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The Importance of Baobab ( Adansonia digitata L.) in Rural West African Subsistence—Suggestion of a Cautionary Approach to International Market Export of Baobab Fruits


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The European Commission recently authorized the import of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) fruit pulp as a novel food. In rural West Africa the multipurpose baobab is used extensively for subsistence. Three hundred traditional uses of the baobab were documented in Benin, Mali, and Senegal across 11 ethnic groups and 4 agroecological zones. Baobab fruits and leaves are consumed throughout the year. The export of baobab fruits could negatively influence livelihoods, including reduced nutritional intake, change of power relations, and access rights. Capacity building and certification could encourage a sustainable and ethical trade of baobab fruits without neglecting baobab use in subsistence.
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The Importance of Baobab (
Adansonia digitata
L.) in Rural West African
Subsistence—Suggestion of a Cautionary Approach to International Market
Export of Baobab Fruits
Christine Buchmann
; Sarah Prehsler
; Anna Hartl
;Christian R. Vogl
Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Division of Organic Farming, Working Group:
Knowledge Systems and Innovations, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences,
Vienna, Austria
Online publication date: 13 May 2010
To cite this Article Buchmann, Christine , Prehsler, Sarah , Hartl, Anna andVogl, Christian R.(2010) 'The Importance of
Baobab (
Adansonia digitata
L.) in Rural West African Subsistence—Suggestion of a Cautionary Approach to
International Market Export of Baobab Fruits', Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 49: 3, 145 — 172
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/03670241003766014
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Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 49:145–172, 2010
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ISSN: 0367-0244 print/1543-5237 online
DOI: 10.1080/03670241003766014
GEFN0367-02441543-5237Ecology of Food and Nutrition, Vol. 49, No. 3, Apr 2010: pp. 0–0Ecology of Food and Nutrition
The Importance of Baobab (Adansonia
digitata L.) in Rural West African Subsistence—
Suggestion of a Cautionary Approach to
International Market Export of Baobab Fruits
Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export?C. Buchmann et al.
University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Department of Sustainable
Agricultural Systems, Division of Organic Farming, Working Group: Knowledge
Systems and Innovations, Vienna, Austria
The European Commission recently authorized the import of
baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) fruit pulp as a novel food. In rural
West Africa the multipurpose baobab is used extensively for
subsistence. Three hundred traditional uses of the baobab were
documented in Benin, Mali, and Senegal across 11 ethnic groups
and 4 agroecological zones. Baobab fruits and leaves are con-
sumed throughout the year. The export of baobab fruits could
negatively influence livelihoods, including reduced nutritional
intake, change of power relations, and access rights. Capacity
building and certification could encourage a sustainable and
ethical trade of baobab fruits without neglecting baobab use in
KEYWORDS Adansonia digitata, baobab, EU novel food, non-
timber forest products, livelihood, resource commercialization
The European Commission has authorized the placing on the market of
baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) dried fruit pulp as a novel food ingredient
Address correspondence to Christine Buchmann, University of Natural Resources and
Applied Life Sciences, Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Division of Organic
Farming, Working Group: Knowledge Systems and Innovations, Gregor Mendel Strasse 33,
1180 Vienna, Austria. E-mail:
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146 C. Buchmann et al.
on the 27th of June 2008 (Vassiliou 2008). Under the Novel Food Regulation
(EC) No 258/97 a novel food is defined as a food or food ingredients that
has ”not been used for human consumption to a significant degree” (The
European Parliament and the Council of the European Union 1997) within
the EU prior to May 1997. Allowing baobab fruit import to the EU as a novel
food has been lobbied for by the South African trade cooperation
”PhytoTrade” with the aim to increase economic growth in the rural areas of
Southern Africa based on the sustainable commercialization of baobab
(PhytoTrade 2008; Welford and Breton 2008). Approving baobab fruit pulp
as a novel food opens the door of the European market to the African
export of fruit pulp from the baobab tree. Although this seems a good
opportunity for economic growth in baobab exporting countries, a success-
ful resource commercialization does not necessarily stimulate local develop-
ment and reduce poverty (Lybbert, Barrett, and Narjisse 2002). On the
contrary there is likely to be substantial inequality in the distribution of
commercialization benefits, both across regions according to market access
and among households based on tree access rights, as was the case with
Moroccan argan (Argania spinosa (L) Skeels) oil commercialization (Lybbert
et al. 2002). A similar situation may develop if baobab fruits are exported at
a large scale from West Africa, without securing a framework that ensures
sustainable production, ethically just supply chains, and continued access to
baobab for rural West Africans who depend on baobab consumption as an
essential part of their diets.
The baobab is a deciduous tropical fruit tree with a natural distribution
in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has multiple uses and is appreciated throughout
Africa as food and medicine, as well as for veterinary and spiritual uses. In
addition, the baobab has a broad ecological tolerance (Sidibé and Williams
2002) which makes it a valuable tree species in otherwise harsh and dry
growing conditions. Baobab trees thrive on a wide variety of soils, from
sandy and stony soil to poorly drained soils and clay. Baobab tolerates very
high temperatures and low rainfall, due to the early shedding of leaves and
a thick, fire resistant, bark, as well as a trunk that absorbs water in the rainy
season and contracts in the dry season (Sidibé and Williams 2002).
In several West African countries (e.g., Benin, Mali, Senegal, Burkina
Faso, Nigeria) the baobab is inextricably linked with cultural identity and
local belief systems and its use is guided through formal and informal
regulations. Baobab based meals are consumed daily, and surplus products,
including leaves and fruits, are either stored or sold on local markets, ensur-
ing a baobab supply for most of the year. Different from South-Africa, in
West Africa the possibility to export baobab fruits to the EU may have a
rather negative impact on local livelihoods as baobab is used extensively in
This research highlights the nutritional and medicinal importance of
baobab in West African communities in Benin, Mali, and Senegal. This
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 147
article is based on ethnobotanical field research, a literature review of
ethnobotanical literature documenting baobab use in Africa, and a review of
recent Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) literature with an emphasis on
the effect of NTFP commercialization. The possible impact new baobab fruit
export markets could have on rural West Africans is discussed considering
local tree management, cultural traditions, belief systems, and gender
related tasks. Attention is called to the negative influence a commodification
of baobab may have on local livelihoods and ecosystems.
The following section provides an overview on the nutritional and
medicinal uses of baobab in Africa as documented in the literature. The tra-
ditional food and medicinal use of fruits, seeds, and leaves are discussed
here exclusively, although all parts of the baobab are used by local people.
The consumption of the leaves is included in the analysis, since their
intense use and harvest leads to reduced fruit harvests and should therefore
not be neglected in the discussion on the local impact that baobab fruit
export may have. Before proceeding to the argument, research sites, ethnic
groups, and methods are introduced. The concluding remarks examine
research challenges and policy implications.
Traditional African Uses of Selected Baobab Plant Parts for
Consumption and Medicine Documented in the Literature
In many African countries rural people rely on a variety of nutritional and
medicinal products provided by the baobab. The nutritional and medicinal
use of baobab products in Africa has been documented in the literature and
the most frequently documented food preparations based on baobab fruit
pulp, seeds, and leaves are listed below. References for those most fre-
quently named uses are listed in table 1, along with the countries of
research covering the whole African continent (table 1).
Baobab fruit pulp tastes acidic and is of a dry and mealy consistence. It
is low in protein and fat, but rich in mucilage, pectins, tartarate, free tartaric
acids, calcium, vitamin B, and it contains 10 times higher concentration of
vitamin C than oranges (De Caluwé, Halamová, and Van Damme, 2009;
Gustad, Dhillion, and Sidibe 2004). Fresh or stored fruit pulp is eaten as a
snack. It is dried, pounded, and added to water or milk to serve as a
refreshing drink. The “juice” (solution of pulp powder in water) may also be
added to milk to augment the quantity of milk for sale, and when there is
little milk available. Pounded and sieved fruit pulp is added into warm mil-
let or sorghum based gruel with water or milk. Such fruit powder is also
added to sauces, soups, and couscous. Fruit powder is mixed with water,
sweetened, and frozen to be consumed as an “ice lollipop.”
The leaves are an important component of the diet and are often eaten
as staple food providing a significant protein and mineral source, especially
of iron and calcium, for many African communities (De Caluwé et al. 2009).
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148 C. Buchmann et al.
