Mathew has seven children and operates a market stall where he sells vegetables. As a young kid he remembers Baobab fruit powder being mixed with water to make a refreshing drink and with maize meal to create porridge. This was a common meal during drought seasons when crop production was poor.
In 2005 he discovered the commercial value of Baobab fruit, which was being bought from rural communities such as Mathew’s village.
Mathew supplements his income from selling vegetables by harvesting Baobab fruit from community owned woodlots. Harvesting is closely regulated to ensure no damage occurs to Baobab trees, conserving them for future generations. Members from the community take turns to monitor and protect the woodlots from poachers who cut down branches to collect more fruit. “With this arrangement there has been a significant decline in the cutting down of Baobab trees”, says Mathew. “And we notice now that the trees are bearing more fruits”.
Mathew has received training on safe storage, packaging and basic hygiene when handling baobab produce, which helps him ensure his produce is of the highest quality. He spends one week harvesting travelling around 6km to gather the fruit from within his community woodland. And then one week processing, cracking open the Baobab pods and storing the pulp in sacks for processing. He then transports an average of 250kgs every season to the collection point which is less than a kilometre from his home. There the pulp is weighed and he receives a fair trade price per kilogram and a premium for processing the pulp from the pod.
Baobab trade has contributed immensely towards Mathew’s household income. The family’s diet has changed, he can now save money and he has built a house with the additional income. He also used money from Baobab for basic food stuff and paying hospital fees. It really has taken a lot of financial pressure off his family.
Mathew envisions that as more people become aware of the importance of Baobab, more local communities will benefit. He hopes that some of the money they get from Baobab will be used construct a school.