In 2008 the European Union approved the import of baobab fruit powder under the Novel Foods Regulation as suitable for consumption in relevant markets. Nowadays, more and more of the powder is sold as “super fruit” internationally. The powder is about to leave the luxury niche to get into mainstream markets. Meanwhile it can be found in drugstores, health food stores and even in supermarkets. Oil extraction from the seeds of the “super trees” is gaining in popularity as well, as it is a perfect ingredient for skin care products.
I wanted to find out more about the origin of the fruits, the powder and the oil and the circumstances of the people who earn a part of their livelihood by collecting the fruits. In the Limpopo Province in South Africa, I therefore visited not only the largest living baobab in South Africa, but also some baobab fruit collectors. What I heard did not need any further explanation. The women were all grateful that they could earn additional income by selling the fruit in winter – a time of the year when few other things ripen.
Most of the women live in areas with poor infrastructure and are mostly day labourers. Permanent and well-paid jobs can hardly be found. In addition I visited a school project and the Baobab Guardians – an initiative of the Baobab Foundation and Dr. Sarah Venter. Together with the Baobab Guardians she plants little baobabs to make sure, that Limpopo remains home to the giants.
The situation of baobab collectors in the Masvingo and Mount Darwin areas of Zimbabwe seemed even more serious to me. The fruit collectors there benefited from the additional income from selling the baobab fruits, too. Most of the women I spoke with invested the extra money in small shops, healthcare or education of their children or their houses and their equipment.