ABLE 1 Summary of the Most Frequently Documented Food Uses of Baobab Fruits, Seeds,
and Leaves in Literature
References Countries of research
Part of the tree
consumed (F = fruit
pulp, L = leaf,
S = seed)
mbé 2001 Ivory Coast F
ssogbadjo 2006 Benin F, L, S
ssogbadjo et al. 2008 Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal F, L, S
Barminas, Charles, and
Emmanuel 1998
Nigeria L
Berhaut 1974 Senegal L, S
Blench 2001 West-Central Africa F
Booth and Wickens 1988 Africa F, L, S
Bosch, Sié, and Asafa 2004 Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo,
Malawi, Zambia, Sierra Leone, West
Africa, Zimbabwe (literature review)
F, L, S
Burkill 1985 Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal,
Congo, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Mozambique, Tanzania,
South Africa (literature review)
F, L, S
Chadare et al. 2008 Benin F, L, S
Codjia, Assogbadjo, and Ekué 2003 Benin L
Dalziel 1937 Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal S
Dansi et al. 2008 Benin L
De Caluwé et al. 2009 Benin F, L, S
De Caluwé, Halamová, and Van
Damme 2009
Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, Malawi,
Ghana, Zambia (literature review)
F, L, S
Dhillion and Gustad 2004 Mali L
Diop et al. 2006 Africa (literature review) F, L, S
Dweck 1997 Central African Republic, Sierra Leone,
Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia,
Zimbabwe (literature review)
F, S
Etkin and Ross 1982 Nigeria F, L, S
Gebauer, El-Siddig, and Ebert 2002 Sudan F, L, S
Igboeli, Addy, and Salami 1997 Nigeria S
Irvine 1961 Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone,
Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic republic
of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan,
South Africa, Zimbabwe (literature
N’Diaye, Kéita, and Martin 2003 Guinea F
Lamien, Sidibe, and Bayala 1996 Burkina Faso L
Lockett and Grivetti 2000 Nigeria L
Obizoba and Amaechi 1993 Nigeria S
Owen 1970 Africa (literature review) S
Rashford 1987 Southern Africa F, S
Salami and Okezie 1994
Schütt and Wolf 2006 Africa (literature review) L
Sidibé and Williams 2002 Africa (literature review) F, L, S
ickens and Lowe 2008 Africa (literature review) F, L, S
Zimba, Wren, and Stucki 2005 Zambia S
ote. Literature review covers Africa, with countries of research indicated. (Food uses may not apply to
all countries of research in the case of literature reviews.)
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 149
Furthermore, the leaves are an excellent source of magnesium and potas-
sium (Diop et al. 2006; Jama et al. 2008). Fresh leaves are cooked in water
and consumed as green leafy vegetables or eaten raw as salad. Fresh
ground leaves or leaf powder that is obtained through drying, pounding,
and sieving, are added as a thickening and flavoring agent to sauces, soups,
and cereals. Leaves are also used as fodder.
Baobab seeds are rich in protein and mono- and polyunsaturated fatty
acids (De Caluwé et al. 2009). The seeds are roasted and kernel are eaten as
snack food or pounded to produce flour. Seed flour can be obtained by first
soaking, roasting, boiling or fermenting, and drying the seeds, then by
pounding, crushing, or grinding them. The flour is used as a flavoring agent
for cereal, porridge, gruels, and soups. It is also mixed with milk, then
boiled and sweetened with honey to be consumed as a drink. Ground and
roasted seeds are used as coffee substitute. Oil can be extracted by pound-
ing or boiling the seeds.
Most societies recognize that food, medicine, and health are interre-
lated (Johns and Maundu 2006), therefore both nutritional and medicinal
uses of baobab are considered in this study. Most frequently documented
medicinal uses of baobab fruit pulp, leaves, and seeds are summarized in
table 2. In addition to its many applications in nutrition and medicine, the
baobab has numerous veterinary, spiritual, and other uses that are beyond
the scope of this article.
This research has been conducted within the Domestication and Develop-
ment of Baobab and Tamarind (DADOBAT
) project. Field research was
designed and tested during an exploratory field trip in August–September
2007 to create a methodology that would allow for a regional comparison of
the data gathered. The main data collection was undertaken from Novem-
ber 2007 to March 2008. In Benin, Mali, and Senegal, research sites were
chosen in four agroecological zones (White 1983) (table 3). Within those
agroecological zones, research sites (figure 1) were selected for their abun-
dance of baobab tree populations, according to former tree surveys by our
local partner institutes. Eleven ethnic groups were investigated in separate
DADOBAT is financed by the EU INCO-DEV, 6th framework program. Project Partners: (1) Laboratory
of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy and Ethnobotany, Department of Plant Production, Faculty of
Bio-Engineering sciences, University of Ghent, Belgium. (2) Centre for Underutilized Crops (CUC),
University of Southampton, UK. (3) Institute for Organic Farming, Department for Sustainable Agricul-
tural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. (4) Laboratoire
d’Ecologie Appliquée - Département d’Aménagement et Gestion de l’Environnement - Faculté des
Sciences Agronomiques - Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin. (5) Insitute of Rural Economy, Mali.
6- Centre d’Etude Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation (Ceraas), Senegal.
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150 C. Buchmann et al.
villages, each with a majority of the particular ethnic group to be investi-
gated and only those informants belonging to that ethnic group took part in
the research (table 3). The Peulh, also called Fulani or Fulbe, took part in
the research in all three countries. Since migration and subsequent adapta-
tion to different local ecosystems is expected to result in different knowl-
edge systems, these three Peulh groups are therefore regarded as three
different ethnic groups in this ethnobotanical research and are thus counted
three times.
A stratified purposeful sample (Bernard 2006) was used with the strata
“ethnic group” and “sex.” Local informants participated and provided infor-
mation on a voluntary basis after educated prior informed consent. The
International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) Code of Ethics (ISE 2009) was
respected during all stages of research. The informants were aged between
10 and 108 years (mean: 41). Informants (N = 220) perform work as farmers
(43%), in the household (25%), as pupils/students (11%), in commerce (7%),
in handcraft (4%), as traditional healers (3%), as herders (1%), and in other
occupations (6%). Fifty-three percent of informants (32% male and 20%
ABLE 2 Medicinal Use of Baobab Fruits, Seeds, and Leaves Documented in Literature
Part of tree Symptoms/illness treated References
Fruit pulp Constipation
(Assogbadjo 2006; Berhaut 1974; Burkill
1985; Codjia et al. 2001; Dalziel 1937;
Dweck 1997; Gerber 1895; Hines and
Eckman 1993; Kerharo 1974; Kerharo
and Adam 1974; Maundu, Ngugi, and
Kabuye 1999; Szolnoki 1985; Wickens
and Lowe 2008)
Diarrhoea, dysentery
Intestinal inflammations
Low iron content in blood
Seeds Diarrhoea, dysentery (Arbonnier 2004; Assogbadjo 2006;
Berhaut 1974; Booth and Wickens 1988;
Burkill 1985; Codjia et al. 2001; Dalziel
1937; Dweck 1997; El-Kamali and El-
Khalifa 1999; Hines and Eckman 1993;
Kerharo 1974; Kerharo and Adam 1974;
Owen 1970; Sidibé and Williams 2002;
Szolnoki 1985; Wickens and Lowe 2008)
Diseased teeth and gum
Intestinal inflammations
Leaves Coughs, asthma and
respiratory problems
(Arbonnier 2004; Assogbadjo 2006;
Berhaut 1974; Booth and Wickens 1988;
Burkill 1985; Dalziel 1937; Diallo et al.
1999; Dweck 1997; Gerber 1895;
Gustad, Dhillion, and Sidibe 2004;
Hines and Eckman 1993; Joshi et al.
2004; Kerharo 1974; Kerharo and Adam
1974; Kerharo and Bouquet 1950;
Owen 1970; Sidibé and Williams 2002;
Wickens and Lowe 2008)
Diarrhoea, dysentery
Eye complaints
Inflammations of the
digestive tract
Lower blood pressure
Although baobab fruit pulp is widely used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, in several countries the
pulp is also used to treat constipation (Gustad, Dhillion, and Sidibe 2004; Wickens and Lowe 2008).
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 151
female) have been formally educated: 26% of informants attended primary
school level, 17% of informants attended secondary school level, and only
1% continued with higher education. The prevalent religion in the research
region is Islam. Among the informants 79% are Muslims, 15% are Christians,
and 6% stated they were animists, although most informants continue to
practice animism even if they officially report to be Muslim or Christian.
In total 220 individual interviews were conducted. The structured ques-
tionnaire (Bernard 2006) used in the individual interviews yielded the main
body of ethnobotanical data on:
characteristics, use, processing, storage, harvest, management, and prop-
agation of baobab
dynamics, origins, and distribution of knowledge
access rights and tree tenure
belief systems and ceremonies related to baobab
Semi-structured interviews based on agricultural calendars and participatory
resource mapping were used in group discussions on resource access and
FIGURE 1 Research sites in West Africa (countries of research in dark gray, each research
site marked by dot and village name).
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152 C. Buchmann et al.
local tree tenure systems. Notes on participant and non-participant observa-
tion were collected in a field diary, and subsequently coded and analyzed.
This information served to triangulate data and provide additional qualita-
tive data about the informants’ life and plant related actions. No plant
voucher specimen were collected as the main emphasis of this study lies on
one plant species, Adansonia digitata L., easily identifiable by all research-
ers. In the study region there are no other Adansonia species to be found
that could be misleading identification by both researchers and informants.
