Real sustainability: why you need to know about baobab conservation
By Lucia Fontaina Powell
We’re donating profits to support the conservation of baobab trees
The baobab tree
Dr Jackson’s is honoured to be a sponsor of the Baobab Foundation, a non-profit that promotes and supports the conservation of baobab trees in South Africa. Learn about our recent donation to their Wilding Project, which will fund baobab planting and conservation in the wild.
When Dr Sarah Venter first started studying the uses of baobab fruit, she needed - well - some baobab fruit. So she approached land owners where baobab trees were growing, offering to buy their fruit. The land owners were baffled by her request.
“They said to me: Sarah, just take the fruit. We don’t need it. It’s got no value,” she remembers.
Since then, Dr Sarah Venter has spent many years studying baobab trees and harvesting (including a PhD and a successful business venture), as well as setting up the Baobab Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to baobab conservation. Now, no one is giving baobab fruit away for free; instead, it’s become a profitable source of income that’s driving social and economic regeneration in rural South African communities.
Dr Sarah Venter, founder of The Baobab Foundation
How you’re playing a part
If you’ve used Dr Jackson’s products, you’ll know that baobab oil is one of our key ingredients — and you’ll have witnessed firsthand the wonders it can do for your complexion. But buying our products goes far beyond healthy, good-looking skin. On top of supporting Dr Jackson’s as an independent brand, you’re bringing a fair income to women in Africa, and funding educational and employment opportunities for future generations.
We’ll always keep you updated on exactly where your money is going, which is why we’re delighted to tell you more about our partnership with the Baobab Foundation. Recently, we’ve donated profits to help fund their conservation efforts among the baobab community in South Africa. Let’s take a look at the incredible work they’ve been doing.
But first…what is baobab?
If you’re not familiar with the baobab tree, here’s a quick recap.
Baobab trees grow in Africa, Australia and the Middle East. In South Africa, they’re an important fixture of the landscape, due to their large shape and size. They’re also rich in symbolism, as they’re believed to hold the spirits of African ancestors. In some Africa countries is commonly referred to as the ‘tree of life’.
Baobab trees grow large fruit, and can be used from root to leaf. You can eat the nutritious fruit and leaves, weave fibers from the bark into rope and fabrics, or make oil from the seeds. If you live somewhere where baobab trees aren’t grown, you’re most likely to have seen it in your local health food shop in its powder form (perfect for adding to smoothies or protein shakes).
What’s so special about baobab?
Extracted from the seed, baobab oil has a unique chemical formula that puts it miles above other oils that we commonly find in skincare.
Oils contain fatty acids, which are made of molecules. Oils like olive oil or argan oil have big, heavy molecules. This means that when you rub them into your skin, they feel greasy and can clog up your pores. At the other end of the spectrum, oils like primrose oil have smoother, smaller molecules, which are more quickly absorbed, but can leave your skin feeling quite dry.
Baobab oil is a beautiful combination of both types of molecule. It’s deeply nourishing and reduces transepidermal water loss, giving your skin some barrier protection. Yet it doesn’t give you that oily residue you’ll experience with other oils — instead, it gives your skin a soft, satiny feel.
“In terms of a moisturiser, I don’t even know what is better than baobab because of its unique makeup. It’s an extraordinary moisturiser,” says Dr Sarah.
It’s because of baobab’s unique properties — not just for skincare, but also for nutrition, textiles, and more — that the commercial baobab industry is booming. Thanks to a rise in academic research and demand, the global trade in baobab products has connected many thousands of rural African families with a direct income. Supporting this social and economic regeneration is a big part of the Baobab Foundation’s work, which includes creating employment opportunities for women and funding education for children (for example, by building pre-schools).
Is baobab harvesting sustainable?
You might be wondering whether baobab production is sustainable, and the answer is yes.
In fact, much of Dr Sarah Venter’s academic research has been devoted to assessing whether baobab trees can be sustainably harvested. The conclusion was that because baobab trees produce a high volume of fruit, meaning an abundance of seeds that can be regerminated, they have a high tolerance for harvesting.
What’s more, baobab trees are one of the species that will be least affected by climate change, since they can grow in diverse conditions and habitats, and are very resilient.
So why do we need to worry about baobab conservation?
Unfortunately, there are a number of threats to the baobab population, including agriculture, urban and industrial development, disease, pollinator survival, and even elephant damage. However, the biggest threat is to the survival of the baobab population is the lack of young trees.
Although baobab trees live for over 1000 years and can be taken for granted as an enduring part of the landscape, they won’t be around forever if we don’t keep adding young trees to the population. Since the rediscovery and commercialisation of baobab trees is relatively recent, we need to make sure we’re constantly replenishing the population of baobab trees to keep up with demand.
What is the Baobab Foundation doing about this?
This is where the Baobab Foundation comes in. The Baobab Foundation runs a number of conservation and social impact programmes, but Dr Jackson’s donation will go towards its Wilding Project.
The Wilding Project focuses specifically on wild populations of baobabs. It aims to boost the population of baobab trees by planting young trees in the wild or around local villages, and ensuring they survive until adulthood. It also identifies threats to adult baobabs and provides solutions for their survival, and aims to create awareness about baobab ecology and conservation on a local and international scale.
To do this, the Baobab Foundation engages the help of local men and women to germinate, grow and nurture seedlings in home gardens and village nurseries. These young baobab trees remain in the care of their local growers until they are one meter high (which takes about a year). The seedlings are then moved to larger nurseries, where they’re grown to a height of three meters (which takes another two years). After this, the maturer trees are planted in wild areas in nature reserves, farms and around rural villages.
Members of the Wilding Project harvesting baobab
The goal of the project is to plant 100 baobab trees in the wild and keep the future of baobab populations going strong. At Dr Jackson’s, we’re delighted to be a part of the movement to protect this wonderful species, and the people who live alongside it.
Head to the Baobab Foundation website to learn more and read about the Wilding Project here.
Remember, with any product you purchase from Dr Jackson’s, you are contributing to 1% for the Planet. This non-profit organisation connects businesses, individuals, and communities, so that we can work together to ensure that our planet and future generations thrive. The 1% for the Planet network turns local action into global impact
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