Script 74.1

Notes to broadcasters

Big trees are an important aspect of the cultural and agricultural landscape for several reasons. They offer nutritional benefits by providing seedpods and fruit. There are many examples of families harvesting the seeds and fruits of a tree to sell at the local market. They also provide shade. Big trees are often local tribal and familial markers, indicating the site of ancestors’ graves or the limits of property rights. Villages and cultural groups should resist the easy money that can be made by allowing industry to chop down these big trees for timber and other uses.




You would never think, sitting here below this baobab tree, that there was once a fight between this tree and the other big trees to find out who was the most important tree in the forest. You see, there was this someone, a nobody little tree, just a little thorny shrub that was jealous of the big trees and wanted to stir up trouble. He said that people should chop them down for firewood because they took up so much space. The only good tree was a burning tree. And they should start with the baobab.

MUSIC (3 seconds).

When baobab heard this he was very angry. “I am the most important big tree in the forest,” he shouted, waving his branches in the air. “I give human beings shade for their meetings and I stand guard over where their ancestors are buried. Chiefs use me as a signpost and they say ‘My land starts at this baobab and stops at that baobab far away.’ Every year I feed the people that live around me with my fruit and seeds. They are clever because they have learned to make a drink from my fruit that makes them healthy and strong. And they make baking powder from my bark so that their cakes and bread can rise. They call it cream of tartar. In my branches all sorts of squirrels and birds make their nests. And the vervet monkeys teach their babies how to climb trees.”

MUSIC (3 seconds).

Then the big marula tree started to laugh. “I am straighter than you are. At least my roots go down into the earth and don’t stick up in the air like yours. My fruit makes humans very happy when it ferments. Even the elephants, the strongest of animals, walk in circles and fall down when they eat my fruit. And now, clever women are harvesting my fruit to make the finest oils for their cosmetics. And men are making Marula Liqueur from my fruit which they sell all over the world. And chiefs use this big tree even more often to remember where their lands are and where their ancestors are buried. The marula is the most important.”

MUSIC (3 seconds).

Finally, the big ana tree, the mutsanga, spoke up, “I speak for the acacias. We are not as tall you two big trees, but there are far more of us than you. We are not so proud and arrogant as you are. Because there are so many of us we help to clean the air, and get rid of that carbon dioxide. We also provide flowers for bees to live on, humans can eat our seeds and our pods, our leaves are there all year round for shade, and even if humans cut some of our branches for firewood, we grow them back again quickly. So we say we are the most important.”

Just then a great African storm blew up. Huge white clouds filled with rain, and a strong wind blew. The big trees bent and swayed in the wind. Their fruits dropped on the ground for humans and animals to eat. But most of all, the big trees gave protection to the smaller trees and shrubs. Even the cheeky, thorny one!

MUSIC (3 seconds).

After the storm the cheeky, thorny shrub re-arranged its branches and shook some of the water out of its leaves. “I am very grateful that you saved my life and sheltered me from the wind and the lightning. I have listened to your stories and I want to say that you big trees are all important. Every one of you. Each one serves a purpose: to clean the air, to remind families where their ancestors are buried and to provide food and shelter. I will offer my sharpest thorns to prick any careless human being who wants to harm or chop down the big trees. They are the kings of the forest.”


  • Contributed by: John Van Zyl, Executive Director, ABC Ulwazi, Radio Training and Production House, South Africa.
  • Reviewed by Professor Helen Hambly Odame, Rural Extension Studies, University of Guelph, and by Professor Naresh Thevathasan, Temperate and Tropical Agroforestry Specialist, University of Guelph, Canada.


The trees referred to in this script are:

  • Baobab: Adansonia digitata
  • Marula: Sclerocarya caffra
  • Anaboom: Acacia albida