Data was stored in an Access database. For the data analysis Microsoft
Access (Microsoft 2003), Excel (Microsoft 2003) and SPSS 16 (Novell 2007)
were used.
In total, 300 different uses were recorded during the field research and
sorted into use groups: medicinal, nutritional, spiritual, ethnoveterinary, and
other uses. The differentiation between the uses is based on variations in
preparation (e.g., cold extraction, boiling, fermentation), application (e.g.,
external, internal) and product form (liquid, paste, powder). When related
to medicinal uses the differentiation is also based on the illness or symp-
toms that need to be treated (e.g., malaria, fever, fractures). The resulting
overview shows that the medicine-use group contains the greatest variety
ABLE 3 Research Sites, Ethnic Groups, and Vernacular Names of Baobab Used
zone Village Ethnic group
Vernacular name
of baobab
Benin Soudanean Mamassy Peulh Peulh (Fulbe) Boki
Birni Lafia Dendi Kôô
Mamassy Gourma Gourmantché Boutouobou
Soudano-Guinean Manigri Nagot (Yoruba) Ossé
Soudano-Guinean Kpakpa Igbo Idatcha Oche
Mali Sahelian Bendjely Dogon Oro
Soudanean (North) Njaanaanjali Peulh (Fulbe) Oki
Soudanean (South) Bakaribougou Sénoufo Sira (Bambara name)
Tabarako Jaigue
Senegal Sahelian Niakhoul Wolof Guiy
N’Dande Gouye
Sackal Gouye
Coki Gui
Soudano-Sahelian M’bassis Serer Mbak
Mt Rolland Mbak
Foua 1 Mbah
Soudanean Ibel Peulh (Fulbe) Bohehi (Sing.), Bohe
Velingara Bohi
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 153
with 179 different uses. In comparison with the great variety of medicinal
uses, the 34 documented nutritional uses seem few. Although only 24 spiri-
tual uses were documented, the number of applications for spiritual uses
can be assumed to be much higher in reality, as it proves difficult for those
outside the community to collect such privileged information. There were
47 “other uses” documented, including uses such as construction (baobab
wood used as formwork for cement), fire wood, rope-making (used to
attach livestock, or water buckets at wells), fertilizer, soap making, and
many others which were not mentioned frequently. Sixteen ethnoveterinary
uses were reported. This is the only use category that shows statistical sig-
nificance (p = .001, using a chi-square test) between the sexes, explained by
the fact that it is usually men that are herders. One-third of informants stated
that the baobab is their “most important” tree in comparison with other use-
ful trees found in the local ecosystems. In order to understand the promi-
nent position of the baobab, direct questions were asked on the reasons for
that choice (table 4). The reason “multiple uses” applies when informants
stated that they value the range of uses that can be applied from just one tree
species. The Kruskal-Wallis test indicates significant differences between the
uses (p = .000). The Mann-Whitney test shows that the use as nutrition is cited
significantly more often than the other uses (p = .000 for each) and that the use
as medicine is listed more often than multiple uses, commerce and tradition
(p = .000 for each). There is no difference between these last three uses.
Every part of the baobab is used. The uses of capsule (36 uses), roots
(26), Tapinanthus spp. (French: gui) (30), seeds (19), wood (11), and gum
(10) are more numerous than expected and provide proof for the ”holistic”
use of the baobab in rural West Africa. The inclusion of Tapinanthus
species in this calculation is grounded in the fact that the informants con-
sider this (semi-) parasitic plant as part of the tree thus carrying the same
properties as their host. The fruit pulp carries the greatest variety of uses
(49) and is named most frequently by all ethnic groups as being used in
nutrition (368 answers, N = 220, multiple answers possible) and medicine
(66). Baobab leaves are used frequently for nutrition (239) and medicine
(65) and their use is based on 35 different applications.
TABLE 4 Reasons for Local Importance of Baobab (Multiple
Answers Possible)
Reason Number of informants (N = 220)
Nutrition 164
Medicine 58
Multiple uses 23
Commerce 19
Tradition 13
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154 C. Buchmann et al.
Frequency of Consumption
Baobab leaves and fruits are consumed daily by over 90% of all informants
(leaves: 97%, fruits: 93%) including all ethnic groups (figure 2). Differences
of food use between ethnic groups relate to preferred food preparation
methods. “Lalo,” dried leaf powder that is added to couscous, is preferred in
Senegal. In Benin and Mali the leaf sauce, prepared from dried or fresh
leaves to serve as a separate condiment to a staple food, such as boiled mil-
let, is most widely appreciated. Fruit porridge and/or fruit juice is consumed
daily by each ethnic group (figure 2). Additional consumption during har-
vest periods, when there are plenty of baobab products available, and fre-
quency of consumption per day are not included in figure 2. However, data
reveals that in Mali the leaf sauce is consumed twice daily by the Peulh,
FIGURE 2 Frequencies of year-round baobab leaf and fruit consumption (at least 1 portion/
day) per ethnic group (countries coded: Mali: M, Benin: B, Senegal: S). Percentages reflect
the number of informants stating leaf and fruit consumption per ethnic group (100% = 20
informants). The figure primarily indicates the continuous and daily use of leaves and fruits
and not the amount of leaves and fruits consumed.
0 20406080100
Ethnic groups
Number of informants in % per ethnic group (n = 20 per
ethnic group; total number of informants: N
= 220)
daily consumption all year
Fruit Snack
Fruit Juice
Fruit Porridge
Leaf Lalo
Leaf Sauce
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 155
Dogon, and Sénoufo ethnic groups and in Benin, the Peulh, Dendi, and
Gourmantché ethnic groups all consume the fruit porridge twice daily.
Distribution of Knowledge on Baobab Use
No significant correlation was confirmed between baobab fruit and leaf use
with gender, occupation, education, ethnic group or religion (using chi-
square tests), and age (using Pearson correlation). Thus, social background
of the informants does not seem to influence the use of baobab fruits and
leaves. However, the exact knowledge on the preparation is partly linked to
gender, the most prominent example being the production of rope using
baobab bark fibers, as this is an activity undertaken by men only. Women
may be more trained in the practical preparation of the daily food, but men
knew very well how to explain the food preparation. Young boys are often
called to assist their mothers and learn the traditional food preparation
according to the family’s traditions. The preparation of a tasty baobab sauce
is regarded as an important heritage that is passed on to the younger gener-
ations within the families, but not necessarily shared with the neighbors. In
a Senoufo village in Mali, some women are well-known for their delicious
baobab sauce, thus raising their stakes in the search for a husband. This is
just one example of how ethnic identities are interwoven with the use of the
baobab. Specialist knowledge that may not be shared evenly throughout the
population includes spiritual and medicinal knowledge. Such knowledge
most probably was not shared with the researchers and therefore will not
appear in the statistics, but is assumed to be significant.
Local Fruit Preferences
More than half of the informants (57%, N = 220) prefer sweet fruits. Baobab
trees bearing the “most delicious” fruits, according to local preferences, are
quickly harvested with no mature fruit left hanging on the tree. Baobab
varieties that have no acquired fruit taste are left untouched, and fruits from
the past year can be seen among the present years fruit crop on the same
tree. Less preferred fruits are mixed with more tastier fruits or sold to larger
city markets, where customers may not be so “picky” about the taste of the
fruit pulp.
Harvesting Techniques
Harvesting requires virtually no cash investment, as equipment is generally
confined to inexpensive hand tools such as knives or bamboo canes.
Harvesting baobab leaves can be difficult, due to the trees’ height and soft,
spongy wood, both increasing the risk of accidents for the harvesters climbing
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156 C. Buchmann et al.
the tree. Baobab leaves are not picked from the shoots, but complete shoots
are often broken off the tree. Such harvest technique reduces the number of
flower buds, as these are either damaged or removed entirely together with
the shoots. This sometimes results in a rather strange picture of a baobab
fruiting only in parts of the crown that people cannot reach. Trees that are
known to produce delicious leaves, according to local taste, are harvested
as soon as 1–2 weeks after the young leaves emerge at the beginning of the
rainy season. Some baobab trees are protected through sacred forests and
may not be harvested. The fruits from non-sacred baobab trees are har-
vested through handpicking by children climbing the trees, or by women
pulling off the fruits with a knife or hook mounted on a long bamboo cane.
Access Rights
Access rights to baobab trees may be officially regulated by forestry laws.
But in reality it is often at the village community level where access to
baobab trees is regulated through informal institutions and local rules,
usually set by the village chief and a group of village elders. Access regu-
lations can, for example, depend on the state and ownership of the field
in which a baobab is growing, e.g., access may be guaranteed to the fam-
ily owning the field in time of cultivation, but access to trees on the same
field may be open to any village member or even passers-by in times of
fallow. Signs, such as stones and branches, are placed under the trees to
indicate special harvest restrictions, e.g., for spiritual reasons or to ward
off “thieves.”
