This paper focuses on the baobab value chain in the north of Manica Province, and specifically on the ways in which commercialization of the value chain with Baobab Products Mozambique is beginning to have an impact on the gender dynamics within the households of the women collectors.
Baobab is Africa's 'superfruit', rich in nutrients with demonstrable medicinal properties. Long used as a source of material for food (leaves, fruit, roots), medicine (leaves, bark) and practical goods (cord, crafts), baobab trees are often associated with spirits and cultural traditions, while individual trees (often hollow) have provided hiding places, stores, and even prison cells! The tree is renowned as a source of water in drought periods. The trees also act as a significant resource for a range of wildlife ・ bees through to bats ・ whilst the fruits are enjoyed and consumed by elephants, monkeys, baboons and more.
Informal trade in baobab products within Africa has been ongoing for many centuries, and still dominates the overall value chain in most source countries. Development of a more formal, export-oriented trade came about only in the mid-2000s following the approval of the powder as a food product for consumption in the European Union (EU) under the Novel Food Regulations in 2007 and later for the United States through FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. The size of the resource base within Africa, and the recognition of the opportunities opened up as a result of formal approval in the EU and the US, has led to a big increase in supply, especially since 2016. The quality of powder supplied varies greatly, as does the price. As large-scale manufacturing companies are increasingly looking at baobab as a potential ingredient, thus moving the product out of the exclusively high-end or niche ・healthfood・ sector, there are both opportunities (increasing scale) and challenges (commoditization leading to low returns and undermining efforts in Africa to add value at source). These issues are explored more fully in other Micaia publications. For this paper, the context is that the baobab value chain in Mozambique, pioneered by Micaia, is still in a phase of growth.
Baobab trees are found in many areas of Mozambique, but Micaia's work on baobab focuses on the north of Manica Province in Guru and Tambara Districts. Baobab is one of the few sources of seasonal cash income in this area. However, until Micaia started work, the only trade was with traders from Malawi who avoided the formal system (paying bribes to take the product across the border without papers) and paid very low prices for the baobab pulp. The low current returns, together with the large potential market, convinced Micaia that there was an opportunity to transform the local baobab trade and in so doing to transform the lives of hundreds of women' in Guru and Tambara Districts, collection of baobab fruit is almost exclusively done by women. In neighbouring Tete Province, men are more involved, though mostly in the marketing of fruit. Micaia started work in the two districts in 2012, and in 2014 created Baobab Products Mozambique Ltd (BPM), the first Mozambican company to commercialize baobab. BPM had its first full season of operations in 2015, buying 60 tons of baobab fruit pulp and seed. In 2019, BPM aims to buy 300 tons of pulp and seed. Since 2016, BPM has had organic status for its baobab powder and oil, and the company has become one of the leading producers of high-quality baobab powder in Africa.
Authors and Publishers
MICAIA Foundation is a Mozambican non-profit organisation(NGO) that works mostly in Manica Province in the heart of Mozambique. Set up in 2009, we now reach more than 40,000 people and their families and communities. Our support is focused on enabling people to take action to change their lives for the better. Training farmers and supporting their organisations for example, helps them get a better price for their crops – which means they can buy more seed for next year or improve their house or keep their children in school for longer.