A few days ago I went to a shop that sells jewelry made from vegetable ivory beads. I’d never heard of vegetable ivory until my mom sent me an article about button identification and preservation a few weeks ago. Vegetable ivory is the way to go, if you want all the fun of real ivory without harming elephants.
Here in Burundi, vegetable ivory comes from the nut or seed of a locally found palm tree. I got to see the whole production process, from sawing open the nut, to dying with curry powder or other plant-based dyes, to polishing and carving, and finally stringing the beads into beautiful necklaces. The retail shop is on a compound where all the work takes place, too.
At the compound, folks are also experimenting with oil from jatropha plants. Its seeds have a high yield of highly usable oil. It can be adapted for diesel engines, lamp fuel, cooking oil, and even made into soap and candles
As an added bonus, the compound also has some fearsome guard geese, stupid turkeys, a friendly monkey, huge toads, and an owl that was sleeping. I love how everyone’s yard here is basically a petting zoo. (Clicking on the photo will take you to flickr, where there are more photos of the beads and the animals.)