The following example shows how difficult it is to conserve the wild
baobab trees through formal law. In Northern Benin, a forestry law was
put in place with the aim to support baobab regeneration as well as to
control and reduce unsustainable harvest techniques. The law requires
that farmers buy harvest-permits from the local forestry service. Ironically,
the law may protect some wild trees, but does undermine local farmers’
incentives to domesticate and integrate the baobab in their agroforestry
systems. The farmers in Northern Benin reported that they now chose to
remove baobab seedlings from their fields, because they would need to
buy permits for their use in the future. From their perspective, and with
the current baobab-forestry law in place, it makes more sense to plant
exotic trees that can be freely harvested, sell those products and buy
baobab leaves and fruits on the market.
Women help young boys and girls in harvesting and then process, store,
and prepare baobab leaves and fruits for consumption. Surplus is sold by
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 157
women at the local market to earn some cash income, which is often spent
on children’s clothing, food, or school fees. Local women know the types,
quality, and prices of baobab fruit pulp, seeds, and leaves on the local mar-
kets and can therefore make a conscious decision when, or if, to sell or to
store the baobab surplus.
As space in agricultural fields is highly valued, large baobab trees present a
competition to the main staple crop. Traditionally, men decide which trees to
cultivate in the fields and they often prefer exotic cash crops, such as mango
(Mangifera indica L.) or cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.). Women some-
times try to influence the decision making process, but rarely succeed in con-
vincing the men to plant baobab trees to facilitate women’s access to baobab
trees. As a result, women and children may have to walk up to two hours in
one direction to collect baobab fruits, leaves, and other useful parts from wild
growing trees, an issue that was raised during the participatory resource map-
ping exercises. Women may be allowed access to baobab trees which line the
fields owned by other families saving them the long walk to the baobab trees
growing in the bush land. Social networking, especially among women, is vital
to ensure a continuous access to privately owned baobab trees.
One argument supporting the commercialization of natural products is to
improve livelihoods through an increased value in natural products and a
subsequent increase in income and employment opportunities, especially
for poor and otherwise disadvantaged people (Nemarundwe, Ngorima, and
Welford 2008; Shackleton, Shanley, and Ndoye 2007). On the contrary,
Belcher and Schreckenberg argued, that the commercialization of NTFP, in
this case baobab, cannot achieve both livelihood improvement as well as
ecosystem and species conservation (in Nemarundwe et al. 2008). Possible
effects of the export oriented commercialization of baobab are estimated on
the rural livelihoods in Mali, Benin, and Senegal. The effects of any
potentially profitable changes on well-being (quality of life, health, educa-
tion), economic factors (assets, capital, labor availability, credit, and cash),
equity (fairness, benefit sharing) and risk should be thoroughly examined
(Lowore 2001) and feed into business plans aiming to develop a sustainable
export market of baobab. Some of these topics are discussed in detail high-
lighting regional differences and local peculiarities that may otherwise be
Regional Differences in Subsistence Use and Preferences
In the ethnobotanical literature a great variety of baobab uses are docu-
mented (tables 1 and 2). Many of these papers refer to traditional uses of
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158 C. Buchmann et al.
baobab in West African countries. This study confirms the importance of the
baobab in three West African countries, Mali, Benin, and Senegal, where it
is used extensively in daily subsistence of rural people. But as consumption
increases in times of cereal crop failures it also serves as a crucial source of
nutrition during times of scarcity, for example in Mali (Dhillion and Gustad
2004). In Benin, the time of baobab fruiting and harvest corresponds to the
season of food shortage (Assogbadjo et al. 2006).
Knowledge on baobab uses is spread evenly across rural communities,
mostly unrelated to social data, such as ethnic group, gender, age, occupa-
tion, education, or religion. The baobab is inextricably linked with the cul-
tural identity and social well-being. This is particularly the case with
regions, such as the Sahel, where people have been living off the same
resources for centuries (Kahlheber 2005). These natural resources, such as
the baobab, represent their origin, ancestors, culture, and thus their identity.
This field research confirms that in West Africa the fruits and leaves of
the baobab are consumed daily and all year around (Assogbadjo et al.
2008). This adds valuable minerals and vitamins to the otherwise micronu-
trient-“poor” staple crops. It has been estimated that 6–55 g of baobab dried
leaf powder is consumed in West Africa per day per person (Gustad,
Dhillion, and Sidibe 2004), and on a larger scale, that several thousand tons
of baobab leaves are consumed in the Sahel per year (Von Maydell in
Gebauer 2003). It has also been described as the most consumed tree in the
Ivory Coast (Ambé 2001). In comparison, a thorough literature review on
ethnobotanical use of baobab leads to the impression that baobab products
are not as integrated in the South African daily local diet and rural subsis-
tence as in other parts of Africa. If based on an abundance of otherwise
unused baobab fruits, their export from South Africa is expected to support
local livelihoods, especially when export is facilitated through a well estab-
lished cooperation of several companies and NGOs that base their activities
on socially just and environmentally sustainable principles. It should, how-
ever, not be overlooked that baobab trees act as “safety-nets” providing
multiple goods and services needed by local people in times of scarcity.
Developing a market for baobab products needs to be thoroughly kept in
balance with consideration of the continuing local use in subsistence
(Lowore 2001).
Although there may be ethnic differences in baobab use value and use
patterns (Assogbadjo et al. 2008; Chadare et al. 2008; De Caluwé et al.
2009), baobab is used by many different ethnic groups in West Africa as a
significant part of their diet and pharmacopoeia (Gustad at al. 2004). Our
sample shows that across 11 ethnic groups baobab leaves and fruits are
consumed by over 90% of all informants (leaves: 97%, fruits: 93%). Although
all parts of the baobab are used (see also Gustad et al. 2004; Wickens and
Lowe 2008), this study has shown that baobab fruit pulp carries the greatest
variety of uses. West Africans recognize several types of baobab (Assogbadjo
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 159
et al. 2008) and prefer sweet fruit varieties. One solution to share fruit sup-
ply with the EU market, based on a limited amount of fruits harvested from
the wild, could include exporting the locally “rejected” fruits and keeping
the preferred varieties in West Africa. Export markets usually keep the low
quality goods in the producing country while supporting the export of high
quality goods (“export quality”). However, since the fruit pulp will most
likely be added as an additional ingredient into smoothies, yoghurt, muesli
bars, and other snacks, the difference in taste will most likely not be
detected by the European consumers. But to export locally preferred variet-
ies to the EU would create a nutritional gap in the local diets of rural West
Sustainable Tree Management
The local and regional high demand for baobab leaves reduces the number
of fruiting baobab trees due to unsustainable leaf harvest techniques that
include removing the flower buds. In addition, large branches of baobab
varieties with preferred leaves are deliberately pruned to stimulate leaf
growth instead of fruit production (Assogbadjo 2006). Undoubtedly, the
growing local demand as a result of an increasing human population needs
to be accompanied by more sustainable harvest techniques to secure the
harvest for future generations. High land pressure, high dispersion of agri-
culture and pasture pressure limit natural regeneration of the baobab
(Johansson 1999). Other risk factors for young trees are drought, fire, and
damages caused by animals and agriculture (Schütt and Wolf 2006). Recent
studies in Benin emphasized a natural regeneration problem of baobab, due
to wild bush fires and other anthropogenic activities, such as land clearing
and browsing leading to declining baobab populations (Assogbadjo 2006;
Assogbadjo et al. 2008). Shortened fallow periods of Sahelian parklands
could exacerbate this trend (Schreckenberg 2004).
The baobab has not been commercially domesticated and there are
currently no baobab plantations, nor conservation areas that have been spe-
cifically set aside for the protection of the baobab. Throughout most of
Africa, indigenous trees belong to the “bush,” are considered “wild” and are
therefore not planted (Jama et al. 2008; Kristensen and Lykke 2003; Lemay
2005; Mukadasi and Nabalegwa 2007; Muok et al. 2000; Nordeide et al.
1996; Robinson 2006; Shepherd 1992; Tabuti, Dhillion, and Lye 2003). The
domestication of baobab and the development of plantations may be
needed to create a “sustainable” production of baobab for export. When
grafted, baobab trees will produce fruits after 3–4 years (SCUC 2006), how-
ever none of the 220 informants reported grafting nor any other vegetative
propagation technique. Workshops on propagation techniques will be held
across all research countries by the DADOBAT project in spring 2010 to
encourage local domestication efforts. However, plantations require a high
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160 C. Buchmann et al.
investment (Lowore 2001) and arable soil and access to water is limited.
