Corporate Social Responsibility
Category: BAOBAB FOUNDATION
A little while ago I told you about our Baobab Preschool Programme which our EcoProducts Foundation is supporting. Another project that we’re so excited about is the Baobab Guardians programme.
The baobab tree takes 200 years to produce its first fruits, can live for over 1000 years, survives and even flourishes in almost desert-like conditions; but even this mighty giant is succumbing to the environmental impact created by our civilization. Their tasty young tender shoots get eaten up by livestock such as goats, nor can they tolerate drought at this young age so it’s rare for a seedling to last the three years it requires until reaching self-sufficiency in the wild.
While fruit collection remains a sustainable practice and doesn’t in any way impact on the ecology or wellbeing of baobabs, studies show that the survival of baobab populations is being threatened in the long-term by environmental degradation and climate change. As a baobab ecologist with a doctorate in baobab sustainability, this concerns me deeply.
“It’s about creating a culture of caring for the future, for our communities and for our earth”
This is what we’re doing
Our simple aim is to plant more baobab trees in the arid area of Venda where climate change and livestock is affecting the survival of young baobabs. It’s my dream to have FIFTY strong healthy new baobabs planted and thriving out in the wild by 2017. This will ensure a new generation of young vigorous baobabs complementing the much older generations of trees currently around.
How it works
Rural Venda women are given baobab seedlings to take care of in their homes – they become Baobab Guardians. Once the seedlings reach 1 metre in height, they are ready to be planted out in the wild. Each Baobab Guardian can decide where to plant the tree, taking into account proximity to the village (the roots spread wide), how they will protect the tree from browsing livestock such as goats and donkeys, and ease of watering and caretaking.
Each baobab tree is identified by its GPS coordinates and I will be monitoring and recording its growth and progress every year.
Once the baobab seedling reaches 3 metres in height, it’s mature enough to withstand livestock foraging and drought; it no longer requires guardianship. This takes approximately 3 years.
The Baobab Guardians are rewarded financially for each completed stage.
We began this program in November 2013 and we need a total of R400,000 to ensure that our 4 year plan succeeds.
I can’t imagine an African landscape without Baobab trees silhouetted against the sky. Baobab trees are an integral part of our natural heritage and our indigenous culture; quite simply they belong to Africa.
We are so grateful to the Bonga Foundation who donated seed-funding to kickstart this important project. Also our gratitude goes to Sevenhills Wholefoods who have stepped forward to fund an entire year of the program! If you’d like to contribute in any way, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to hear from you!
Here’s to creating a culture of caring!
Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive of the launch of the EcoProducts Foundation. All your shares, likes and comments help spread the word and have been so encouraging to us. We’d like to tell you a little more about one of our programmes, Baobab Pre-school.
Like most mothers, Venda women work hard all day long, sometimes away from home growing and harvesting crops, wild-harvesting foods and collecting firewood and water. Of course someone needs to take care of their little ones while they’re away and this task often falls to one or two village women and so informal pre-schools are set up.
It’s heart breaking to see some of these bare, meagre places which offer little more than hard concrete floors surrounded by dusty unfenced grounds and if they are lucky, an old car tyre for the children to play with. Safe play areas and equipment, good food and warm little beds and blankets for nap time seem like an impossible dream for the women who run these little pre-schools. Nor do the women have any training in early childhood development so by the time the children are of school-going age, they are ill-prepared for the school years ahead of them.
This is what we’re doing
Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been identified as a means of breaking the poverty cycle. Those children who have received a strong foundation in their early development have been found to blossom academically. By focusing on the correct development areas and adequate nutrition before school-going age, children are given a boost that will help them for the rest of their lives.
The Baobab Pre-school programme was begun as an initiative which identifies under-resourced pre-schools in the areas where baobab harvesters live. EcoProducts Foundation has partnered with the Sumbandila Trust who has been involved in educating rural children in under-privileged schools since 2007.
How it works
Our aim is to help four pre-schools per year with these core actions:
If you’d like to contribute in any way, please contact me at email@example.com. I’ll be delighted to hear from you!
Here’s to creating a culture of caring.
