Category: ECOPRODUCTS: HOW WE WORK

Baobab Galerie: a unique shop

Baobab Galerie is a unique decor and gift shop in Port Edward, KZN selling an exquisite handmade range of products made of natural fibres such as sisal, raffia, different varieties of reeds and grasses as well as recycled recycled paper and metal.  Alexandre and Michel who own the shop have long been interested in Baobabs, even growing baobab trees, hence the shop name.  The feature of the shop is a 2 meter high metal baobab made from recycled oil drum made by a craftsman in Madagascar and naturally they're now selling Baobab oil, boabab fruit powder and home-made baobab jam!  Their shop is so successful a new shop will be opening soon in Mattison Square between Leisure Bay and Port Edward. Look out for it next time you travel that way.

EcoProducts is out and about in May!

We are HAPPENING this month in the media!  We have an article on baobab oil in Wellness Magazine, our boabab fruit powder is featured in Elle Magazine and we're flying with Mango in their latest inflight magazine! All power to the baobab tree! 

It’s been a good year – baobab harvesters

The area where baobabs are found is usually very arid and the climate not easy to grow crops in.  Many of the harvesters with whom I work have fields around their villages where they do dry-land cropping for food and to supplement income.  Dry-land cropping means that there is no irrigated water to the fields and they have to rely on rainfall.  The best grain crops to survive these conditions are sorghum and millet.  Even these crops often fail, but this year has been an exception with excellent rainfall through the area.  It was rare to see the fields around the villages so green and lush.

 

Local headman and I chat about baobabs

 

One of the wonderful things about my job is that it is so varied, from production, to resource monitoring to community friendships.  Our relationship with the harvesters starts with the headman in each village.  I have had a relationship with some of the village headmen for over 10 years now.  I always love visiting them and we always end up talking about our favorite trees.  Here, Mr Gadabeni and I are being dwarfed by a baobab near his village.

 

Ecoproducts and Esse support rural crèche

One of the villages where some of our harvesters live has a little crèche which is so needed while mothers go out to work.  Yet they have so very little in the way of even basic resources for busy, active, growing little children.   Recently on one of my monitoring trips, I was able to take some chairs and tables to the little ones in the crèche.  Pink for girls and blue for boys. These were kindly donated by Esse Organic Skin Care (who use our organic baobab powder in their cosmetics).  Lots of smiles all round – thanks Esse!

 

Monitoring with baobab harvesters

Last week I did my annual baobab fruit monitoring trip where I gather research information on a spcecific population of 40 baobab trees.  This year I am looking at how much fruit each tree produces each year and how that varies from season to season and between land use types.  Usually I have a field assistant whom I hire from the village, but this time I decided to train some of the fruit harvesters how to do the monitoring.  They found it really interesting and now have a better understanding of resource management.   It's part of a long-term development plan and very important for the harvesters to know how to monitor as one day they will be doing all the monitoring themselves! 

 

Bioprospecting – what does it mean?

What is a bioprospecting permit?  And why is EcoProducts Bioprospecting permit such a big deal?

On the 12 November 2013, EcoProducts was issued with a Bioprospecting permit from the South Africa Department of Environment Affairs. So what, you may ask, is this all about?

South Africa has introduced laws that make it illegal to harvest our indigenous resources for commercial use.   Companies must be able to prove that the resources being harvested are done with the full knowledge and benefit of the communities who own the resource and that it is being done sustainable way.  In issuing a Bioprospecting permit to EcoProducts for harvesting baobab fruit, we become one of the very few companies in South Africa to be recognized as being compliant with the legislation. 

Bioprospecting involves a wide range of groups, from researchers, owners of the resources, harvesters, companies involved in processing, marketing and reselling of the products and government departments.  Examples of other products are Rooibos, Pelargonium, Marula and Aloe. It is thus a complex piece of legislation to manage.  Everybody involved is expected to have a bioprospecting permit so that our resources continue to provide benefits to current and future generations.

