Tag: baobab trees

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!

Sarah's signature

Miracle Tree!

A few years ago I was called by a local farmer to see some baobabs that were very ill and dying.  There was a group of four baobabs, some of them were still standing and others had already collapsed in to a heap of fibre.  This tree was still standing, but was hot and ‘sweaty’ with droplets on its bark, almost as if it had a fever and I did not think it was going to survive.  This year I visited the site again and found the tree well recovered. They really are remarkably sturdy and resiliant trees!  After decades of living with them and many many years of studying them, I still see there's so much more to learn and wish we understood these trees better…

Dung Beetles and Baobabs

Baobab seeds are relatively large,but it's not an impossibility that that germinating Baobab seedlings could use the manure buried by dung beetles to boost the growth of its first few shoots!

Mandela: an icon of Africa for the world

Madiba's unmistakable stature as statesman, leader and human being made him visible in a way that made it possible for all to see. May his moral example be as long lived as the Baobab tree, may the memory of his wisdom serve, and be the same shade under which people have gathered in community for generations to draw inspiration for the way forward. RIP.

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.