The fruits, leaves and other parts of the Baobab tree are an edible supply of important vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants.
The fruit pulp is of high nutritional value, especially for calcium and vitamin C, which has prebiotic and antioxidant functions and high dietary fibre content.
Other parts of the baobab such as the young roots and oil from the seeds also provide valuable nutrients and are eaten either regularly or in times of food scarcity.
The collaboration, which brings together researchers from the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences and research institutions, NGOs and industry from Germany, Kenya, Sudan, Malawi and the UK, believes the tree could ease the supply of nutritious food needed in the region.
It could also become a model to create income for the rural communities in Eastern Africa.
The two objectives form the project, which is receiving funding from the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL), is also looking to assess and document the geographical range of baobab tree species.
The team wants to preserve and protect the baobab tree as a natural resource while also developing recommendations for the sustainable cultivation and domestication of the baobab for commercial use.
The commercial use of baobab-based products has largely been held back by the tree’s scarcity, inconsistent quality in plant materials, a lack of cultivation and processing technology and underdeveloped market chains.
However, the nutritional value of the tree has long been known amongst the local communities, who create baobab-infused products such as juice, sweets and snacks.
Since 2008 dried baobab fruit pulp has been accepted as a novel food ingredient in the European Union (CEC 2008).
According to the research team, this signifies an expansion to meet demand and expand market access.
The team also believes this may present an incentive for conservation through the use or even domestication of this resource.
Baobab has received scant attention here in Europe, with start-up firm Aduna leading the way in reaching out to Northern Ghana in responsibly sourcing the baobab.
Aduna Baobab is now sold in Liberty and Selfridges’ beauty halls in the UK. Further listings have been achieved with retailers such as Publicis Drugstore and Bon Marche (Paris), and Alara (Lagos).