EcoProducts gets FSSC 22000 certified!

FSSC 22000
EcoProducts Baobab fruit powder production facility has been certified FSSC 22000.  FSSC 22000 Food Safety System Certification is a highly regarded level of food certification that meets global standards.   FSSC 22000 is fully recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)

Talk with Enviropreneurs

There are entrepeneurs, solopreneurs, socialpreneurs. And then there are enviropreneurs! In April 2017 I was invited to give a talk on Enviropreneurship to students from the University of Venda.

2016 Aug: The Little BIG BAOBAB Book

Inspired by her PhD research on baobab trees, Dr Sarah Venter wanted to make the fascinating information usually available only in obscure scientific papers, available to a much broader audience including children. The Little BIG BAOBAB book is for everyone who loves baobab trees...

The Marvellous Brewers of Marula Beer

Each year marula beer connoisseurs make their annual pilgrimage to the far reaches of Limpopo to visit their favourite master brewers of marula beer. It's a womens' traditional craft and in order to get a taste of each woman’s brew you need to go 'homestead hopping, visiting one home after another. Each one is different and this year Sarah Venter did her own tour of marula beer mavens and found out a few secrets along the way.

EcoProducts Celebrates A Year of Growth!

celebrating EcoProducts
It is always a happy and vibrant day when we all go out to celebrate of a year of hard work. So much has happened for EcoProducts this year: moving to new upgraded factory premises, getting HACCP certified - two huge events! Last year we were 22 people and now we are 50 people. So we have doubled our staff and have TREBLED our production output!

EcoProducts & Abalimi Harvest of Hope

EcoProducts Abalimi Harvest of Hope
We were delighted to join forces with Abalimi Harvest of Hope and have EcoProducts organic baobab powder added to their customers' organic veggie boxes. Like EcoProducts, Abalimi Harvest of Hope works towards community upliftment through development and employment as well as strongly supporting conservation and nurturing the environment through organic farming practices. We love the work they do and we thought you'd like to learn more about them here!

Baobab Harvesters visit EcoProducts Factory

Baobab Harvesters visit EcoProducts
EcoProducts invited 30 baobab harvesters from across the Venda area to visit the new EcoProducts Baobab Processing Facility in Makhado. The purpose of the visit was to show the harvesters where the fruit goes and what happens to the fruit once it arrives at the factory.  We also wanted the harvesters and the factory staff to meet and to discuss the collection and processing challenges, and how these can be overcome through better understanding of the process.

EcoProducts is HACCP Certified – it’s BIG news

EcoProducts is HACCP certified

EcoProducts is HACCP certified!

It seems that only those businesses who have to go through HACCP certification understand the gruelling and hugely demanding process one has to undergo in order to get this internationally recognised food-safety certification.  So we’re thrilled to announce that we are have finally achieved this milestone!

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points is a preventative food safety system that has been set up by the European Union to ensure that the production of food entails as few hazards as possible for consumers.   It offers consumers peace of mind to know that the companies they are buying their food from have been HACCP certified.

Critical control points throughout the production process are identified and begin from the very moment fruit enters our factory.  Every single fruit gets examined according to very specific standards and all non-conforming fruit eg:  cracked, old and discoloured fruit is discarded.

Our environment is highly controlled with all staff required to use anti-bacterial soap, wear protective clothing, and the building has intensive anti-pest measures in place.  We also constantly swab surfaces for analysis and send our powder regularly for microbiological testing for any yeasts, moulds or bacteria.

A HACCP inspection takes a whole day, but it’s taken us a whole year to prepare for it, making sure we have all the many, many process steps in place to qualify.

Baobab Fruit Monitoring

Encouraging the harvesters to join in

Every year in February or March, I go out with a small team to do baobab fruit monitoring.  This is our 10th year!  It’s is a good time of year to do this because while most of the fruit have reached their full size, they have not matured (dried out) enough and have not yet fallen  off the trees.   We count the number of fruit on each tree, dividing them into 3 categories namely Small, Medium and Large.

After March the fruit start to dry and then they fall off the tree and are collected by the harvesters.  There appears to be a good crop of fruit this year.

I encourage the harvesters in the villages to join us during our fruit monitoring.  In this way they also learn why its important to keep monitoring fruit production each year.

The information we gather gives us an indication of the expected harvest for the year, but it also alerts us to any problems that might arise that may be related to pollinators, climate or other environmental problems.

camping during the monitoring

The monitoring usually takes two days and at the end of the first day we look forward to camping under one of the majestic baobab trees that we have been working with.  This year we put up our camp site under Tree BP6!  My friend Pete Norton drove all the way up from Cape Town to join me.   From this tree we counted 11 small, 32 medium and 40 large fruit.  This is quite a typical count for trees in this area.

Every year I am helped by two assistants, Samuel and Prince.  Here we are standing under Tree BR1 which is a small tree that produces lots of fruit every year. This year we counted 148 fruit on this tree.

My team of monitors

End of season celebration

'Boabab sales have been going from strength to strength and after a busy successful season of harvesting and processing we thought it was time to celebrate!  It was good to get out of our dust coats and protective clothing and all the women, including me, enjoyed getting dressed up in traditional Venda clothes.  One of the women does exquisite bead work (on the right in the bottom pic) and she designed and made the incredibly beautiful necklaces you see here. In previous years, we haven't always been so certain of sales but EcoProducts has really surged ahead this year and we were thrilled to be able to celebrate that by sharing a lovely meal together! '  Sarah


A New Miss Earth

Miss Earth & EcoProducts

A BIG congratulations to Ilse Saunders – the new Miss Earth and to runners-up Steffani Alexander, Michillay Brown and Roxanne Watson.  It was wonderful to share this event with you and the amazingly talented and dynamic Miss Earth team yesterday.  Your energetic leadership towards creating a better society and future is a real inspiration and we look forward to working with you all further!  

