General Description / Cultural Significance
The ficus is a large tropical tree, and one of the most important in the country Burundi. Each family is supposed to have a ficus, as it symbolizes the head of the family, and head of the household, even after his death. The people prepare cloth from its bark, from which they make clothes, and also use it as medicine, to treat whooping cough and influenza. The tree can exist for generations, so it is important culturally. However, even this cultural tradition may be evolving as at this time, seven out of ten members of the rapidly growing population are under fifteen years of age and malnourished.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
The fig tree is often used as a shade tree on coffee plantations in Africa. Coffee makes up 80% of this East African country’s export revenue. However, the coffee plant and other agricultural production, as well as some endemic flora, are being threatened by increases in the average temperature and change in the seasonal rainfall. In contrast, the ficus has been one of the most adaptive species, as it has been shown to have exceptional water conservation traits. Unfortunately, the young population of the country is vulnerable, poor, and with few resources to help them adapt to the challenges of climate change and food security.
The major problems in the country are degradation and exhaustion of soils and forestry resources, the human impact of sanitation issues, and the continuing crisis of malaria. Deforestation and soil erosion, and the resulting floods and destruction, have regularly damaged country infrastructure. There have been many environmental projects adapted in order to address these problems and develop coping mechanisms. However, the impacts of climate change continue to intensify.