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!  

Living in a baobab tree

Here are some pictures we found of how people have used the hollow spaces within a baobab tree as living spaces – there's a bar and another has even been fitted out as a toilet! One ancient hollow Baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its trunk. Various Baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn and a bus shelter. What do you think? A: Cool and cute B: I don't mind either way or C: not quite in keeping with the dignity of a beautiful tree? You tell us. Put either A, B or C and your comment in the comment box below!

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 tree that doesn’t die

Baobabs are very difficult to kill, they can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing. When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres, which makes many people think that they don't die at all, but simply disappear! A Baby Baobab tree looks very different from its adult form and this is why the Bushmen believe that it doesn't grow like other trees, but suddenly crashes to the ground with a thump, fully grown, and then one day simply disappears. No wonder they are thought of as magic trees! 

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

 

 

More wisdom of the Baobab tree

In Africa the Baobab tree comes close to being regarded as sacred – or as the shelter under which the elders talk and consult until they reach consensus. Here is a picture of a traditional meeting place beneath a Baobab tree close to a Venda Village. It is almost as if the tree bears witness to what is discussed beneath its shade and because of its own magnificence, gives greater power to whatever decisions are made.

Traditional Meeting Place Under the Baobab Tree
Traditional Meeting Place Under the Baobab Tree

Fine Art Baobab Inspirations

Heike Pander, a German artist who paints baobabs,  visited me over the weekend.  She is passionate about baobabs and will be exhibiting some of her baobab art along with her other paintings later on in the year in Germany. She says “my enthusiasm for the marvelous and enthralling nature of Africa has grown steadily. I am not only a fan of the animal kingdom – I am also fascinated by trees and plants, particularly the great Baobabs and olive trees attract me.”  For more information about Heike's work, please see http://buff.ly/16SgeOv Let us know what you think of her paintings?

Congratulations to our winners!

Wow! It’s been tough choosing winners, people! So many great comments – so first of all a big THANK YOU to all of you for participating. It’s been wonderful to hear from each and every one of you and we’re grateful for your input. It gives us a very good idea of the kind of skin problems people are experiencing. We decided to select comments across a wide range of skin ailments and so here are the winners: Jennifer Poverello Ruegg, Caro Swarts, Claire Van Apeldoorn, Denise Helen Gordon, Sanet Veldtman Odendaal, Angela Walker , Fareedha Khan, Tracey Smith, Rene Groyer and Carla Van Tonder. CONGRATULATIONS! We also wanted to give a SPECIAL REWARD to Wyona Valerie Landman who has done such great work encouraging her friends to like the EcoProducts Facebook page. Thank you Wyona, you’ll also be receiving a free bottle.  And for everyone else, there will be another opportunity! Keep an eye on our facebook page.

July 2013 – Competition details:

Some things in life are free – and we're giving some away!

We’re so passionate about the skin healing benefits of Baobab oil that we’re giving away TEN FREE 50ml BOTTLES OF BAOBAB OIL!  We want everyone who needs it, to be able to experience it for themselves. Are you one of those people?  Do you suffer from DRY ITCHY SKIN, ECZEMA, SKIN CANCER, BURNED SKIN, SCALY SKIN or simply DRY WINTER SKIN?  Baobab oil  moisturises and absorbs quickly into the skin. It also contains Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids which contributes towards maintaining a healthy skin.


So if you’ve never tried Baobab oil before and would like to, please leave a comment on our facebook page here about why you’d like to try it (we’ll be choosing the best comments!) and if you’re one of the lucky 10, we’ll contact you to get your address. If you know of someone who would benefit from this oil, please SHARE THIS POST via facebook by clicking here  and let them know about it!


 

2013 Jun: Tiny seedlings, big ideas

I thought you might like to see this video interview I did with Johrne van Huyssteen.  This video was made for De Kat TV. Have a look at it here. http://buff.ly/1b3mrqS

How fat are baobab trees?

This week I did my annual trip to Skelmwater.  This is a baobab research plot situated near Musina long the N1.  Skelmwater was established in 1930 by the late Professor de Villiers of Stellenbosch University.  The aim was to measure the rate of growth of baobabs in their natural environment.   Despite the small number of baobabs in the plot, the long term observation has provided invaluable data in growth, health, reproduction and the effects of climate.  Dr Diana Mayne and I have been doing the measurements at the plot since 2002. Can you believe that this little tree (see photo with my field assistant Alexio Gundani) has been measured for 83 years, carbon dating results show that this tree is 130 years old! I hope to do the 100th year measurement in 17 year’s time when I am 57 years old, I should still be feeling young!

Baobabs & Bicycles

For all you cycling fans out there, if you’re in Louis Trichardt this weekend, do stop by and check out the Kremetart Cycle Tour – so named because the route goes past a significant number of Baobab Trees on the way.   It’s fun for the whole family (there are kiddies races, stage races and mountain bike cross country) and is promoted by the P&L Hardware Cycling Club in conjunction with Kremetart Cycling.  Best of all, EcoProducts will be hosting its very own Baobab Coffee shop (Kremetart Koffee Winkel) at the race venue offering our speciality baobab cheese cake, baobab jam on scones, baobab smoothies and Johan Geyser's unique baobab coffee!  For more details about the event, go to: http://www.kremetartcycling.co.za/

and the harvesting and processing season begins!

