Baobab trees helping to reverse Sahel desertification

London Some 12,000 new baobab trees have so far been planted as part of an 8,000 kilometre (km) wall of trees across the Sahel to protect the region’s environment, create jobs and food security.

The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative is an African Union (AU) project started 10 years ago that will stretch across the continent.

Already, 15 per cent of trees had been planted and by 2030, when the project is completed, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

The initiative is already bringing life back to Africa’s degraded landscapes at an unprecedented scale, providing food security, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions who live along its path, according to the project’s website.

The Wall promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent threats not only facing the African continent, but the global community as a whole notably climate change, drought, famine, conflict and migration, the website noted.

Ghana is in the midst of the project through Aduna, a UK social business bringing African superfoods to the global market.

The health food brand introduced the fruit in powdered form to the British market in 2012.

In partnering with the AU, Aduna announced in London this week that the Great Green Wall project had expanded the company’s existing baobab fruit value chain in Ghana and Burkina Faso, increased the capacity of its processing centre and implemented a land restoration programme.

The project has grown to include 16 new communities in Upper East Ghana and, for the first time, Centre-Sud Burkina Faso, bringing to 1,823 women who are directly involved in providing the baobab powder.

These women have 11,000 dependents whose basic needs are now met, according to Aduna. It also increased the capacity of the company’s baobab processing centre by investing in new machinery, created a ‘Sahel Innovation Centre’ to enable the experimentation and piloting of other under-utilised crops grown along the Great Green Wall and initiated a community land restoration programme, said Aduna.

Baobab trees grow in 32 African countries and are prolific in the Sahel.

Drought-resistant, they thrive in even the most degraded land, isolating carbon from the environment and fighting desertification caused by water and soil erosion.

Baobabs are community-owned and produce a highly nutritious fruit in the middle of the dry season.

The super fruit could be worth US$1 billion to rural communities in Africa.

Andrew Hunt, CEO of Aduna, said: Over the past five years, baobab has risen from obscurity to one of the world’s best-selling superfoods and we are now seeing unprecedented interest in it as a food ingredient.

This has been driven by its unique combination of delicious taste, health benefits and its ethical and environmental credentials.

We are delighted to have joined forces with the African Union and the Great Green Wall to scale up our baobab supply chain and kick-start the creation of a new billion-dollar baobab industry for rural Africa, that can sustain 10 million households, Mr Hunt added.

Elvis Tangem, Coordinator for the Great Green Wall project at the AU, said: Our partnership with Aduna is a pilot which demonstrates how an entirely new value chain can be created from village to shelf, based on an indigenous tree crop.

The outcome is a blend of land restoration and income generation.

Our vision is to replicate this model with a range of different ingredients across the Great Green Wall.

He added: By connecting Sahelian producers to the global market we can create green jobs, reverse desertification and climate change and remove the need to migrate on an unprecedented scale.

Some 80 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans rely on the land to survive but desertification, caused by climate change, is making it impossible for communities in the Sahel to earn livelihoods.

Up to 80 per cent of land in the region is degraded, forcing young people to migrate.

Source: Ghana News Agency