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.

Photo of Gus Le Breton
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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.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

B'Ayoba (Pvt) Ltd

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Zimbabwe

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Zimbabwe: North-East (Mt Darwin, Rushinga, Mudzi, UMP), South-East (Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera), South (Beitbridge, Mwenezi)


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


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Great initiative. Congratulations.

Photo of Gus Le Breton

Many thanks, Mouhamadou, let's hope we're lucky enough to get selected!

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

You are welcome dear @Gus Le Breton. Let's hope...No matter what happen, we must realize our projects at 100%. Good luck dude.

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