Film maker Greg Cameron: do less, do it better, make it matter more

Recently, Greg Cameron was commissioned by PhytoTrade to make a film on baobabs in which he records the stories of the baobab fruit collectors and how baobab fruit help them improve their lives. Here, Itai Chibiya, PhytoTrade's Monitoring and Research Evaluator is being filmed while being interviewed.   EcoProducts was chosen as the site for the interviews.  Sarah Venter, the owner of EcoProducts was also interviewed about how she works with the harvesters and ensures that the collection of the fruit benefits everybody in the supply chain and in particular the harvesters.  Sitting under one of the biggest baobabs in the village chatting to some of the baobab fruit collectors gave her an insight into what this special and talented man was all about.  He says “ do less, do it better and make it matter more”.   He now wants to fuse his knowledge with his passion to build socially conscious brands through integrated story.

Watch Greg's recent stunning works on the Baobab including one for EcoProducts   and one for Terres DÁFrique

Greg was also commissioned to film the Siemens COP 17 Baobab video – a brilliant 90 second video! 

There are 21 videos by Greg Cameron on Vimeo.  He is a freelance video producer and has done a wide variety of award-winning work from TV ad campaigns to brand promotions.  Do take a few minutes out of your day to watch his videos- he's a man to follow! 

 

Pura-vida: made in the Limpopo, sold in Singapore

LOHASIA is a social enterprise working to educate, empower and inspire everyone to enjoy lifestyles of health and sustainability. Recently, they published an article on Kristi Mackintosh owner of Pura Vida, an online natural product store selling amongst other beauty products, EcoProducts Baobab Oil. Here's an extract from the article: 

"Recognising the potential for positive impact that our purchasing decisions can have on the people that make our products, Kristi works with companies such as Eco Products in South Africa. This small enterprise produces baobab oil, an excellent skin moisturizer containing Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, which contribute towards maintaining a healthy skin. Eco Products sources the baobab directly from women in local rural communities who have been using baobab oil for centuries, but who never looked at the oil as a resource for selling and making an income. Now over 1,000 women receive income from Eco Products, and the company has rigorous sustainability practices to ensure the long-term conservation of this important tree". 

For the full article click here: http://lohasia.net/heroes/175-kristi-mackintosh

EcoProducts is Awarded Bioprospecting Permit

During an impressive ceremony hosted by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in Polokwane last week, EcoProducts was one of three companies who were awarded a bioprospecting permit.  The permit was handed over to Dr Sarah Venter and two community representatives, Ms Sophiah Nemutshenzheni and Ms Livhuwani Tshivhiyahuvhi by the MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Limpopo Province, Mr Moloto.

The permit means that Sarah and her communities have the blessing of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs for their activities.  They are only one of 11 companies who are now compliant with the new legislation on bioprospecting and the utilization of our indigenous biological resources.

The Biodiversity Act which promotes the "fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources".  In this way the act is founded on the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing which arose from the Convention on Biological Diversity.   

EcoProducts: we’re in the Healthbox SA

A few months ago, we told you about Healthbox SA which we think is such a cool concept! Each month, subscribers to Health Box SA are sent a luxurious combination of health, fitness and wellness products. Each item has been tried, tested and tasted by a panel of experts to ensure that what lands up on subscribers’ doorsteps are the latest, trusted and best-for-you products available. Last time our Baobab oil featured and this month EcoProducts Baobab Superfruit powder makes its debut appearance in the Healthbox.

Health Box SA delivers – to the subscriber’s door – all the best healthy products the wellness market has to offer!

To try it out for yourself, click here for more details http://buff.ly/15AQ7rC

 

 

Nothing goes to waste – it all goes back to Nature!

Absolutely nothing goes to waste when we make our baobab oil and powder.  We would potentially have three ‘waste’ products.  The first is the shell of the fruit, which is cracked open to remove the power and seed in the primary stage of processing.  The second is the seed coat, this is the very hard outer layer of the seed itself.  We remove this just before we extract the oil as it does not contain any oil.  The third is the seed cake, this is left over after we have pressed the seed.   The fruit shells are used as a fuel in our Donkey Boiler to make hot water for our staff to shower.  The baobab seed coats are used as mulch in our vegetable and flower gardens.  Lastly the seed cake is used by livestock farmers in the area as feed for their cattle and sheep.  Nothing is left after we've processed the baobab seed pods  – it all goes back to Nature. 

