Woke up early yesterday morning as we wanted to head out to the place where the baobab (which I talked about in my last blog) grow. A beautiful sunrise awaited me as I waited for Towera and her team to turn up.
We hired a 4x4 from a local aid agency and got driving - the trees are mainly found in the hills and out in the country. I actually ended up sitting in the back which was great although my Scottish skin is a little pink today.
After an hour of driving we found the majestic baobab trees. The baobab fruits are the little pods hanging from the trees. They are about 5cm - 25cm in length and the longer they get, the sweeter they taste. It's a pretty useful plant - the fruit is packed with VITC and used for food and drink, the seeds can be ground into oils and the leaves can be used for medicine. On top of this, the tree acts like a camel by storing water within it's huge trunk for the summer months. This also makes it fire resistant which is quite handy as people often burn the top soil during crop rotations. Loads more information about this amazing plant here, here and here.
Here's another picture of a mini baobab forest. Baobabs are not really planted as a crop. They're owned by the villages and have started being picked by small co-ops as the fruit has become more of a financial asset for it's by-products. They haven't been chopped down like so many other trees in Malawi because they can't be used for wood or charcoal due to their spongy bark. And according to local custom, bad things happen to you if you get a bit saw-happy.
It's really exciting to learn more about this tree as it's such a sustainable crop with real environmental benefits. In the two days I've been here, I have already seen so many aid "projects" that have started and failed in Malawi. Towera and others, including the Microloan Foundation, are using a local crop to make things better through employing and empowering locals. It's this kind of work that will really make a difference in Africa and it's great to see it in action.
More about juicing, the wonderful Towera and how you make this fruit into a drink next time . . .