Corporate Social Responsibility
Tag: Baobab conservation
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!
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!