Objective: Picking fungal fruit bodies is a popular spare time occupation, as well as a source of income in many countries. In central and southern Côte d’Ivoire, fruit bodies of the genus Termitomyces are intensively harvested and sold by the local inhabitants. However, information on the dimensions of this trade and on other socio-economic aspects of the exploitation of these edible mushrooms is lacking. This study aims at (a)
investigating the local populations’ knowledge about Termitomyces fruit bodies, (b) examining their utilization by identifying the actors involved of their exploitation and (c) determining the factors, explaining income differences among actors of this exploitation and fructification areas. Methodology: Some 240 persons from 12 villages belonging to two sub-ethnic groups (Baoulé and Abbey) were interviewed as to their attitude towards Termitomyces, using a structured survey questionnaire. Thus, we obtained information on Termitomyces fruit bodies’ availability, on indigenous knowledge and especially on the modes of utilization as well as on seasonal aspects of their trade.
Conclusions: Interviewees had a solid knowledge of edible mushrooms in general and Termitomyces in particular. Four species were recorded in the study area (Termitomyces medius, T. letestui, T. cf. eurhizus and T. fuliginosus). The latter three species were considered as edible. These mushrooms are a key source of cash income, especially for women (traders) and the farmers (harvesters). However, only one species, Termitomyces letestui, is sold through a well-established trade route. Seasonal earnings within this trade route differed among actors, visited villages and phytogeographic zones. These fungi representing a typical Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are menaced by unsustainable depletion. Overharvesting is jeopardizing their persistence as well as that of their dependant termite species. Raising an awareness that prevents their incurring the “tragedy of the commons” by developing a sustainable form of harvest is an essential prerequisite for their long-term preservation.