Creating global markets for baobab, the African Superfruit
An initiative to grow the world market demand for baobab fruit for the benefit of low-income producers in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
B'Ayoba (Pvt) Ltd
Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Zimbabwe: North-East (Mt Darwin, Rushinga, Mudzi, UMP), South-East (Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera), South (Beitbridge, Mwenezi)
Gus and a group of rural women baobab harvesters briefly summarise the challenge with marketing baobab
The baobab fruit is known as the African Superfruit for its multiple health benefits. High in Vitamin C, fibre, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, the baobab fruit helps to regulate blood sugar levels and promotes a healthy intestinal microbiome. Here, B'Ayoba employee Fran Patsika shows a sample of the fruit in raw and packaged form.
Baobab harvesters bringing their fruit to a rural collection centre for onward sale to B'Ayoba. The company works with 4,800 organically-certified rural harvesters, 74% of whom are women. B'Ayoba is the only baobab producer in Africa to have undergone the rigorous inspection for Fair Wild certification. Fair Wild is an independent standard that assesses both the ecological sustainability of wild-harvesting and adherence to fair trade principles.
The lack of alternative income opportunities means that, for many baobab producers, the sale of baobab fruit is their biggest single source of cash income during the year. Baobab fruit are harvested at the height of the long, hot dry season, when cash and other resources are at their most scarce.
Cash earned from the sale of baobab fruit to B'Ayoba is primarily used by women harvesters to help cover the fees for sending their children to school. The average annual non-baobab cash income for many women baobab harvesters in rural Zimbabwe is around US$100/year. They can nearly double this from the sale of baobab fruit to B'Ayoba.
In addition to the income from the sale of the raw fruit, the development of markets for baobab creates much-needed employment opportunities around processing and value-addition to the fruit. B'Ayoba's processing activities create up to 150 seasonal jobs in very poor areas of Zimbabwe every year.
The baobab tree is one of the longest-living trees on earth, with individual specimens known to live to at least 1,000 years old, and some trees estimated to be as old as 6,000 years.
Because of its phenomenal ability to find moisture, even in the driest environments, the baobab survives in many very dry and very poor areas of rural Africa. In these areas, the low rainfall severely inhibits any form of agriculture, and most rural people struggle to make a living. The development of a global market for baobab fruit offers a huge additional income boost for tens of thousands of very poor rural African producers.
Amazingly, for a tree that lives for a thousand years, the baobab flowers are only open for a single night before falling off the tree. During their one night of life, the flowers are visited by bats and moths which pollinate the tree, giving rise to a new fruit and, one day, a new tree.
A short aerial overview of an area of baobab trees in north-eastern Zimbabwe.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Rural people living in marginal, dryland areas of Africa have limited livelihood opportunities. Forced by economic pressures to clear indigenous trees and plant arable crops, many find the loss of vegetation cover leads to reduced soil fertility, erosion and crop failure. This is compounded by climate change, with erratic rainfall and frequent drought. This provokes a tightening spiral of poverty and environmental degradation. Rural Zimbabweans, amongst the poorest people in Africa, are especially vulnerable.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
We believe part of the solution lies in the potential to develop new markets for natural products, sustainably harvested from indigenous vegetation. If rural people can derive an income from managing their indigenous trees, they have a strong incentive to conserve them in situ, and thereby avoid the cycle of poverty and degradation that arises from their clearance and removal. As these plants are naturally adapted to their surrounds, they are more resilient to the effects of drought and erratic rainfall than crops introduced from elsewhere. They also require fewer inputs and less labour to harvest and are therefore accessible to even the poorest of the poor. Baobab is an example of one such species. B’Ayoba is working to create a global market for baobab that, if successful, will promote better protection and environment management for large chunks of savannah woodland, and provide important income opportunities for tens of thousands of rural Zimbabwean producers.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
We have trained and contracted 4,800 rural baobab harvesters in Zimbabwe. Last year we purchased 1,200 tonnes of baobab fruit from 3,438 harvesters (78% women). Harvesters earned an average of US$60 each in the process. Given that the average cash income is around US$100/yr, this represents an important additional boost and is, for many, the biggest source of cash income in the year. In addition, at least 60,000 hectares of land have been put under sustainable management by rural communities for the harvesting of baobab fruit. Because baobab harvesting requires no inputs or tools, the opportunity is available to very poor families, many of them female-headed. These women tend to spend the income they earn from selling baobab fruit on their children's education, which is high priority for most rural Zimbabweans. We have also seen greater appreciation of the nutritional value of baobab, leading to higher levels of local consumption and improved nutritional status as a result.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
This initiative will be a once-off marketing campaign aimed at raising awareness of, and growing demand for, baobab in a selection of potential markets (including Europe, North America, the Middle East and East Asia). B'Ayoba's work is predominantly financed through earned income (79% in 2016). We have also earned some income from grants (15% in 2016) and from other sources (6% in 2016), mostly through a government-funded export incentive scheme. We have Swiss and German investors in the business, including the elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization and the bank DEG. We anticipate that this initiative will give a sizeable boost to baobab sales, allowing us to continue financing further market development work through ongoing earned income.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Much of the emphasis in African agriculture is on enhanced yields and productivity through the so-called Green Revolution. This places heavy reliance on technological solutions to rural poverty. Some of these are financially out of reach for the poorest farmers; others are unsuited to dryland areas. Our approach uses locally available plants, adapted to dry conditions, managed by traditional methods, with little or no inputs or imported raw materials, and with a deliberate bias towards the poor.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
My "Aha" moment came as a young researcher in the Zambezi valley, mapping indigenous fruit trees. The dominant wisdom was that rural people were inherently foolish, consuming natural resources at unsustainable levels. To my surprise, I found fruit trees more densely distributed around peoples' homes than in the wild, suggesting they were actively nurtured and cared for (presumably because of their intrinsic value to the farmers). It occurred then to me that they were clearing indigenous trees primarily for agriculture, and this was driven by a need for cash. That set me off on a new path, developing economic opportunities from the sustainable use of indigenous trees. Since then I have seen that rural people actively conserve and manage trees if they can earn cash income from them. My challenge is now to develop new plant-derived products and markets to compete with arable agriculture.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others