For many in the Western world, the baobab tree is symbolic, a species of tree that we envision planted on Le Petit Prince’s planet, or as ancient trees featured in travel photography.
In Mozambique, however, the long-lived baobab has long played an important ecological role. More recently it’s playing an economic one as well.
Baobab trees grow in the wild and produce large, hard-shelled fruits that contain a white, packed flesh inside. The flesh can be turned into powder, used to make juice, porridge, desserts and even traditional beer.
The fruit also contains some surprising nutritional benefits. It is high in vitamin C, and contains other minerals and nutrients. Recent research is also exploring its potential for anti-inflammatory properties.
Traditionally, the seed oil, bark and fruits have also been used in a variety of herbal medicines, as well as for skin rejuvenation. The tree also plays a role in traditional ceremonies.
But why is all of this important?
In the Guru and Tambara districts of Manica in Mozambique, baobab is a common plant. Rural farmers there, like many across the continent, have had a difficult year. Markets are down, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for farmers to sell their crops.
As part of the RECOVER project funded by the funded by the Green Innovation Centres, a global project implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under the special initiative “ONE World − No Hunger” of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), we identified local crops and value chains across seven countries that had the potential to take off, and enable small-scale farmers to successfully make a profit and feed their families.
Baobab has a lot of potential, which is why Farm Radio International, in partnership with GIZ is developing radio programs and resources on the topic with local radio stations in Mozambique.
Radio programs will guide local rural farmers through the nutritional and medicinal values of baobab, how to properly and safely collect the fruit, how to properly store and market their harvest, and how to manage their finances throughout the process.
The programs are also set to address COVID-19 health measures, as well as explore issues of gender equality and equity within the baobab value chain.
“I did not know that baobab fruit that grows in the forests would be a source of income and could produce food stuffs like desserts that can be consumed and sold in the big cities,” says Natalia, a baobab collector from Guro in the Manica province.
It’s a new way of looking at an ancient tree.
About the project:
The RECOVER (RELANCE in French) project is a 15-month, €2.9 million ($4.3 million CAD) project designed to encourage and improve agriculture and economic recovery, safely, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic — especially as countries and economies begin to re-open. It is funded by the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).