One plantation solution may be young baobab, or bonsai baobab, garden-
ing systems for the production of leaves, as has been tested in Mali (ICRAF
2003; Lemay 2005; Sidibé and Williams 2002). These systems could increase
fruit production of wild baobab trees as flower buds, otherwise damaged
through leaf harvest, will be left undisturbed. Even if leaf production
for local use could be met through young baobab plantations, fruit produc-
tion will, at least in the next decade, depend on wild and mature baobab
trees. Therefore the trees and their natural habitat need to be sustainably
Locally Acceptable Regulations
As a prerequisite, trade promotion initiatives should be supported by a
favorable policy environment to avoid detrimental impacts on vulnerable
ecosystems. Welford and le Breton (2008, 70), partners at PhytoTrade
Africa, the trade cooperation that lobbied for the EU novel food law, have
acknowledged the risk that “growing demand will promote unsustainable
harvesting practices that, eventually, will threaten the resources from which
the trade is derived.” If the new export plans are implemented without any
enforceable regulations regarding sustainable harvest mechanisms, there is a
high risk of the overexploitation of existing baobab populations. However,
implementing regulations could prove difficult. As the example of local for-
estry law in Benin has shown, formal regulations to conserve wild baobab
populations with a harvest-permit scheme, could prove counterproductive
and even diminish domestication efforts by local farmers. Regulations aiding
the commercialization of baobab fruits, while ensuring sustainable harvest,
need to be well adapted to the local conditions. Tree management for com-
mercial enterprise and for subsistence services needs to be based on data
specifying off-take and regeneration rates. Such rates need to be known and
monitored to assess ecological and socio-economic sustainability. Local har-
vesters could be trained to ensure sustainable harvest and yields and receive
a one-year certificate (Nemarundwe et al. 2008). Monitoring of natural tree
regeneration and impact of harvesting techniques can be regularly assessed
and directly feed into new training courses. In Namibia such training
courses, led by the Ecoso Dynamics Company, have been successfully guid-
ing local harvesters towards environmentally friendly harvest methods of
the Devil’s Claw (Nemarundwe et al. 2008).
Secured Access and Food Safety
Access rights are influenced by formal, informal, and bylaws, including local
conventions and social customs within villages and between neighboring
villages (Alinon and Kalinganire 2008; Shepherd 1992; Vermeulen et al.
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 161
2008). Traditionally women and children are responsible for the baobab leaf
and fruit harvest. If the harvest is plentiful, women sell the surplus at local
markets and often invest in clothes for children or condiments for family
meals (Assogbadjo 2006). The commodification of NTFPs, such as baobab,
may have profound effects locally, including the change from a women’s to
a men’s crop as it gains commercial value (Lowore 2001; Schroeder 1995).
In addition to losing the cash income from selling baobab produce locally,
women may lose access rights and social networks related to baobab man-
agement and exchange. When rural populations lose access to important
natural resources their reduced diet could result in food insecurity, malnutri-
tion, and disease (Johns and Maundu 2006). Especially children and pasto-
ralists, heavily involved in harvesting baobab fruits, may lose their access to
snacking on the fruits, and therefore miss out on a valuable source of min-
erals and nutrients in their diet.
The commodification of natural resources can also lead to the imposi-
tion of new forms of property claims and the introduction of inequitable
labor relations that will further marginalize the poor, who could be out-
competed by more powerful elites that have more capital to invest and better
connections (Belcher 2003; Emery 2002; Nemarundwe at al. 2008; Schroeder
1995; Welford and Breton 2008). What is now commonly shared bush land
may be taken over by agribusiness men and turned into plantations. The risk
of the introduction of novel market mechanisms is that they will “not alter
existing unequal power relations, but provide yet another field in which
those inequalities are played out” (Schroeder 1995, 142). As a consequence,
harvest restrictions, imposed by powerful elites, could overrule traditionally
regulated access rights and “raise the specter of previously traditional prac-
tices being converted into criminal offences” (Emery 2002, 311).
If restricted access is introduced, it is likely to apply to the whole tree
and today’s 300 different uses of baobab may no longer be employed.
Restricted access could be especially detrimental in the medicinal domain,
possibly resulting in a loss of knowledge of the great variety of 179 baobab-
based medicinal treatments. This could force patients to use substitute
species that may not be as effective, or to spend money on pharmaceuticals.
Restriction of access to the baobab will also impact people’s spiritual rela-
tionships to the trees, which is important to many West African cultures.
Certification of Baobab Products for the Export Market
European consumers are increasingly aware of the social and environmental
issues related to the products they buy. Attention to such issues is increas-
ingly being seen as a marketing plus, while ignoring them is seen as a
business risk (Vermeulen et al. 2008). Article 11 of the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the development or promotion of mar-
kets for biodiversity-based goods as an important measure for conservation
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162 C. Buchmann et al.
and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the program of work, adopted by
the Conference of Parties in 2000, suggests the development of methods to
promote biodiversity awareness in consumer decisions, for instance through
eco-labeling (Lehmann 2007). Certification of baobab products could
“address the socio-political, ecological, and economic failings that have
been empirically observed in ongoing NTFP commercialization efforts”
(Wilsey and Radachowsky 2007, 46).
The certification scheme for NTFPs, such as baobab pulp, needs to fit
into the socio-ecological conditions of the region of production and be sup-
ported by relevant policies and regulations (Mayrand and Paquin 2007).
New certification schemes are specifically developed for NTFP commercial-
ization, for example the Natural Futures program supported by the IUCN
(IUCN 2008). The advantage of committing to certification is that stakehold-
ers are forced to be specific in choosing trading partners and identifying
customers, thereby creating a relationship and direct feedback, and possibly
cutting out the middlemen (Lowore 2001). Possible certification schemes for
baobab fruit pulp commercialization are as follows.
Baobab pulp is an organic product, and will continue to be so, if fruits are
harvested from the wild and from agroforestry systems that are traditionally
managed without agrochemicals. The International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisa-
tion (WHO) are working to develop international standards for organic prod-
ucts with special criteria for wild-harvested products. Their principles include
not only the conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, but also
social principles, such as promoting farmers’ quality of life through adequate
returns and work satisfaction (Wiersum 2006). However, organic certification
is costly and logistically challenging (Welford and Breton 2008; Wiersum
2006). Community-based internal inspectors can be trained to monitor
organic production and ensure that set standards are met (Nemarundwe et
al. 2008), since the simple costs of inspecting a widely dispersed, geographi-
cally remote, and comparatively unorganized set of rural producers could
otherwise act as a disincentive to certification (Welford and Breton 2008).
Through the development of efficient and reliable value chains, Fair trade sys-
tems could improve the livelihoods of poor rural communities (Nemarundwe
et al. 2008). Fair trade certification specifically supports small-scale, family
based producers, who have been disadvantaged by trade conditions. The
overall principles underlying the Fair trade certification system relate primarily
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 163
to the need for a just social and economic development as well as labor rela-
tions, in addition attention is given to the need for sustainable environmental
development (Wiersum 2006). But, “Environmental issues are included only
as they relate to the worker environment, to the quality of the natural
resource base as a component of the quality of life, and to economic sustain-
ability” (Wilsey and Radachowsky 2007, 53). Emery warns that Fair trade cer-
tification ”is unlikely to protect subsistence gatherers’ interests” (Emery 2002,
312), which is a major concern for baobab in West Africa, as argued here.
Wilsey and Radachowsky (2007) state that the Forest Stewardship Council’s
(FSC) Principles and Generic Guidelines have emerged as the most
advanced and legitimate attempts at NTFP management standards (See also
Shanley, Pierce, and Laird 2005). As the name suggests, this certification
applies to forests rather than to agroforestry systems and it may be espe-
cially difficult to apply this scheme to baobab production in the Sahelian
bush land with sparse cover of indigenous trees. Another hurdle may be the
FSC principle that demands a clear definition and document on long-term
tenure and land use rights. Creating land-right documents where tenure and
access rights may have been traditionally passed on orally and were subject
to discussion in informal institutes could further marginalize the poor and
landless. In addition, “The drive to specify who has access to products in a
given location is likely to privilege those who are identified as gatherers at
the time such terms are set and exclude those who are not, thus reducing
the temporal flexibility of NTFP subsistence uses” (Emery 2002, 311).
In choosing the most fitting certification scheme in accordance with
local social-ecological conditions and in considering the above arguments to
carefully develop certified, sustainable baobab production for international
markets, the baobab trade may be spared the price volatility that accompa-
nied the concentration of drylands exports of commodities such as cotton
and groundnuts (Chamay, Bellmann, and Gueye 2007; Robbins 2003) or the
inequality of benefit distribution as was the case with argan oil commercial-
ization in Morocco (Lybbert et al. 2002). In addition to developing and
adhering to a holistic certification scheme, as discussed above, the develop-
ment of sustainable production and trade chains of baobab products should
not only focus on export, but also ensure supply for local markets.
Keeping Baobab on Local Markets while “Trading Up”
to International Markets
The emphasis on global markets often overshadows attention to the local mar-
kets in traditionally important products. Local markets provide low-income
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164 C. Buchmann et al.
consumers with culturally valued, low-cost, and often highly nutritious
products (Shackleton et al. 2007). Local markets also play a crucial role in
strengthening livelihoods and improving income opportunities. They may in
fact provide more development than export to international markets, as
many more people are involved in those markets, and they are more easily
understood and accessible to small producers (Lowore 2001; Shackleton
et al. 2007). Farmers can participate in local markets on the base of their
harvesting and processing skills, not necessarily needing marketing skills
and education. An inattention to local markets can result in diminished
appreciation of their role in supporting livelihoods, which could potentially
lead to further marginalization of the low-income groups, and especially
women, involved (Shackleton et al. 2007).