What’s in a name: baobab

Across Africa baobabs are known by many different names and we know that the fruit have been used for thousands of years. However, the first detailed botanical descriptions were made by Prospero Alpini, a 16th Century physician and botanist living in Venice who spent three years in Cairo. He first saw the fruit being sold in the Cairo Souks and came to know them as ‘bu hubab’, meaning “having many seeds” in Arabic.  And hence the common name ‘baobab’

Source: Watson, 2007

where do you go with the baobab fruit?

Last week while on a photo shoot in Venda,  the harvesters asked me where I went with all the baobab fruit I buy from them.  So I said, why don’t you come and see?  We worked out the taxi money from Venda and back and set a date for the following Thursday.  

The women travelled 200km to visit EcoProducts in Makhado. They arrived in their beautiful Minwendas (traditional venda dress).  I could not resist the temptation of putting on my Minwenda which was given to me by Chief Sumbana a few years ago.  

We showed the women around the premises and they chatted with all the staff.  When they saw what the fruit was being used for and how we process the powder and oil, they realized why I am so fussy about the quality of fruit I buy from them.  There was such tremendous ‘buy-in’ from them, once they understood the importance of the harvesting work they did. They felt part of a greater process rather than just the suppliers of the fruit.  

We showed them the cracking, separating, sieving and packing of the powder.  They also were amazed by the oil press and that such a small dry seed could produce oil.

EcoProducts and Natural Medicine Magazine

The contributing authors of Natural Medicine are professionals and experts in their fields, but don't get paid for their article contributions. Instead, they are given gifts of a variety of health and wellness products. EcoProducts is delighted to be a contributor and we hope the authors enjoy their gift of Baobab oil!

Baobab in Healthbox SA

We think this is such a cool concept! Each month, subscribers to Health Box SA are sent a luxurious combination of health, fitness and wellness products. Each item has been tried, tested and tasted by a panel of experts to ensure that what lands up on subscribers’ doorsteps are the latest, trusted and best-for-you products available and this month EcoProducts Baobab oil makes its debut appearance in the Healthbox. 


Health Box SA delivers – to the subscriber’s door – the brand new and best products the wellness market has to offer. 

Check it out here for more details http://buff.ly/15AQ7rC

We’d like you to meet Terres D’afrique

They've created a beautiful range based on African botanicals.  Their range is about a passion for nature, for Africa, for travelling the continent and exploring and discovering new plants, places and people. Their products are the result of a yearning to know and understand the full impact of what the African plant kingdom has to offer. And the Baobab makes an appearance in two of their products: the Resuscitate Handbalm with Jojoba oil, Kigelia and Baobab oil and the divinely scented Myrrh Body Scrub with Coconut shell, Rooibos leaves and Baobab oil.  Visit their website for more info at: http://www.terres-dafrique.com/products/body-care

TAMBANI: African Embroidery

Last week, you met Sani Madau one of the Venda women who does embroidery to supplement her income.  Now I want to introduce you to the lady who makes it possible – Ina Le Roux.  She has created a wonderful business supporting rural Venda women who embroider such beautiful work. Read her absolutely heartwarming story of how she began the project which now produces beautifully  embroidered images from Venda folk stories.  Click here. And aren’t these just gorgeous embroidered Baobab trees! You can order applique blocks directly from the website.

embroidered baobab trees together

 

we all need a livelihood strategy: what’s yours?

This is Sani Mudau. When I was visiting the village last week she was busy with an embroidery while she was waiting for her turn to be paid for the fruit she had collected.

Since it's Women's Day today I thought I would celebrate the local Venda women. Many rural women have something called a "Livelihood Strategy". Rather than struggling to live off one job, they do many different things to survive and bring in an income. This changes from season to season as well.  Income from baobab is usually in the winter when the fruit ripen and can be collected from under the trees.  In March the Marula fruit ripen and then it is time for brewing Marula beer to sell to traders.  Other times its collection of other wild fruit or Mopani worms.  Embroidery for these women though is something that can go on all year.  In a place where jobs are scarce to non-existent, these women are nonetheless resourceful and hard working, seizing opportunities everywhere they can.  Good for them!

