I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Baobab tree in person. I was on the last leg of a trip in Africa. My friends and I had been to Rwanda, Kenya and were now in Tanzania. My reaction was that of amazement and wonder. I could not believe the size of the tree trunk! The beautiful green leaves drew your eyes to the sky because they offered such a stark contrast to the barren, brown land. Even today, when I am fortunate enough to travel to areas where the Baobab tree can be found, I still find myself in awe.
This morning when I was perusing my Google alerts for Fair Trade, I found an interesting article on the Baobab tree. The article shares the rich history of the tree and the potential income opportunity the tree offers to the poor. For years people had used almost all the parts of the tree for medicine, food, raw materials and household items. However, due to the fact that it’s consumption had become associated with living in rural poverty stricken areas the use of the tree had declined.
The Boabab tree and the use of it’s fruit is now on the rise again and promises to offer some assistance to the poor, especially women. As in most developing countries, the women are often left to care for the children and the household due to the fact they are either single mothers or the men have left to find work. In Zimbabwe, women are finding work collecting the fruit of the Baobab tree for both domestic and international markets.
There is a company called Phytotrade that is using the fruit and their founder Le Breton is pretty awesome in my book. Not only has he found a market for the fruit, he is concerned with how this opportunity will affect the people of the area. Le Breton has obtained organic certification and adheres to Fair Trade practices and has began the process of Fair Trade certification. Workers are organized in cooperatives where they are paid a premium for the fruit. This premium is then invested in the local communities for schooling, hospitals, and other community projects.
In addition, Le Breton is looking toward the future. He is implementing practices that will help sustain the viability of the project by protecting and promoting the growth of future trees.
All in all it, sounds like a great project and I look forward to seeing it “grow and bear fruit.”
If you would like to read the article, I will post the link and a copy of the picture showing a real Baobab tree at the end of this blog.
In the meantime, here is our rendition of the Baobab tree. As you can see our artists in Kenya have done a pretty good job capturing the likeness of the tree in our Baobab Jewelry Tree Displays.
PS. I couldn't resist the opportunity to post a picture of a bait lion backpack made in Swaziland by the group named Baobab Batik. I picked this up as I toured their lovely facility. I watched the women hand paint the wax on the fabrics, dye, cut and sew each piece, a real treat!