In West Africa, baobab products play an important role in the local
markets (Assogbadjo et al. 2008; Gustad et al. 2004; Shackleton et al. 2007).
On the weekly market in Cinzana, Mali, baobab fruit powder was among
the highest priced NTFPs costing 6 to 10 times more than small millet,
which is the main staple crop in the region (Gustad et al. 2004). A five
month survey on the weekly regional market in Malanville, Benin, has
shown that 200 tons of baobab seeds coated with pulp, 10 tons of baobab
pulp and 1 ton of baobab leave powder were commercialized and gener-
ated up to 15 million FCFA (US$30,000), 400,000 FCFA (US$800) and
200,000 FCFA (US$400), respectively, for 139 rural populations involved in
that business (Assogbadjo 2006). The marketing of baobab peaks in the dry
season, when other agricultural goods are becoming rare (Assogbadjo 2006)
and often provides a secondary means of income generation and a much
needed buffer in times of drought and famine (Sidibé and Williams 2002).
It has also been noted that the present demographic growth and urbaniza-
tion suggest that the regional demand for these products is not declining
(Gustad et al. 2004).
Value is added through processing and packaging, although unproc-
essed fruits and fresh leaves are marketable as well. Processed baobab
products, such as dried leaf powder, cleaned seeds, and fruit pulp flour are
sold on local and regional markets in West Africa (Chadare et al. 2008;
Sidibé and Williams 2002). On the contrary, in South Africa whole fruits are
sold, generating little income as no value is added (Nemarundwe et al.
2008). This regional difference between South and West Africa show that
there will be great disparities in impact and outcomes of the commercializa-
tion of the baobab.
For local communities now selling baobab on local markets, the EU
market is an unpredictable one. Export markets tend to be guided by poli-
cies that favor large-scale corporate interests that frequently conflict with
local priorities and values, whereas local markets can potentially offer a
more appropriate socio-cultural fit (Shackleton et al. 2007). Growing con-
cerns regarding carbon emissions, the cost of aviation fuel, and airfreight
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Baobab in West Africa—Subsistence or Export? 165
could negatively impact export. In addition, the access to international mar-
kets usually requires pre-arranged, often already contracted, quantities of
goods. The engagement of specialists to organize the production and mar-
keting of large quantities of products becomes essential (Lowore 2001).
Such dependence on new intermediaries will leave the local people more
vulnerable to corruption. This underlines the critical need to train local peo-
ple to be better able to negotiate fair prices, as well as to gain other skills
and assets required in trade and business. Training should be provided by
local and international NGOs as it is unlikely that trade companies will
deliver business training, risking tougher negotiations with local producers
as a consequence. Real improvements in trading require a simultaneous
attention for improved chain relations, i.e., the strengthening of relation-
ships between farmers and traders, and the introduction of stronger market
institutions (KIT and IIRR 2008). At the same time, governments of countries
that represent potential markets, in this case the EU member countries, need
to create an enabling economic environment that is conducive to the pro-
motion of sustainable management, as stipulated in article 4(b) of the
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (Kutsch-Lojenga
2007). The combination of strong domestic, regional, and export markets
seems the best option allowing for diversification, and thus increased liveli-
hood resilience against fluctuations in any one of these markets.
This article draws upon research in three West African countries and across
11 ethnic groups to demonstrate the importance of baobab leaves and fruits
in subsistence for rural communities, and compares this research with the
wider literature on baobab throughout Africa. Although preferences and
preparation of baobab-based meals differ between ethnic groups, these
meals are consumed daily and throughout the year by all ethnic groups
within our sample. Baobab fruits and leaves provide essential nutrients,
vitamins, and minerals to rural communities complementing an otherwise
nutrient-poor staple-crop based diet. In addition the use of baobab is
appreciated in traditional medicine.
The approval of baobab fruit pulp as a novel food on the European
market provides a great opportunity. However, this new export market
opportunity needs a cautionary approach that is adapted to regional condi-
tions and differences. It is of utmost importance that current baobab use in
subsistence is not undermined by commercialization and that access to wild
baobab populations remains guaranteed for local communities.
In the interest of local resource needs, nutrition, and conservation and
to prevent conflict between local consumers and international traders this
article aims to emphasize current problems that need to be faced before
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166 C. Buchmann et al.
considering export of baobab fruits for international markets. This study
aims to trigger a discussion between all the stakeholders which is best held
now rather than later.
Domestication and market development efforts need to consider local
use of all baobab plant parts. The commercialization of baobab needs to be
based on sound scientific information, include capacity building on sustain-
able land management, and be developed in accordance with good eco-
nomic, environmental, and social governance. If West African countries
strive to further commercialize the baobab beyond regional markets, stake-
holders need to tread carefully to ensure the creation of a reliable, socially
and ethically just supply chain. It is important that primary producers are
engaged in sustainable harvesting and receive an equitable share of the
profits in compliance with access and benefit sharing standards. Trade poli-
cies should take gender disparities into account and create an environment
that empowers communities to participate in advocacy. Stakeholders that
will be part of the baobab fruit export should grasp the opportunity to cater
certified products for consumers that are increasingly aware of the social
and environmental impact of their consumption patterns.
We are grateful for the support of all African informants and their families
that have participated in the survey. We wish to thank all partners of the
Domestication and Development of Baobab and Tamarind (DADOBAT)
project for greatly facilitating field research. We like to thank Beatrix
Gasienica-Wawrytko for help with graphics, Christoph Schunko and
Henning Vogt for support in statistical analyses, Heather Leach and Tara
Chapman for revising earlier drafts, and Lalaina Randrianarivony for help
with translations. Ongoing research is financed by the DADOBAT project.
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... tipurpose uses of A. digitata in the study area. Interviews emphasize the high importance of both A. digitata for local people. This is consistent with other studies that have shown that the baobab is one of the most important species for rural communities in West Africa (Kristensen and Lykke, 2003;Assogbadjo et. al., 2008;De Caluwe´ et. al., 2009;Buchmann et. al., 2010). All different parts of the baobab and sheabutter are used for several use categories. The use categories of A. digitata in the study area were food, income and medicine ( Figure 9). Medicine and income emerged as most domin ant use categories among the respondents in all the savanna ecological zones (Derived, Guinea and Sudan savanna). ...
... s in Africa as it is a source of food, fibre and medicine (Codjia et. al., 2001;Sidibe and Williams, 2002;Chadare et. al., 2009;De Caluwe et. al., 2009). More than three hundred traditional uses of A. digitata have been collectively documented in Benin, Mali, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Senegal (Buchmann et. al., 2010). ...
... The variety of medicinal uses was greater than that of food uses. Nevertheless, use-diversity values demonstrated that baobab plays a more important role for nutritional than for medicinal uses. This is in concordance with the results of Buchmann et. al., (2010) for several West African countries that also showed that the use of baobab products as nutrition was significantly more often cited than other uses and that baobab fruits carry the greatest variety of uses. Especially the use of baobab leaves and seeds for sauce and the uses of the fruit pulp for beverages and porridge are of great impo ...
Conference Paper
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Forest Ecosystems in Nigeria. Opportunity for green economy in 21st century
... Though not widely cultivated, it has been used by humans for multiple purposes such as food or medicine (Gebauer et al., 2002). Due to its traditional application in cosmetic, nutrition and medicine, the plant fruit pulp has been approved for importation into the EU (Buchmann et al., 2010). Carbohydrate is said to be the chief component of the leaves with about 60-70 %w/w followed by protein 13-15 %, then 4-6 % of fat, 11 % fibre and 16 % ash. ...
... Carbohydrate is said to be the chief component of the leaves with about 60-70 %w/w followed by protein 13-15 %, then 4-6 % of fat, 11 % fibre and 16 % ash. In addition, 7 to 10 % of the dry matter of leaves is mucilage (Woolfe et al., 1977;Buchmann et al., 2010;Gebauer et al., 2002). The leaves of Adansonia digitata contain mucilage and provides thickening to soups relished in most part of West Africa e.g. ...
