Notes to broadcasters
Agriculture is the biggest contributor to Mozambique’s economy with an average 4 percent according to the country’s National Statistics Institute.
Locally known as malambe, baobab is native to Africa, and do the dry African savannah in many sub-Saharan African countries. They can live for more than a thousand years, but take approximately 16 to 23 years to mature and produce flowers and subsequently fruits.
Unlike other cash crops like coffee or cocoa, baobab is not a plantation crop. The trees take so long to mature that farmers rely largely on harvesting fruit from existing trees. Instead, baobab is wild harvested and collected by hand by local villagers, with one tree producing around 1,500 baobab fruits per year.
Baobab is a multi-purpose tree, and the fruit pulp, seeds, leaves, flowers, roots, and bark are all edible. It’s rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fibre, carbohydrates, protein, potassium, and fats.
The fruit is processed to make powder, which is the main ingredient wanted on the European and American markets. Local people have little knowledge of the value of baobab on the international market, as there is a lack of business orientation and awareness of potential buyers.
But now, women from poor communities in the Mozambican districts of Guro and Tambara in central Manica province and Changara in western Tete province are collecting baobab fruits and selling them to a nearby processing company called Baobab Products Mozambique or BPM that exports the pulp to Europe and USA.
If you want to produce a program on baobab or other products which are collected from the wild, you may wish to draw inspiration from this text. If you choose to present this radio script as part of your farming program, you can use voices to represent the people interviewed in this case. In this case, please tell your audience at the very beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors and not of the actual participants.
If you want to air programs on a similar topic, talk to people who collect wild produce, processors, traders, exporters, and others in the value chain.
You may wish to ask them the following questions, among others:
- Who collects, transports, processes, and markets the product? Which of these groups receive good profits for their work? Why or why not?
- What are the challenges associated with each link in the value chain and how can these be addressed?
- What roles do women play in the value chain, and are these roles fairly remunerated? If not, what can be done to improve the situation for women?
Estimated duration with music, intro and extro, is 25 minutes.
The director of Baobab Products Mozambique, Andrew Kingman, says his company’s establishment in Tambara and Guro districts has started to bring in much-needed revenue for the mostly poor communities in that area.
Mr. Kingman, I would like to start by welcoming you and thanking you for speaking with us today. Today, our focus is the baobab value chain and what your company is doing in Tambara and Guro districts.
In about the year 2000, various companies in Europe started to look at commercializing it.
There has been an informal value chain in Mozambique. For decades, traders from Malawi, Zimbabwe, and to a certain extent, Maputo, Beira, and Tete travelled to the communities and bought the pulp from women collectors.
These women typically find the fruits on the ground or use long sticks to remove them from the trees, then crack the fruit, open, remove the pulp, and place it in a sack.
They took it back to the village and loaded the sacks onto the trucks of visiting traders, who paid them a pittance, just a few coins for a big amount of pulp. The women knew nothing about the value chain, they knew nothing about where the pulp went, what the product was used for, or what the end price was. And these traders have benefited from that ignorance for decades.
Our company, Baobab Products Mozambique, was established to find opportunities to change the way local baobab suppliers are treated, and to ensure they could get a better deal from the value chain. We started working in northern Manica province in 2012.
We did some research internationally and we quickly identified that there was a growing international market. So we set up our own company in 2015 to commercialize the product and promote the value chain.
When we started, the first thing we did was multiply the price paid to collectors by four. And we’ve kept that commitment.
In the early years, we had just under 500 women supplying us, and we bought maybe 100 or 150 tonnes of fruit. Last year, 1,390 women sold fruit to the company. When the baobab harvest is good near some communities one year, the women in that area get a lot of fruit, while others don’t have so much. But the average is more than $50 per woman. And that’s transformative for that community: people buy roofing sheets, motorbikes, cows. We’ve got hundreds of stories of how women are gaining financial resources, which they contribute to the family.
We were determined that the trade wasn’t going to be taken over by men, because that’s what normally happens as soon as you put some value on an activity. But we don’t exclude men. In many cases, it’s a family occupation.
But the women’s empowerment is not just about money. The critical thing is that it’s the women that have the contract, not the men. So that changes the balance of power.
They know the forest, they know the process, they’re reliable.
Also, our foundation is working in these communities on literacy and numeracy work, sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, community organization. So the baobab trade gives us a platform to work with the community at large.
