Save the Baobab
Siham M. Osman, Programme Assistant, ITDGPractical Action Sudan
The African Baobab is a very long-lived tree with multiple uses. It is thought that some trees are over 1000 years old. In Sudan they grow in a wide belt covering Kordofan, Darfur and the Blue Nile. But as these areas have suffered from drought and desertification the Baobab tree has been affected and become an endangered species.
The tree is characterised by its massive size, reaching to a height of 18-25m. The trunk is swollen and stout, generally up to 10m in diameter though some giants can reach a 28m girth.
The fruit measures 10-45 cm and of irregular globular shape. The inner part of dry powdery pulp covering the hard black kidney-shaped seeds.
The local uses of the tree
Although it is mostly regarded as a fruit-bearing forest tree, it has many other uses:
In western Sudan, the hollowed trunks of large trees can be used to store up to 9000 litres water for use during the dry season.
Once the shell is broken, the powder surrounding the seeds is separated by soaking it in water. The product can then be used as a refreshing cold drink, or when boiled with starch added to it can be used as porridge.
The dried leaves are used as “waika” a traditional Sudanese dish. The green leaves are eaten as salad.
The shade of large trees has made it suitable for socializing - often groups gather here to discuss community issues.
There are many medical applications, for example water extracted from the fruits is used to treat dysentery, stomach pains and diarrhoea. The bark and leaves are also useful in the treatment of fever, and are reported to have antiinflammatory effect.
Why the Baobab is endangered
Severe droughts of recent years have affected the thorn woodlands of the savannahs and fears have been expressed about the regeneration of plant species.
In Sudan the over-use of multipurpose fruit trees, such as the Baobab, has become a significant problem. There is high year-round demand for fruits, even in cities like Khartoum. With fruit being collected from wild stands of trees, stocks are decreasing and no provision is made for replacing these trees – no plantations have ever been seen in Sudan. In cities seeds are just thrown away as garbage, eliminating any chance of regeneration. There is often a lack of awareness by the local people on the need to plant, protect and manage under-utilized fruit species. It is believed that in the past the Baobab fruits were widely eaten by large animals, especially elephants. They dispersed seeds and broke the seed dormancy which encouraged regeneration. With elephants now in danger of extinction because of habitat destruction and illegal killing, the natural regeneration of Baobab has been badly affected.
ITDGPractical Action realized the importance of organizing a campaign to save the endangered species of this region, especially the Baobab tree.
The aims of the campaign
To conserve the environment by collecting seed and planting more trees
To mobilize all concerned stakeholders to plant as many Baobab trees as possible in the states of Darfur, Kordofan, Blue Nile and Kassala.
To raise people’s awareness of the importance of these trees, and the fact that some of them are endangered.
To use this year’s event as a preparatory task, and as a rehearsal for a wider regional campaign along the Sudan-Sahelian Zone which will be organized next year.
Join the campaign and contribute to saving the Baobab.