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Background: Adansonia digitata leaves are edible and they contain a significant amount of mucilage that has shown potentials for pharmaceutical application. However, there is paucity of information on this mucilage contained in its leaves. Objective: This study aimed to determine a suitable method for extraction of Adansonia digitata mucilage (ADM) as well as to characterize its physicochemical properties. Materials and Methods: ADM was extracted from the aqueous dispersion of the dried leaves powder of Adansonia digitata L. in water via precipitation with ethanol. Physicochemical characterization of ADM was based on viscosity, chemical composition, particle size characterization via QICPIC, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transforms Infrared (ATR -FTIR) spectroscopy, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), moisture content and Dynamic vapor sorption (DVS) studies as well as pH and aqueous solubility tests. In addition to this, colour of the mucilage and thermal analysis via DSC were used as criteria for selection of the most suitable method for extraction of ADM. Results: Colour and thermal analysis revealed a level of purity in the extraction process. The irregular needle like structures of ADM revealed by SEM was found to be mildly acidic with a high viscosity that is concentration dependent in aqueous medium. Thermal characterization revealed a glass transition (Tg) and melting temperatures (Tm) of 55.61 °C and 179.10 °C respectively. Finger prints of functional groups revealed azo aromatic groups and other chemical constituents of sugars including glucose, galactose, arabinose and rhamnose, and sugar acid form of galacturonic acid were identified by NMR. Moisture sorption provided insight into water sorption mechanism, processing, packaging and storage conditions of the mucilage. Conclusion: Extraction of ADM via a heat free method improved its colour and purity based on the technique used. The mucilage was found to be a highly viscous and hydrates rapidly with good gelling properties. In addition its moisture sorption characteristics and glass transition temperature gave insight into its stability, storage and packaging conditions. These properties reveal its potential for many pharmaceutical applications including binding, coating, gelling agents as well as matrix forming.
... Finally, this study is of importance to Malawian gender policy, the main goal of which is to reduce gender inequalities and enhance women's participation in economic development (Government of Malawi, 2015). Baobab is recognized as a valuable crop across multiple countries in Africa (Buchmann et al., 2010;. In Malawi, baobab is considered to have great potential, both in domestic and international markets. ...
... In South Africa, 98% of all baobab collectors were women (Venter and Witkowski, 2013). In parts of western Africa, women and children are responsible for baobab collection, but decisions over quantities and types of markets to sell to depend on the women, since they are well versed in the marketing nuances of pricing, quality, and quantity (Buchmann et al., 2010). ...
... De nos jours, l'on remarque la non-prise en compte de ces produits dans les différents programmes nationaux. Cependant, des efforts considérables sont faits concernant l'intégration des produits de baobab dans l'espace commercial européen (Buchmann et al., 2010). Un tel type de commerce vers l'espace européen pourrait créer des opportunités d'emplois tant en milieu rural qu'urbain. ...
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Le baobab (Adasonia digitata L.) est une espèce agroforestière de grande valeur socio-économique. Une évaluation de la valeur économique de cette espèce au Togo a concerné 134 ménages et 105 marchés. L'objet de cette étude est de (i) déterminer le mode et le circuit de commercialisation des produits du baobab et (ii) évaluer la valeur économique générée par la vente des produits de A. digitata. Au total 7 sous-produits commercialisés ont été identifiés. Les feuilles (fraîches et sèches), les amandes et la pulpe sont les sous-produits les plus commercialisées. A part les feuilles, qui demeurent assez commercialisées dans toutes les régions, la valeur économique des sous-produits varie selon la position géographique. Les prix des sous-produits sont plus élevés dans les régions Maritime, Plateaux et Savanes. La commercialisation des sous-produits est caractérisée par un circuit indirect avec présence d'intermédiaires. Pour un pied de baobab, les fruits, les graines, l'amande et la pulpe génèrent respectivement des revenus de 116 958; 47 424; 74 277 et 95 076 F CFA. La gestion durable de cette ressource par la régénération assistée et la promotion de bonnes pratiques de production contribuera à la résilience des populations locales face à l'insécurité alimentaire et les effets néfastes des changements climatiques. Abstract Baobab is an agroforestry tree species with a high socioeconomic value. This study promotes baobab products in Togo through a socioeconomic survey carried out on 134 households and 105 markets. It aims is to (i) identify the ways and means of marketing baobab products and (ii) evaluate the economic value generated by selling A. digitata products. A total of 7 marketed by-products were identified. Leaves (fresh and dried), kernels and pulp are the most commonly marketed products. Depending on the region and on the type of product, the economic value of these products varied. Apart from the leaves, which are valued nationally, the Maritime and Kara regions sell more kernels, while the Plateau and Kara regions sell more pulp. An indirect circuit with the presence of intermediaries characterises the marketing of these products. One baobab tree generates revenues of 116,958; 47,424; 74,277 and 95,076 FCFA respectively from fruits, seeds, kernels and pulp. Sustainable management of this resource will contribute to the resilience of local communities to food insecurity and to the adverse effects of climate change, through supported regeneration and the promotion of good production practices.
... Issues of corruption, poor communication and unequal distribution of profits observed among the NTFP workers in the study area are revealing factors of diminished collaboration (Olson and Fernandez, 1999;Ostrom, 2003). These reported issues are also common challenges that have been encountered in different areas where NTFP activities take place, such as Central Africa (Tieguhong et al., 2012), South Africa (Shackleton and Campbell, 2007), West Africa (Buchmann et al., 2010), Mexico (Riveros-Cañas et al., 2016, Peru (Pyhälä et al., 2006), Indonesia (Cunningham et al., 2017) and the Philippines (Lacuna-Richman, 2003). Social frictions in Pirenópolis also manifested through male jealousy, which sabotaged the functioning of one of the associations, displaying the legacy of enduring gender inequalities and power asymmetries that permeate NTFP activities in the municipality. ...
... Further, an increasing number of urban consumers in Africa appreciate the health and cultural benefits in wild food products like Baobab. Given the significance of Baobab in the food system and livelihoods (Buchmann et al., 2010;Sanchez, 2011), Baobab products lost through PHLs have substantial impact on the income and nutrition of actors throughout the whole baobab value chain. For example, in Southern Africa, a total of 238 t of baobab powder was sold in the local market, and 438 t were exported (Kruger and Mohamadi, 2021). ...
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Introduction Wild fruits like Baobab are gaining status as a valuable food resource worldwide. As with other crops, the reduction of post-harvest losses is critical to enhancing sustainable utilisation of wild food resources. However, little information is documented on the magnitude and determinants of post-harvest losses (PHLs) amongst Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), and baobab in particular. Methods This study used cross-sectional data collected from six districts to analyse PHLs along the baobab value chain in Malawi. A multistage sampling technique was used to sample 405 collectors, 96 traders, and 316 processors. Two-limit Tobit models were used to ascertain correlates of PHLs at each value chain level. The study quantified the value of PHLs and assessed the effect of socioeconomic factors on PHLs amongst baobab actors. Results We found that actors in the baobab value chain lose 7.78% of the total value of products held through PHLs. The results also showed that different sets of socioeconomic factors variably influenced PHLs amongst different value chain actors in the baobab value chain. For instance, gender was found to only correlate with PHLs amongst collectors. Whilst marital status was positively correlated with PHLs amongst collectors, and had a negative relationship amongst processors. PHLs at traders’ level are influenced by the number of people employed by an actor, the ability of customers to specify product attributes, and a proportional reduction in sales volume due to COVID-19. The study recommends the provision of training in PHLs management, and the formulating and enforcing of Baobab product handling standards.
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To provide people with celiac disease with nutrient-rich gluten-free foods, this study aimed to produce cookies based on buckwheat and baobab flours, which were then subjected to nutritional, phytochemical, and sensory analyses. Results demonstrate that baobab flour (BF) and buckwheat flour (BWF) work together to enhance the nutritional properties of the cookies, in that nutrients that BWF is deficient in, BF provides sufficiently, and vice versa. BF is rich in minerals and carbohydrates, while BWF contains comparatively higher fat and protein levels. As for macro- and micro-elements, potassium (K) is the predominant macro-element in BF and BWF, with 13,276.47 ± 174 mg/kg and 1255.35 ± 58.92 mg/kg, respectively. The polyphenol content is higher in BF than BWF, at 629.7 ± 0.35 mg/100 g as opposed to 283.87 ± 0.06 mg/100 g. Similarly, the total flavonoid content and antioxidant activity of BF was greater than that of BWF, while BF exhibited 213.13 ± 0.08 mg/100 g and 86.62 ± 0.04%, in contrast to BWF, which had 125.36 ± 1.12 mg/100 g and 79.72 ± 0.01%, respectively. BF significantly enhanced the phytochemical composition of the cookies, with the richest sample being BBC3 containing 30% baobab. Buckwheat and baobab have the most abundant phenolic compounds of rutin and epicatechin, respectively. About the analysis of sensory attributes of the cookies, the partial substitution of BWF by BF of up to 20% (BWF3) significantly increased the scores for all attributes. Indeed, the appearance (physical aspect of the cookie: whether it is firm or not) and color (influence of baobab addition on cookie coloration) of the cookies were significantly improved with the addition of BF of up to 20%, but above 20% they were less appreciated. Similarly, up to 20% BF, the texture, flavor, and overall acceptability of the cookies were significantly improved. Taste, on the other hand, was not significantly improved, maybe due to the acidic taste provided by the baobab.
