Comic Relief will support the PhytoTrade Africa Baobab project for the next three years to the tune of £500,000. The funds will go to support the only high-quality, sustainable and ethical supply of baobab fruit powder from Africa.
“It’s a great thing, we are delighted for the support,” says Baobab Manager, Rosie Abdy Collins. “The Comic Relief funding will help us to further develop our supply chains to really improve the livelihoods of rural producers in Africa. But it’s also really exciting because it ties in with all the events in the UK where baobab is featuring, such as London’s Good Food Show, a Baobab raw-food event at the Inspiral Lounge in Camden and the Eden Project. We’re going to see baobab on the menus of top London restaurants!”
Zimbabwe-stemming PhytoTrade Africa was established in 2002 as the trade association of the natural products industry in Southern Africa. It’s an organization representing private sector businesses, development agencies, individuals and other interested parties in eight countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Under “natural products” they mean products derived from plants indigenous to Southern Africa; they include foods, drinks, oils and ingredients used by the food and cosmetics industries.
In 2008 they secured an EU Novel Foods decision that allows their members to supply baobab fruit to the European food and drink market. This is a market opportunity that their members were unable to secure independently, given the long, complex and costly process involved.
The purpose of PhytoTrade Africa is to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in the region by developing an industry that is not only economically successful but also ethical and sustainable.
Southern Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world. At the same time, Southern Africa is rich in biodiversity. Its indigenous plants – more than 30,000 species – are well adapted to harsh environmental conditions, and produce fruits, oils, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that Africans have used for centuries. Yet these products are as yet little known elsewhere in the world. According to a report by the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, UK, the natural-products industry has the potential to deliver life-changing income to over 14 million households in Southern Africa.