Friday, March 19, 2010

Africa’s multipurpose tree to improve rural livelihoods

The problem
Growing populations, urbanisation and increasing industrial production in Africa are combining to raise the demand for food and other agricultural commodities. Yet the capacity of available resources and technologies to secure this provision and to achieve the goal of improved livelihoods for all remain uncertain.

The solution: baobab

Harvesting from the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) enables rural people to have a balanced diet. Marketing of baobab products is an important means of income generation for many people and can provide a much needed buffer in times of drought and famine thus helping to reduce hunger and alleviate poverty.

The baobab is therefore one of the most valuable resources in the dry lands of Africa:

* the fruits are rich in vitamin C and are used to prepare beverages,
* the leaves are used fresh or dried as vegetables and as forage,
* the seeds are used to extract oil,
* all parts of the tree have medicinal properties,
* the bark provides strong and durable fibres,
* the tree is fire resistant and can survive severe droughts,
* it is easy and cheap to cultivate and free from any serious pests and diseases

* and it provides shade and protects the soil against erosion.

What could be done to make the baobab tree more widely used? Despite its wide distribution and multi-purpose uses the potential of baobab has not been fully realised. The following steps should be taken to overcome the limitations:

  • the availability of quality planting material should be increased,
  • improved propagation and management techniques should be developed and adopted,
  • processing technologies should be developed and adopted,
  • market chains and infrastructure for baobab products should be developed.
The way forward
Increase the availability of quality planting material. Organisations involved in conservation and utilisation of dry land genetic resources should support:
  • Survey and collection of seed
  • Identification of suitable varieties and their field testing
  • Mapping the tree diversity in different ecosystems
  • Selection and vegetative propagation of appropriate varieties in relation to utilisation objectives

Organisations involved with rural development and tree planting should support:

  • Establishment of tree nurseries
  • Multiplication through vegetative propagation of desired types Development and adoption of improved field establishment and tree management techniques
  • Application of improved propagation and management techniques

Development and application of processing technologies Attention needs to be paid to:

  • Improvement of storage and processing technology (e.g. to retain high levels of vitamin C in drinks and pro-vitamin A in dried leaves)
  • Standardisation of methods for the preparation of medicinal products
  • Knowledge transfer and technical support
  • Promotion of local small-scale industries for baobab products
  • Collaboration between industry and NGOs and CBOs should be promoted.

Marketing of baobab tree products Collaboration between eco- and fair trade associations and partner NGOs and CBOs should be supported.
The priorities are:

  • Adoption of international standards for products
  • Development of locally-made products for local markets
  • Development of market chains and infrastructure for baobab products
  • Promotion of the baobab fruit as a healthy fruit and for cosmetic use for export markets
  • Information collection on the market value of products, and supply and demand estimates
  • Collection of data on income derived from the production to consumption chain


  1. Glad you like it, will check out yours too.
    Dr Baobab

  2. I come from Taita-Taveta District and the Tsavo National Park takes up two thirds of our district. I would like to begin selling baobab pulp and grow quality baobab seedlings for new plantations. However, from what I am seeing from the FAO price list, the supplier prices are too low....$3-20 per kg.....for doing all the work and the final retail prices are $35 per 250 gm of Baobab pulp. That is $120 per kg yet that is the least labour intensive part of the production line. Yes, we can sell baobab products...........for a fair price.

  3. Yes thats a fair comment. The bottom line is that the lions share of this market will go to the companies who can get their product to the right markets. The supply chain is very important, i have not seen $120 kg anywhere, however $3-20per kg does not seem too bad, but it depends what your costings are.
    Sometimes getting a fair price takes time
    Dr Baobab