Project Description

Montane African Baobab / Adansonia kilima

Between November 2013 and May 2014, BIZ carried out a resource survey for baobab in communal and resettled areas of Zimbabwe, to predict the annual harvest of baobab fruit, and how much of a large-scale market could be met sustainably, without creating deficits at the local consumption level or impacting detrimentally on the tree and its environment.

Until recently, only one species of baobab was thought to exist on mainland Africa, Adansonia digitata. However, the presence of a second species, Adansonia kilima, has been confirmed in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Adansonia kilima is generally restricted to moderate elevations (650-1500m) while A. digitata prefers elevations below 800m.

During the resource assessment, morphological analysis was used to confirm the presence of A. kilima in Zimbabwe also.

Mature trees of A. kilima and A. digitata look similar. There are, however, some differences:

Tree shape: A. kilima is usually bottle shaped, whereas A. digitata is generally broad relative to height.

Flowers: Flowers of A. kilima are smaller (about half the size of A. digitata), and often found in large numbers per tree. Differences in the length and posture of the petals make it easy to distinguish from a distance the smaller, partly closed calyx and partially exposed anthers of A. kilima from the larger calyx with fully exposed anthers and effaced petals of open A. digitata flowers.

Size and density of stomata in leaves: The stomata lengths of A. kilima are much smaller than those of A. digitata. Similarly, the stomatal density of A. digitata is much lower than that of A. kilima.

Leaves were collected from 4 different sample sites around Zimbabwe and the size and density of the stomata were measured. We found that trees could be divided into 2 distinct groups, with the size and density of stomata in each group corresponding with those for A. digitata and A. kilima. This indicates that both species do occur in Zimbabwe and they occur in the same areas.

Adansonia digitata / Muuyu (Sh) / Umkhomo (N)

The baobab is an iconic tree of hot, dry areas of Africa.

African people have been eating baobab for centuries; but until recently, the fruit had never left the African continent.The fruit powder is exceptionally nutritious. The oil is highly prized by the cosmetics industry for its skincare properties.

BIZ supports the commercial development of baobab powder and oil for the local and export health food and cosmetics markets.

Where it can be found: In Zimbabwe, it can be found at altitudes below 900m, exclusively in Natural Regions 4 and 5. An exceptionally hardy and long-lived tree, the baobab is abundant in many dry areas of the country where the production of food crops is severely constrained by lack of rainfall. The total number of baobab trees In Zimbabwe has been estimated at 5 million, of which 3.8 million are found in communal and resettled areas.

Harvesting time – What is harvested: For reasons of sustainability, BIZ encourages commercial production of products derived only from the fruit and seeds and not from the leaves or bark. The fruits are collected between May and September and can be stored and sold throughout the year.

Average yield per collector: An average collector can harvest and pre-process up to 1,000 kg of raw pulp and seed during the harvesting period, with some selling far greater quantities. Although the income from sale of this pulp is not huge (average harvesters earn between USD 300-500 a season), it is nevertheless important cash income, coming in at the height of the lean dry season, and benefiting predominantly very low income women producers.

Baobab fruit powder is exceptionally nutritious, containing high levels of dietary fibre, antioxidants, essential minerals including calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium, and vitamin C.

Baobab oil contains Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, and exhibits potent skin moisturising activity.

The residual press-cake from the oil pressing is a useful, high protein stockfeed.

The powdery, nutritious fruit pulp (sometimes called “cream of tartar”) can be made into a juice, ‘freezits’ (ice lollies), ice cream, yoghurt and jam; and has huge potential as a food/health supplement: simply added to smoothies, juices, porridge etc. or as an ingredient in e.g. cakes, scones and muffins; in jams, sauces, chutneys, high energy foods (cereal bars, breakfast cereals and fruit nuggets) and in drinks (both in the traditional ‘mahewu’ and in soft drinks).

The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but can also be roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract oil. The oil’s commercial use is in the medicinal and cosmetics industry. It is used to produce soaps, cleansers, moisturisers, coloured make-up, hair and sun-care products.

The seed cake is used by stockfeed manufacturers, and is especially prized in the dairy industry.

Both baobab pulp and oil have great potential in local and export markets.

Baobab fruits are found throughout Zimbabwe at market places. In the formal trade, the pulp is sold to food companies. It is consumed directly and added to foods and beverages as a health ingredient.

Trade in (scented) oil on the local market is low but growing, and internationally the oil is attracting considerable attention, especially from large scale cosmetics companies who value it both for its exotic African story and for its formidable moisturising properties.

Some recipes using baobab