2015 Jun: EcoProducts Foundation: Baobab Guardians Programme

Baobab guardians EcoProducts 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.

goat

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.

Pics horizontal combo

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 sarah@ecoproducts.co.za. I’ll be delighted to hear from you!

Here’s to creating a culture of caring!

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2 Comments

  1. Good evening,
    I have been given a baobab seedling, during this weekend. It comes from Limpopo. I live in Pretoria.
    I gave it water today, let it drain fully. During the afternoon I placed it in the windowsill indoors, where the sun was shining fully.. This evening the leaves are all wilted.
    How can I get the leaves to be up and full of life again. How much water should I give it, and how many times per week. Please help. Should it stay indoors, or go outside, under a tree or in full sunlight, morning or afternoon.
    thanks
    Anna

    • Dear Anna, thank you for your question. How long have you had this seedling? I’m a bit worried that the roots might be damaged as that’s the only reason why the leaves might suddenly wilt.

      The seedling must be planted in soil that drains well, like sandy soil. Also make sure that the pot has holes in the bottom so that the water can drain out. You can water it every second day. As long as the soil drains it can cope with lots of water. Baobabs love sun and warmth so keep it in a sunny place. In the winter bring the seedling indoors as it does not like the frost and very cold weather. In winter it will lose its leaves and then you can reduce watering to once a week or even once every two weeks. But then start to increase watering at the end of October.

      I hope your baobab seedling recovers!

      kind regards
      Sarah Venter


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