Species name
tortilis 1(Forssk.) Hayne

Mimosaceae (Fabaceae)

Local name(s)
Deweni grar (Amargna), Abak, Akab, Qura, Ora, Timad (Somali), Behbey (Afargna), Dadach (Borenagna), Lotoba, Tedecha (Oromiffaa), Shera (Gamogna), Akiba, Aqba (Tigrigna), Tsi (Sahogna), Umbrella thorn (Engl.)

General description
A spiny acacia, usually 4-8m high but reaching 20m in riverine vegetation. The crown is narrow when young, spreading, flat-topped and umbrella-like at maturity. The bark is longitudinally fissured and dark grey. Branches are armed at each node with a straight white thorn as well as two short grey sharply recurved spines. Flowers are in white heads. The fruit is a grey-yellow to brown pod, often curled into a ring are crescent shape. The seeds are smooth and greenish grey.

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
Ripe fresh pods are eaten but the seeds are normally discarded, except in times of extreme food shortage. Then seeds are eaten as well. The crunchy pods have a faint sweet taste. Besides the pods the gum can also be eaten but is of inferior quality, is sticky and may cause choking. It is a typical famine food and a last resource in Somali Region of Ethiopia where it is collected by children and women when other foodstuff gets scarce. When rains fail or are insufficient for a number of other wild foodstuffs to grow, seedpods from A. tortilis are a secure food than can be picked at the end of a severe drought period after seasonal rains were not successful. Furthermore, the inner bark can be chewed to relieve thirst.

Nutritional value

Commercial use 
A. tortilis is the most important acacia among pastoral communities. Pods can be sold as human and livestock food. Two handfuls of fresh pods sold in Kolo'aan, Boh Woreda, Warder Zone, Somali Region, for 500 Somali Shillings, even during drought periods when people run out of money and experience hardship anyway. Also fuel wood and charcoal prepared from this species are widely sold on local markets and along commercial tracks in Somali Region.

The species is widely spread in tropical and subtropical Africa from Algeria and Senegal to Eritrea and south to Angola, Namibia and Mozambique. Widespread in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries in dry bushland, bushed grassland, wooded grassland, riverine vegetation and arid-land scrub (600m - 1,500m). The soils on which A. tortilis grow are very variable, from sandy to black cotton and also common on red soils. It is among the most drought resistant acacia species and grows with 200-900mm of rainfall.

Propagation method(s) & management 
Propagates by seedlings and wildlings. Its a slow-growing tree species but if well managed on dry sandy soils it grown relatively fast. Storage of seeds does not make any problem as the viability of the seeds remains for a long time. Seed dormancy can be broken when passing trough an animal gut, by scarification, bush fire or by hot water treatment. Young plants have to protected from goats.

Sample location (s)
Warder, Danot, Boh and Geladin Woredas of Warder Zone, Somali Region.

As the species is very drought-resistant, it has a high potential for desert reclamation. In pastoral communities this species is of multipurpose use. Products are derived that directly or indirectly contribute to pastoral communities livelihoods and survival in times of extreme drought or other difficulties. Therefore, A. tortilis is in many ways of high potential and should be promoted in semi-arid areas.

1 Parts of the following description have been taken from Maundu et al., 1999: p.49/50; Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993: p.68/69; and Huxham et al., 1998: p.10/11

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AcaciatortilistreeWarderJul2001.jpg (39780 bytes)
Mature A. tortilis tree in Boh woreda of Warder Zone, Somali Region, July 2001

AcaciatortflowersontreeWarderJul2001.jpg (30274 bytes)

AcaciatortseedpodontreeWarderJul2001.jpg (26619 bytes)

Acaciatortilisdryseedpods.jpg (21007 bytes)
Flowers (very top) and seedpods on the tree (middle) and dried in hand (top), Somali Region, July 2001

AcaciatfreshpodsDanotkidsconsum.jpg (101679 bytes)  

Children in Danot settlement consuming fresh seed pods, Danot Woreda, Warder Zone, Somali Region, July 2001

AcaciatortilisfreshpodsDanot.jpg (96961 bytes)
A. tortilis seedpods collected by women in Danot settlement, July 2001