Miss Earth SA 2014 finalists meet the Baobab

Miss earth SA 2014 finalists

Yesterday the Miss Earth SA 2014 finalists met the Baobab. Sarah Venter gave them a talk on the baobab tree and EcoProducts and came away completely charmed and delighted by this impressive group of committed down-to-earth eco-princesses. Here are finalists Steffani Alexander & Roxanne Watson with baobab oil and other pics taken from the session.  And today is the BIG DAY where we'll all get to hear who the new Miss Earth SA and her 3 ambassadors will be.  We'll be following closely!   

Miss Earth & EcoProducts

Miss Earth SA & EcoProducts

We're excited to be part of the run up to the selection of the new Miss Earth SA on Thursday this week. Tomorrow, Sarah will be meeting the finalists to train them on all things baobab and on Thursday will be attending the event where the new Miss Earth SA will be announced.  In their recent press release, Catherine Constantinides Executive Director of Miss Earth SA said:  “This is an exciting project for us, as it speaks to the essence of the Miss Earth South Africa. The organisation and production of Baobab Oil allows for the empowerment of the local Venda women in this region, while understanding the conservation and sustainability issues that the Baobab Tree is aligned to.”  Women collaborating to nurture the earth. 

Miss Earth SA and EcoProducts – Green Queens all!

Miss Earth and EcoProducts

We're so excited about our collaboration with Miss Earth SA!  There's so much synergy between our two organisations and we're thrilled that they are endorsing EcoProducts Baobab oil.  We love their combination of beauty and eco-savvy as well as their amazing leadership program which serves to encourage and empower young women into leadership positions as nurturing stewards of our beautiful earth. Next week Sarah Venter will be teaching the finalists about all things Baobab and we're so looking forward to the grand event when the next Miss Earth SA 2015 will be announced. We'll be keeping you posted on these Green Queens! 

Miss Earth: empowering women, nurturing the earth

Miss Earth and EcoProducts

It's a powerful and magical combination – beauty and leadership – and this is what sisters Catherine and Ella Bella Constantinides set out to achieve with Miss Earth SA.  So much more than a beauty pageant, Miss Earth SA is a leadership program for young women, empowering them to take responsibility, be accountable and make a stand for sustainable stewardship of our earth.  At last night's cocktail event at the Tsogo Sun, the 16 finalists were introduced in all their gorgeousness.  Yes, the dresses were divine, the "power of the sash" in evidence, the mood glamorous and the venue splendid. But behind the glamour and glitz is a determination and will to combat destruction of the earth through the hard work they do; in the words of Ella Bella "to create ambassadors for the planet by empowering women through green education." 

The element of competition is replaced by one of collaboration.  As Catherine said in her speech "Girls compete, real women empower each other" and this message was re-inforced by the current Miss Earth Ashanti Mbanga who said of her "journey of sisterhood" that being the Face of Sustainability had helped her realise that once a Miss Earth, always a Miss Earth – that every young woman who had participated in the program was "already a winner" because of the impact she would have on nurturing the earth in her role as a Miss Earth finalist.

Miss Earth is certainly about beauty.  But it's about finding the powerful inner beauty in nurturing the beauty of our earth. What better way to celebrate Women's day and Women's month.

EcoProducts is proud to be associated with Miss Earth and we were delighted to be invited to the event last night. Here, Nina Geraghty of Switched ON Media (our online media manager) and Jill Bysshe of NEO TRADING (our distributor) are seen with Ashanti Mbanga (who has already started using Baobab oil) along with Nombulelo Mfeka (director of City of CT tourism) and Derek Hanekom (Minister of tourism) and the finalists.





RAIN comes to the Limpopo

We were delighted to host Bev Missing from RAIN last week. Her wonderful shops stock exquisite handmade bath, body and homeware products using natural ingredients with African origins. One of those ingredients is Baobab oil and we'll be featuring some of those products in future posts. Bev came to see the source of the baobab oil that she uses in her products, learn about how it is made and meet the harvesters themselves. Here she is walking in the baobabs with harvester Crestina.  

Baobab pods in Germany!

Polished and decorated baobab pods found in Germany! Seen at a stand selling exotic seeds, dried flowers and pods from around the world at the Kornelimunster Historische Jahrmarkt in Aachen. What a surprise!

Measuring Baobab girth

It feels a bit like when you mark off the height of your children on the doorpost, but every year in May Diana Mayne, a baobab colleague, and I visit Skelmwater Baobab research plot to do annual growth measurements. This research plot was started in 1931 to measure the annual diameter growth of baobabs. This year was the 83rd measurement and most of the trees got a bit wider due to the good rains, but some years if its very dry, the trees shrink. This little tree is the smallest tree on the plot.

Which side of the tree are you on?

Which side of the fence, I mean tree, are you on?

Baobabs make fantastic poster boards and on a recent field trip I photographed this tree.  On the one side is a poster of Jacob Zuma (ANC) and on the other side is Julius Malema (EFF).  Tough Choice! 

Ecotrade empowers many women…

…and Annah Mendela is just one of them. After being inspired by previous films made in collaboration with PhytoTrade and EcoProducts, Greg Cameron has created this warm and sensitve portrait of Annah, showing how by collecting baobab fruit for EcoProducts, she has been able to turn her life around.  A short 2.5 minute film that's so beautifully made it will stay with you long after you've watched it. [vimeo id=”9605224″ align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no”]