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The iconic baobab tree ( Adansonia digitata L. ) is an integral part of rural livelihoods throughout the African continent. However, the combined effects of climate change and increasing global demand for baobab products are currently exerting pressure on the sustainable utilization of these resources. Here we employ sub-meter resolution satellite imagery to identify the presence of nearly 2.8 (± 27.1%) million baobab trees in the Sahel, a dryland region of 1.5 million km ² . This achievement is considered an essential step towards an improved management and monitoring system of valuable woody species. Using Senegal as a case country, we find that 94% of rural households have at least one baobab tree in their immediate surrounding, and that the abundance of baobabs is associated with a higher likelihood of people consuming a highly nutritious food group: dark green leafy vegetables. The generated database showcases the feasibility of mapping the location of single tree species at a sub-continental scale, providing vital information in times where human mismanagement and climate change cause the extinction of numerous tree species.
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The aim of this paper is to improve the nutritional quality of bakery products by replacing wheat flour (WF) with different proportions (10%, 20%, and 30%) of baobab flour (BF). The composite flours and bread obtained were evaluated from nutritional, physical-chemical, phytochemical, organoleptic, and rheological points of view. The results obtained show that BF is a rich source of minerals (K: 13,276.47 ± 174 mg/kg; Ca: 1570.67 ± 29.67 mg/kg; Mg: 1066.73 ± 9.97 mg/kg; Fe: 155.14 ± 2.95 mg/kg; Na: 143.19 ± 5.22 mg/kg; and Zn: 14.90 ± 0.01 mg/kg), lipids (1.56 ± 0.02 mg/100 g), and carbohydrates (76.34 ± 0. 06 mg/100 g) as well as for the phytochemical profile. In this regard, the maximum contents for the total polyphenols content (TPC) were recorded in the case of bread with 30% BF (297.63 ± 1.75 mg GAE/100 g), a total flavonoids content (TFC) of 208.06 ± 0.002 mg QE/100 g, and 66.72 ± 0.07% for antioxidant activity (AA). Regarding the physical-chemical, rheological, and organoleptic analysis, the bread sample with 10% BF (BWB1) was the best among the samples with different proportions of BF. It presented a smooth, porous appearance (73.50 ± 0.67% porosity) and an elastic core (85 ± 0.27% elasticity) with a volume of 155.04 ± 0.95 cm3/100 g. It had better water absorption (76.7%) than WF (55.8%), a stability of 5.82 min, and a zero-gluten index. The scores obtained by BWB1 for the organoleptic test were as follows: Appearance: 4.81; color: 4.85; texture: 4.78; taste: 4.56; flavor: 4.37; and overall acceptability: 4.7. This study shows that BF improved the nutritional quality of the product, organoleptic properties, α-amylase activity, viscosity, and phytochemical profile, resulting in composite flour suitable for the production of functional bread.
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In popular culture, the baobab is identified not only as a symbol of the Africa continent and its diverse peoples but also as Africa’s tree of life (Layser 2001: 152). A number of trees have been identified as trees of life in scholarly works, general publications, and online sources, and with the notable exception of evergreens, the baobab shares the defining tree-of-life features of all of them. However, the baobab differs from all other trees of life because we can theorize that as a part of Africa’s mosaic savanna, it has had an enduring association with the evolution of our species. That is, during the longest and most consequential period of hominin history, the baobab would likely have been among the trees earliest recognized in the human imagination as life-manifesting, life-giving, and life-representing. Kaare and Woodburn (1999) described the Hadza landscape as “dominated by the fan acacias and baobab trees which are so familiar to viewers of television wildlife documentaries.” It is probably true that most readers of this book are now familiar with the baobab’s extraordinary appearance and many uses. The same cannot be said of its likely role in human history, which deserves to be better known. If the baobab is indeed the tree of life in the landscape of our evolutionary history, then it can be identified as humanity’s ancestral tree of life. This chapter, which is in three parts, discusses the distinguishing features of trees of life and highlights the baobab as the exemplary representative. The first describes the baobab; the second discusses its evolution; and the third identifies the kinds of trees of life and the criteria for regarding the baobab as the exemplary multipurpose tree of life.
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North American and European florists import the leaves of various species of palms of the genus Chamaedorea to be used as foliage in floral arrangements and for use in Palm Sunday church services. Chamaedorea harvesting contributes to forest livelihoods in several regions of Mexico, the Petén region of Guatemala, and Belize. Such commercialization of NTFPs has long been advocated (as well as debated) as a means to integrate forest conservation and rural development objectives. Yet, extractive production system models and experience suggest that system dynamics are not sufficiently stable over time and space to reconcile these objectives. This paper considers NTFP certification as an intervention to promote the long-term reconciliation of integrated conservation and development objectives in a working forest context. Specifically, we consider palm harvesting in the community forest concessions of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in order to address the fundamental question: how might certification ensure that NTFP extraction remains an ecologically sustainable and economically viable source of income for communities in working forests? We consider the opportunities and challenges related to NTFP commercialization and certification, provide an overview of existing certification options, and conclude with a modest proposal for a new generation of certifications.
The book deals mainly with naturally occurring, and some cultivated, species of food plants, with an emphasis on less known but locally important species that are indigenous to Kenya. It aims at unlocking the potential of these species by providing information on their value to different communities. Detailed information on their food value and utilization, including, among other uses, their medicinal, cultural, and household usage is presented. Additionally, the species description, illustration, distribution, ecology, availability, status, management and commercial potential are provided. Also included are a few exotic species that are of traditional, cultural and nutritional importance in Kenya
Diversity in production systems and natural ecosystems strengthens the opportunities for diversity in diets and the prospect of a sustainable future.
Africa has abundant wild plants and cultivated native species with great agronomic and commercial potential as food crops. However, many of these species, particularly the fruits and nuts, have not been promoted or researched and therefore remain under-utilized. Moreover, many of these species face the danger of loss due to increasing human impact on ecosystems. Sudan, as in many other African countries, is endowed with a range of edapho-climatic conditions that favor the establishment of many plant species, most of which are adapted to specific ecological zones. Among these plants is the baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) which is a fruit-producing tree belonging to the family Bombacaceae. The baobab has an exceedingly wide range of uses ranging from food and beverages to medicinal uses. Despite its potential, which is well recognized, very little is known about the tree phenology, floral biology, husbandry or genetic diversity. In this article, we have aimed to bring out detailed information on various aspects of its botany, ecology, origin, propagation, main uses, genetic improvement and especially its importance for nutrition and poverty alleviation in the Sudan.
First and only fully comprehensive account of all eight species of Adansonia Contains much new information Highly interesting for scientists, academics and laypeople This is the only comprehensive account of all eight species in the genus Adansonia. It describes the historical background from the late Roman period to the present. It covers the extraordinary variety of economic uses of baobabs, famous trees, folk traditions and mythology, art associations, life cycle, natural history, cultivation, conservation, distribution and ecology, and phytogeography. There are also appendices on vernacular names, gazetteer, economics, nutrition and forest mensuration. This book fills a gap in the botanical literature. It deals with a genus that has fascinated and intrigued scientists and lay persons for centuries. It will appeal to scientists and academics as well as tropical horticulturalists, conservationists and general interest readers. It includes all the available scientific information about each of the eight species, and contains a good deal of original research on the history, ethnobotany and biology of the genus. There is even a chapter devoted to areas where further research is required. © 2008 Springer Science + Business Media, B.V. All rights reserved.
In the Guinean pre-forest savannas of Ivory Coast, rural people consume many wild edible fruits. There is a significant trade of some wild fruits, but most of them are eaten raw at gathering sites. While a small number of fruit species are selected when clearing land for cultivation, the majority of them are destroyed and replaced by economic crops. From an ethnobotanical approach consisting in “open-ended” and semi-structured interviews, 75 wild edible fruit species, known by the Malinké ethnic group of Séguéla (a department in the northwest of the Ivory Coast), were inventoried. Among them, about 55 wild fruits were particularly investigated and were classified according to their importance for local peoples. Several fruit categories were identified going from the ones that are well known and regularly eaten to those that are unknown and not used. The study revealed that many edible wild fruits are still unknown or insufficiently exploited in the region, in spite of their nutritional values. It was concluded that the valorization of these resources could be beneficial for the people concerned. © 2001 FAC UNIV SCIENCES AGRONOMIQUES GEMBLOUX. All rights reserved.
Sundrying, roasting and fermentation were the traditional processing techniques selected to use to improve the chemical composition of the baobab pulp and seed. The fruits were purchased from a retailer in Maiduguri. The pulp was scraped and kneaded in cold water to form an emulsion. The emulsion was passed through a fine sieve and frozen until used. The seeds were thoroughly cleaned, boiled, dehulled and divided into five portions. The first two portions were sun‐dried and roasted. The remaining three portions were fermented for 2, 4 and 6 days at 28°C. After this, they were dried to 96% dry matter, ground into fine powder and stored frozen as the pulp. Standard techniques were adopted for the analysis of the samples. Fermentation of the seeds for 6d offers much advantages over roasting as judged by crude protein, moisture and minerals. A 6‐day fermentation appears to be the promising method for producing nutritious food from baobab seed.