This article was first published in PETRIe's E-Magazine Issue #4.
Currently being dubbed the ‘Superfruit of 2015,’ Baobab not only offers a wealth of nutritional benefits to its consumers, but also the ability to support 10 million households in rural communities across the African continent.
Growing wild in 32 countries in Africa, the Baobab Tree is locally known as the ‘Tree of Life’. In Madagascar, the hollow trees act as mini ecosystems by providing habitats for insects, animals and even humans. The trees can also harness up to 4,500 litres of water in their trunks to survive periods of drought and carbon dating suggests trees can live to be 3,000 years.
The bared fruit, formed from an intricate white flower pollinated by fruit bats, has a hard shell that is velvet in texture and green in colour. Inside are seeds and a powdery-white flesh with one of the highest antioxidant contents of any fruit. It also contains potassium, while its vitamin C content is six times higher than bananas and oranges, respectively. A rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, it is no wonder that Baobab is locally regarded as a ‘cure-all’ fruit.
However, Baobab’s potential exceeds its nutritional characteristics. The National Geographic estimated the international market for Baobab could be worth one billion US dollars to rural Africa. For many Baobab harvesters, mostly women, the international market was inaccessible when compared to their local community market. Now, through Aduna, an African-inspired health and beauty brand, these grassroots businesswomen can earn a higher and more sustainable income from their Baobab harvests.
As Aduna’s co-founder, Andrew Hunt, explains: “One of the women [we work with in northern Ghana] told us that last year, her household income was the equivalent of £6. She and her family were able to survive on that during a four-five month period, where she couldn’t grow crops because there was no rain. This year, because she was able to sell the fruit of the two trees that belong to her family, she got £160… you can imagine what difference that increase makes. That’s the kind of impact that we are talking about.”
With the accelerated income gained through Aduna, women are able to send their children to school and improve their overall living standards. Community earnings are reinvested into healthcare, clothing and food facilities, accommodation, harvesting equipment as well as education for the harvesters.
Hunt passionately continues, “Last year we worked with three communities, and this year we have worked with 11 communities. That is 2,000 women. On average, the women have six dependants, so that’s 12,000 people who have benefitted.” But, according to the The Organisation for Indigenous Initiative and Sustainability (ORGIIS), Aduna’s Ghanaian partner, there is potential for this model, and its extenuating social and economic benefits, to be extended.
“In the region of the upper east of Ghana alone are a potential 8,000 communities who could participate in the value chain. So that is the prize we are playing for. To bring that impact to a larger number and, of course, that income gets them on the ladder of economic development,” Hunt explains.
Many of these Baobab harvesting communities have their own dialects, so ORGIIS deals with on-the-ground communication, organisation and dispersion of funds. With this allowing production to be managed closer to the superfruit’s birthplace, Aduna is able to focus on building international demands for Africa’s bountiful supply of Baobab.
The #MakeBaobabFamous campaign seeks to increase awareness of the superfruit’s nutritional goodness and philanthropic capabilities. Baobab needs to become a household name for Aduna’s business model to be sustained and for the growing communities to be continuously empowered.
As the “Pitch to Rich” runner-up in Richard Branson’s recent competition, they were the recipient of a £100,000 marketing campaign. With this, their goal has become much easier to accomplish. Conscious of superfood fads of years past - 2014’s Kale and 2013’s Goji berries - Aduna is seeking lasting, more permanent demands for the superfruit.
Hunt explains, “We have an ongoing programme of new product development. So rather than it just being a superfood powder - you can see other people selling Baobab now too, which is good for the market - every six to nine months we introduce a new format for the ingredient. This keeps the interest of the media, retailers and consumers... Keeps it fresh.”
Thanks to Baobab’s nutritional credentials, Aduna is able to diversify its product range from the edible to the cosmetic. So far Aduna have released nutritional bars for those who want the benefits of Baobab on the go. Further product diversification is underway: “we will be releasing range of teas: Baobab, Moringa, Hibiscus and Cacao. Ultimately, over the next couple of years we want to continue to increase the awareness of the ingredients and take them closer to the mainstream,” notes Hunt.
Greater than fair trade and more sustainable than the quick-fix loans, which propel impoverished African communities into debt, Aduna is a long-term solution to poverty that enables communities to better themselves. Whilst women are harvesting the superfruit, Aduna is harvesting international demand so that rural agricultural communities can flourish - just as the flowers of the Baobab tree do during November.
As Hunt finishes by saying: “Our social mission is to create demand for small producers in Africa. Our brand mission is to breathe the vibrancy of Africa into the daily lives of people around the world. We are trying to challenge perceptions of Africa. Aduna is not about the ‘fair-trade, sympathy vote’ marketing. It is about the vibrancy of Africa in a premium brand that people can buy into and make a positive social impact.”
Words: Jamal George-Sharpe
Images source: Aduna