After our community workshop on Monday, my manager Colly started visiting the villages to buy our first fruit for the season.  The fruit are packed into bags then loaded onto our pick-up and trailer.  Each women is paid on delivery, so that she does not have to wait for payment.  


The bags of fruit are transported back to our factory in Makhado.  Here a team of women break open the fruit and extract the powder and seed that is inside the fruit.  The powder is separated from the seeds, is then finely sieved and packed into our tubs and the seed is sent to our seed press for oil pressing.

Featured in Forest Ecology and Management Journal

I'm really pleased to announce that my article on my scientific research findings regarding the sustainability of the Baobab Tree population has been recently published in the science journal Forest Ecology and Management. 


This journal has a very rigorous selection process and acceptance is based on relevance, whether your article can demonstrate a genuine contribution to scientific knowledge, originality and most importantly has to have a high impact factor in order to be considered for publication. Articles also have to be peer-reviewed by other scientists in your field before it can be accepted.  It took me 3 years to collect the data and around 6 months to write the article (which happens to be the last chapter of my thesis) so having it appear in a journal of this calibre gives my work great credibility and I'm delighted! Click here to link to it: http://buff.ly/12GcyMI

The Baobab Tree: worth it’s weight in gold

How could we not like this beautiful gold hand crafted pendant of a baobab tree?  We also really like the concept of Precious Earth Jewelers who only use recycled previous metals to reduce the impact of mining on the earth's surface. Their  eco-conscious jewelry feature's Precous Earth's trade mark is a single "little green gemstone" of imperial chrome diopside, a conflict-free and environmentally friendly stone.  see more at http://buff.ly/15EPqEh

New Harvesting Season

This week we had our first collection workshop for the year. It was a beautiful crisp winter morning. When we headed out it was very early and the dew still hung on the baobab leaves. Everybody was in high spirits for the start of the collection season. Baobab fruit have started to ripen and drop off the trees and the women in the villages have started to gather them up. 

At the workshop we discuss how the fruit should be gathered and stored. That they should not be picked from the trees so that the tips of the branches are not damaged to ensure that the tree produces fruit next year again. We will be visiting each village once a week. We also paid a visit to the chief of each village to grant us permission to start collection. We then re-elected a committee for each village who will represent the needs of the collectors in each village. And they are also our communication channel to the collectors.

Can you see that one of our collectors is a firm Zuma supporter?

Music and the Baobab

baobab orchestra

The Baobab tree inspires so much in the world! So why would you be surprised that there's a legendary Senegalese band out there called Orchestra Baobab? Orchestra Baobab was formed in Dakar in 1970 when a group of Senegalese decided to create an intimate club where they could meet with their friends. They fashioned its walls and ceilings to resemble the ubiquitous Baobab tree, known among other things for its longevity and the shade of its branches. They called it the Baobab Club. And from this came the Orchestra Baobab. Known for their cooking afro-latino-soul sound, listen to them here: http://buff.ly/11Bf0F0

Baobab Fruitfulness

How old were your parents when you were born?  Not as old as the Baobab tree has to be before it's capable of bearing fruit. It can take a Baobab tree up to 200 years before it produces its first green-brown velvety pod-shaped fruit.  January is when Baobabs start to fruit and fruit production is highly variable between trees. Some trees never produce fruit even though they flower every year. Some trees produce only a few fruit a year and others produce huge quantities. I have been monitoring baobab tree fruit production in Venda for 7 years. The record was 1200 fruit on one tree, but this was highly unusual. Mostly they average about 65 fruit per tree per year. EcoProducts only ever harvests fallen fruit to avoid harming the parent tree.

BAOBAB – TREES OF GENERATIONS

Photographic artist Elaine Ling http://buff.ly/14RLYG2 says of her pictures of Baobab trees in Africa: "These miraculous giants are one of the largest living things on the planet and have a potential lifespan of more than a thousand years. They are great friends to their human neighbours—providing an ever-renewing source of textiles, netting, baskets and roofing. Their nutritious fruit has many medicinal properties.

My photographs are reflections on the ancient, life-sustaining dialogue between these enduring mega-trees and the people—grandmothers and fathers, parents, youths and small children—who live among them. These portraits, pairing individual Baobabs with their human neighbours, document a most intimate relationship" We love the tree-gestures she captures in her pictures and we couldn't agree more…

AT WHAT AGE DO BAOBAB TREES START TO PRODUCE FRUIT?

Flower and fruit production usually only takes place once a tree is a certain size. Baobab tree growth is dependent on access to water. Where trees grow in high rainfall areas (+1000mls …per year) baobabs can reach maturity much more quickly than in arid areas. We have worked out that in Venda where rainfall is 350ml per year it can take a ‘young’ baobab 200 years before it produces its first baobab fruit ! Here is a picture of a youthful 180 year old tree. It gives you a real sense of how easily we take the resources of nature for granted without appreciating the energy and time nature puts into the creation of what we harvest.