What we found is that, over the last few years, there has been a change in gender dynamics in the household. Women are reporting that they’re treated with more respect in the community. And in the household, we’ve seen a lot of change in the way that decision-making takes place. Normally, the men would take the money and decide what’s done with it. Now, there are far more examples where there is a conversation in the household about prioritizing the money because the money is more substantial. And the women are using their relative power to negotiate space.
Because they know they’re going to get paid, they come back on the buying day, and we transport the fruits to one of four or five pre-processing centres where we crack the fruit and extract the pulp.
We’re a commercial company, we’re trying to make a profit, and we want to share that profit with our suppliers.
But we are also very concerned with pursuing trade principles of fair practice in the community and fair treatment of our suppliers. So we also try to find buyers who share those values.
By the end of this year, we want to transfer shares to that association. We want to continue to help them develop their ability to really play a part in the company and the value chain.
The other thing is that world markets can be fickle and volatile. It’s very hard for small companies to survive in a challenging international market. We don’t have a lot of support structures in place, it’s hard to get affordable bank loans, to manage cash flow, shortages, and so on. So sustainability is a challenge.
How big is the association?
There were about 1,800 members registered from these 25 village associations last year.
When you do the training, BPM gives you contracts for baobab collection. The association is still young and at times BPM helps it to look ahead at what will happen next year and where the fruit cracking will happen. And they discuss future prices and where they will be collecting.
They also talk about what external clients want and expect in terms of the quality of the food produced and the quality and quantity of the product.
But now, ladies who are widows, those who are divorced, those who have husbands—they gain a certain respect in the village because they are contributing to the development of the village, they are building new houses.
Their husbands are now coming back to some communities, and actually starting to collect the baobab fruit and give it to their wives, who then sell it.
This is changing into a family project where all family members participate.
We started with about 500, but now we’ve got 1,800 collectors. Among these, 25 are lead collectors who buy from their collectors. And now the leaders actually find the agents and talk to them. The agents are buyers who may come at any time and buy small quantities. The leaders are also thinking of other avenues for making money. So there’s a lot of things happening here.
In the past, I saw a lot of women with no confidence. They did not even have self-respect. But I see women with this force, with the courage to talk and to defend this project, to defend what they are doing.
And I see children with big smiles going to secondary school, which has not happened before.
So a lot has changed. Women are defending their rights and protecting their families. This is really something that I talk about with a lot of emotion. And I am proud of working with these women.
Maria William is a 32-year-old divorced mother of three. She echoed the same sentiments.
I used to work at a petrol station and I talked to my former manager about my idea. He gave me some tips on working with wild fruits and milk. Then, two years ago, I bought a stove and some large pots to make the yogurt.
Now I can make about $128 US in a good week working just five days.
I had a little capital for other business ideas, but I thought baobab products was a bankable idea. So I dropped every other idea and focused on making yogurt. I used less than $175 to kick-start the business, and I recovered that money in less than two months.
I buy milk from farmers in my village to produce the yogurt, which I then mix with baobab powder or Vanguera infausto fruit before shipping it along the highway near to the capital, Maputo, for sale. (Editor’s note: Vanguera infausto has different common names, including mapfilua in the Shangana language spoken by the majority of people in southern Mozambique.)
I am planning to build my own yogurt factory, and I’m now able to export fresh, baobab-flavoured to neighbouring countries like Eswatini, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
You know, agriculture is mainly associated with suffering, and no young person wants to suffer. So with my yogurt factory, I will offer young people jobs in the laboratory and administrative work in the office.
Thanks for your kind attention. Today, we heard from Andrew Kingman, the director of Baobab Products Mozambique, Ana Mlambo, BPM’s training coordinator, three women who collect baobab, and one woman who processes baobab into yogurt
We learned that baobab, which until recently was an unpopular fruit in Mozambique, is increasingly exported to Europe and USA as a popular health food, and that a company called BPM is helping to benefit a few thousand women collectors of the wild–harvested fruit by increasing their baobab payments, treating them fairly, and enabling them to make a good living for their families and communities.
Contributed by: Charles Mangwiro, journalist, Maputo, Mozambique.
Reviewed by: Paulo do Rosário, Baobab Value Chain Specialist Advisor, Green Innovation Centre for the Agriculture and Food Sector, GIAE Mozambique
Andrew Kingman, April 28, 2021
Ana Mlambo, May 5, 2021
Cacilda Mandinhosa Trabuco, May 5, 2021
Feb Antonia, May 5, 2021
Maria William, May 5, 2021