I decided to create the EcoProducts Foundation (a non-profit organisation) when I realised that simply providing employment to local Venda communities wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more and decided to support early childhood development, which in these rural areas is very neglected. In addition, the results of my PhD research revealed that goats and drought were hampering the growth of young baobab trees. It seemed to me that the most helpful thing I could do was to focus on creating a culture of caring for both children and trees. So I began by setting aside funds from my own business, EcoProducts, to initiate the process and in 2013, we launched the Baobab Guardians Programme.
Since EcoProducts is fortunate to have strong connections with local and international businesses, I began to hope that the EcoProducts Foundation could create a funding conduit between my customers and the communities I work with.
I have approached a few businesses so far and have been generously supported by the Bonga Foundation and Sevenhills Organics who have stepped forward to help and to offer their warmly appreciated contributions.
I would be so grateful for any further contributions to theses two programmes that are close to my heart. Please share this post with anyone you think may be inspired to make a donation – large or small. Every little bit is so very welcome!
To find out more about each programme and how to donate, please click on the links below.
Giving back is a way of giving thanks; thanks for what we have, and what we are able to give. And today we’re so grateful to Bonga Foods and the Bonga Foundation for their warm generosity. Their most recent donation has enabled us to give back to the Venda community which supports us in harvesting Baobab fruit for EcoProducts. We’ve used Bonga’s generous donation to build Jungle Gyms and swings at the Zigodini pre-school. Before, all they had to play with in the dusty school grounds were some old car tyres. Now they play on the jungle-gym all day long – to watch their exuberant joy in playing, swinging and sliding is a gift all of itself!
Winters are very cold and these little ones were having to sleep on the cold cement floor. Now with Bonga’s donation we’ve been able to help provide some desperately needed mattresses and blankets for the children’s mid-morning naps. We’ve also been able to contribute practical maintenance such as fixing all the leaks in the roof and mending the surrounding fence so that the kids can stay safe and can’t wander off the property.
These are all such basic things which we take for granted; now Zigodini Pre-school can too.
Thank you Bonga Foundation. You demonstrate the true wisdom of nurturing our future. And children are our future.
If anyone else would like to contribute to Zigodini Pre-school in any way, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
When baobabs are still young they are vulnerable to damage. This young baobab was damaged at the base, but it was helped to survive by coppicing (sprouting). After a few years most of the coppice shoots die but two or three remain leaving the tree to develop into a multistemed tree which you can clearly see in the photo of the adult tree.
I went to visit Blessing to see how her seedlings are getting on. Blessing’s seedlings are looking lovely. They were planted in Feburary this year just after a community training workshop on how to grow baobabs. Soon the seedlings will lose their leaves for the winter and look like sticks and then in the spring the baobablets will push out new leaves using the nutrition stored in a small underground tuber.
I always get excited when I see baobab seedlings emerging from the earth near or under the baobab trees. It shows that the seeds are viable and that the weather was perfect. Unfortunately their survival is very slim because of the harsh climate they need to survive in and because they are simply too delicious for a goat to ignore. This is why a conservation program for Baobab trees is so important. Read our recent post here on what we're doing to help conserve Baobabs.
In November last year EcoProducts did a workshop with 50 rural women harvesters in how to grow and conserve baobabs. Each woman was given a seed and a planting bag to take home. Well, when I visited the village this week, some of the women took me to see their so- called seedlings. They had successfully germinated and had grown very fast into strapping little baobab trees! They need another year or two before they are tall enough to survive goat browse and then we will plant them out. This is all part of a wider baobab tree conservation program. Here's a photo of Blessing with her little tree.
Last month, 50 rural women harvesters attended a baobab growing and sustainable harvesting course. I had such fun with this, taking 50 rural women baobab fruit harvesters on a field trip from Zigodini village to Pafuri River Camp Nursery, on the banks of the Mutale River. The course was done with a mixture of practical parts and discussions. The discussions focused on a number of questions related to baobab biology, climate change, sustainable harvesting and nursery practice. The women were encouraged to participate in discussions and debate each question. The practical part was in the nursery where they learned about baobab germination, growth, soil requirements, watering, and so much more. Each woman was given a planting bag and seeds to take home so that she can grow her first baobab and plant it out into the village where she lives. Here's to 50 more baobab trees growing in the Limpopo!