What is blackwood?

African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) is a small tree, typically growing no higher than 10m, and is known locally in Swahili as mpingo.

Where is blackwood found?

A pan-African species, African Blackwood grows from Senegal to Ethiopia, and as far south as South Africa. However, the species is commercially extinct outside Tanzania and Mozambique,

Why focus on blackwood?

Blackwood is the national tree of Tanzania and is one of the most valuable timber species in the world. If harvested by communities in a sustainable way, it could provide reliable long-term income to communities, giving them an economic incentive to conserve and protect their forests. It also has the potential to be a flagship species for conservation.

How long does it take to grow?

70 to 100 years to reach maturity when the tree trunk typically reaches a girth of around 1m.

What instruments are made from blackwood?

Blackwood is the wood of choice for high quality clarinets, oboes, wooden flutes and bagpipes. Musical instrument manufacturers often know blackwood as grenadilla.

Are there any other uses of blackwood?

Internationally, blackwood is used for hard-wearing products such as knife handles and pool / snooker / billiard cues. Locally blackwood is traditionally used for carvings, particularly by the Makonde, whose lands straddle the Tanzania-Mozambique border.

What is the yield from sawn blackwood?

Blackwood trees rarely grow straight and fault-free, bends, lateral twists and deep fluting are all common, as is heart-rot which disproportionately affects larger trees. The smallest fault can cause wood to split when it is put on a lathe to make an instrument, hence wastage rates when sawing billets for export is very high. Typically yields when processing wood for export are 10% although it varies on the quality of the processing and the logs used.

What volumes of blackwood are traded?

It is estimated that the annual export market for blackwood, primarily to make musical instruments is 250m³. Assuming a 10% yield,this implies that 2,500m³ of raw logs are harvested every year for the export market, although this is only an estimate.