Seed oils sourced from West Africa are generally not well-characterized, but likely to have an untapped potential. This review aims to make an overview of fatty acid (FA) composition of unconventional seed oils from semi-arid West African trees and evaluate potential for new and enhanced uses and for improving local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. A total of 111 studies on FA composition were found, covering 31 species. Only 69 of the studies (62%) were included in the review, as 38% had unreliable or incomplete results. There was a clear link between taxonomic kinship and FA composition. Over 20 potentially interesting and underexploited oils were found, including oils with properties similar to palm oil, olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and cotton seed oil. About half of the oils have promising potential for cosmetics. One third of the oils were relatively saturated, indicating properties for structuring food and heat resistance. Most of the species had multiple uses and oil production could be profitable in co-production with other non-timber forest products. Furthermore, establishment of sustainable oil production and domestication of oil trees could promote biodiversity conservation. Enhanced oil production in semi-arid West Africa is promising, but several practical constraints remain to be overcome.
- Non-timber forest products (NTFP)
- Unconventional oils