78% of moisture, 38.21% of dry matter, 8.92% of ash, 1.94% of crude fat, 30.77% of crude protein, 14.22% of crude fiber, 58.37% of carbohydrate, 317.11% of energy, 44.16% of nitrogen free extract and 0.490mg/g of vitamin C. There were significant differences (p < 0.05) between the fruits and leaves with respect to nutritional composition except for ash content (p > 0.05). 12kg of dried nuts was processed to extract the oil. The percentage of oil extracted from the 12kg of nuts was 44%. Physicochemical properties that were determined from the oil were moisture content (0.15%), free fatty acid such as oleic (1.73%), peroxide value (7.96meq/kg) and vitamin C (52.22mg/g).The experimental design used was completely randomized design (CRD). In conclusion, the leaves and fruits pulp of the desert date plant contain some nutritional components for human consumption. I recommend that, further research should be conducted on the edible oil of the nuts of the plant.

Long time ago, the culture of gathering wild plants continued in many African communities (Teklehaymanot and Giday, 2010). Many rural communities make good use of wild plants by using them to supplement their diet which is based on rain fed cultivation of staples such as maize, cassava, sorghum, millet and wheat. Different kinds of wild consumable plant species offer a wide range of diet to rural communities. Furthermore, wild foods are demanded mostly during shortage of food (Harris and Mohammed, 2003). According to Ogoye-Ndegwa and Aagaard-Hansen (2003), leafy vegetables harvested from the wild still form part of the diets in many rural households in Kenya. It is also significant to recognize that today, wild plants and animals form a significant proportion of the world food basket (Bharucha and Pretty, 2010). It is also stated that many people in the rural or urban communities use wild foods in their diet (Bharucha and Pretty, 2010). Many wild edible plants are nutritionally rich (Ogle and Grivetti, 1985) and can support nutritional requirements, especially vitamins and micronutrients. It is worth to know that a good number (Over 500 traditional communities) use about 800 different kinds of plant species for treating different diseases and as it stands, 80 % of the world population rely on plant-derived medicine for the first line of primary health care due to the fact that it has no side effects (Kamboj, 2000). Even though these wild plants play significant role in the lives of people especially in the rural communities, it is worrying to know that these wild resources in general are often neglected and receive little recognition from developing communities (Scoones, Melnyk and Pretty, 1992). There are so many woody plants in the Africa continent, however, Balanites aegyptiaca is likely to be one of the most wide-spread woody plants of the Africa continent (Sands, 2001). Some of the African countries where the Desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca) is grown are Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Chad, Kenya, Mauritania, Cameroon and Niger (Booth and Wicken, 1988). The plant belongs to a family called Balanitaceae and it is usually semi-evergreen with spines, extremely variable shrub or small tree that has the potential of growing up to twelve meters (12m) high (Chapagain and Wiesman, 2005). Research shows that the plant can begin to flower and also bear fruits at the age of 5-7 years and can give maximum seed production if the tree is 15-25years old (Ndoye et al., 2004).In terms of habitat, Balanites aegyptiaca can be found in many kinds of habitat, accepting a wide variety of soil types such as sandy soil to heavy clay (Abu-Al-Futuh, 1983). Even though the plant could begin to bear fruits and flowers at the age range of 5-7 years, there is no specific time for flowering in the Sahel, although flowering most likely takes place in the dry season. Flowering in Nigeria varies between November and April with ripe fruits becoming available in December and January and sometimes later, from March to July. Elsewhere, fruiting and foliage production take place at the peak of the dry season (Orwa et al., 2009). The flowering time generally occurs during November – April, while the fruiting takes place during December – July (El Amin, 1990; El Ghazali et al., 1994; Bein et al., 1996). The fruits of the plant are yellow and can bear as many as 10,000 fruits yearly on a mature tree that is in a good environmental condition (Chapagain and Wiesman, 2005). According to Okia (2010), places where the plants are found include in the wild (83%), on-farm (13.7%), on fallow land (2.1%) and around homes (0.7%).

The nuts of Balanites aegyptiaca have oil content of 30-60% and protein content of 20-30%. The oil is non-smoking cooking grade type (Hall and Walker,1991; Shanks and Shanks, 1991). The kernel meal is used as livestock feed (Abu-Al-Futuh, 1983). It has herbal medicinal uses (Babagana et al., 2011) for treatment of diarrhea, stomach pains, epilepsy, jaundice, yellow fever and syphilis (Ojo et al., 2006).

In recent times, there is too low in quantity of edible oils and fats in the developing countries of the world and more so in Africa (Sam et al., 2008). In order to overcome this challenge, a lot of research is being carried out to discover and exploit new sources of oil bearing crops (Sam et al., 2008).

In developing countries especially in the rural communities most of the people consume various kinds of wild plant products. It is obvious that some of these wild plants products are poisonous to be consumed by human beings. In addition, awareness of economic benefits of these wild plants in the rural communities is limited. This is confirmed by the report of Abbiw (1990), that there is a wide information gap for some plant species, but maintains that only 15% of tropical species have been catalogued and 1% screened for possible benefits to humanity.

Finally, there is a continuous rise in the price of animal feeds which is partly blamed on the over dependence on conventional feedstuff for feed manufacture (Ojewola and Udom, 2005), which has resulted in the continuous rise in the cost of animal products.

This is because soya bean and groundnuts which are the usual sources of protein locally in animal feed formulation (Ghadge et al.,2009) are also used as food by humans (Singh and Singh, 1991).

The production of oil seeds is one of the most important agro industries in the world today. Formulation of food, drugs and cosmetics are derived from plants and animals oil (Nimet et al., 2011). These oils act as insulators to the body protective layer or internal organ such as heart and lung, and also serve as a source of energy to the body in absence of carbohydrate. (Ochigbo and Paiko, 2011).

Wild plants such as Balanites aegyptiaca contributes greatly in improving the livelihoods of communities. For example, the plant provides materials for utensils, construction, and contributes to improve diets and health, food security, income generation and genetic experimentation (Kumar and Hamal, 2009). If the seeds are well processed could be a cheaper alternative source of protein for animals. Edible parts of wild plants (fruits, flowers, leaves, tubers, inflorescence, roots, rhizome, etc.) are nature’s gift to mankind; these are not only delicious and refreshing but also provide vitamins, minerals and proteins (Kumar and Hamal, 2009).

In the light of these, the West Gonja District of Northern Region of Ghana is naturally gifted with these plants. There are a lot of several economic benefits that the people in the area could depend on to improve their lives yet no research has been made to bring to fore the contribution of the various products of the plant in the study area. It is therefore appropriate and timely that this research is being conducted with the hope that the outcome of this study will help to further expand the uses of Balanites aegyptiaca through exploitation of new uses in the study area. It is also hoped that the outcome of the research could improve the financial situation of the people in the study area and Ghana as a whole in the long run.

To determine the nutritive properties of the oil of nuts, fruits pulp and leaves of the Desert date (balanites aegyptiaca)

1.4.1 Specific Objectives
i. Identify the general uses of Desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca) in the study area

ii. Determine the nutritional components of the oil of nuts, fruits pulp and leaves of the desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca)

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