The hidden benefits of baobab oil and fruit powder

Annie Nenzhelele has been collecting baobab fruit for EcoProducts for a few years now.  Last week when I was visiting her village she said that she has been using the money she has earned for building her house.  She took me into her house to show me the bags of cement she  had bought to complete internal plastering.  She will use her next earnings from baobab fruit to complete the ceiling. Here is Annie proudly showing off her bags of cement. 

Calling the community

I was visiting a village in Venda the other day and needed to talk to the community about when I would be collecting baobab fruit.  During the day people are scattered and busy with other chores so it’s difficult to get to speak to everybody at the same time. 

The headman’s wife was so excited about us coming she immediately jumped up and said that she would ‘ledza tshimbi’ which means to beat the gong.  The gong used here is a plough disc hanging from the tree.  It worked well after a few beats community members started gathering under the meeting tree (Nyala berry) to hear the news. I guess our modern equivalent of beating the gong to gather the community is the beeps, chirps and whistles of our mobiles as they remind us to look at our newsfeeds, facebook updates and tweets!

Encounters with a family tree

When I was visiting friends in Cordoba, Argentina recently I came across this tree that looked so much like a baobab that I thought it must be some relation.  When I looked it up, I found it was indeed part of the same family as the Baobab Malvaceae. Its scientific name is Ceiba speciosa commonly known as palo borracho which means “drunken stick” in Spanish.  It is thought that baobabs (before they were baobabs) originated in South America and hence their relations are found here.

The palo borracho occurs in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.

Its trunk is bottle shaped, much like the baobab, but with swelling at the bottom of the trunk which makes it look like it may fall over, hence the name.  It never gets as big nor as old as a baobab and is studded with thick thorns along its trunk which store water.  Like the baobab there is chlorophyll just under the bark of the trunk which may allow it to photosynthesize when it does not have leaves.

The fruit and leaves also look like that of baobabs, but the fruit does not have the wonderful nutritious content our trees have.  The palo borracho fruit are filled with masses of fluff that looks like cotton. Meeting it unexpectedly while out exploring was almost as exciting as meeting a far distant member of my own family tree!  

Brief Beauty

In contrast to the solid bulkiness of the tree, the Baobab’s flowers are delicate and fragile looking. The pendulous white flowers, centred with a soft brush of bright yellow pollen, bloom for just 24 hours before falling gracefully to the ground.  The waxy white flowers appear in spring or early summer. The buds start to open in the late afternoon, the flowers opening completely at sunset to be pollinated at night by fruit bats and several species of bushbaby. By the next afternoon they have wilted and fallen, their work completed. 

The Legend of the Upside-down Tree

A very, very long time ago, say some African legends, the first baobab sprouted beside a small lake. As it grew taller and looked about it spied other trees, noting their colorful flowers, straight and handsome trunks, and large leaves. Then one day the wind died away leaving the water smooth as a mirror, and the tree finally got to see itself. The reflected image shocked it to its root hairs. Its own flowers lacked bright color, its leaves were tiny, it was grossly fat, and its bark resembled the wrinkled hide of an old elephant.

In a strongly worded invocation to the creator, the baobab complained about the bad deal it’d been given. This impertinence had no effect: Following a hasty reconsideration, the deity felt fully satisfied. Relishing the fact that some organisms were purposefully less than perfect, the creator demanded to know whether the baobab found the hippopotamus beautiful, or the hyena’s cry pleasant-and then retired in a huff behind the clouds. But back on earth the barrel-chested whiner neither stopped peering at its reflection nor raising its voice in protest. Finally, an exasperated creator returned from the sky, seized the ingrate by the trunk, yanked it from the ground, turned it over, and replanted it upside down. And from that day since, the baobab has been unable to see its reflection or make complaint; for thousands of years it has worked strictly in silence, paying off its ancient transgression by doing good deeds for people. All across the African continent some variation on this story is told to explain why this species is so unusual and yet so helpful. Taken with grateful acknowledgement from: http://buff.ly/1cduPVd