Hey Baobab Fruit, I hope you got cleaned up nice this morning. It looks like it is time for you to enter the spotlight!
Clearly, we are huge fans of the Baobab Fruit and have talked at length about the health benefits of the Baobab Fruit. Now it looks like a team of scientist are turning their attention to the Baobab Fruit to see how it can help with malnutrition.
Hmm, actually I am not sure being the best Orphan is a title you really want...but let's back up and explain why this is a positive thing.
Malnutrition is a huge issue in Africa. For 600 million people in rural Africa, the food they grow is the food they eat. If there is a drought, pest problem or just poor growing season, millions go hungry in Africa. To help ensure that people in Africa can adequately live off the land the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), a wide ranging collection of government agencies, scientific bodies, companies and non-governmental organizations from 3 continents - Africa, North America and Europe - set out to study Orphaned Crops in Africa.
What is an Orphaned crop you ask? It is a crop that is important to the health of the local people but has largely been ignored by science because the crop does not play a significant role in international trade. Unfortunately, scientists usually only get involved in a crop when there is a large corporation that is looking to trade that crop and needs to do some further research. No large corporations, no money and thus no science.
Luckily, the AOCC looks to buck this trend by identifying 101 crops in Africa that are crucial to the health of the local people and then paying to scientifically study these crops. The very first crop that the AOCC identified? Yep, The Baobab Fruit!
The AOCC is looking for crops that can have the most positive effect on combating malnutrition and poor health, so the Baobab Fruit with its strong nutritional profile was an obvious choice -
"The first 'orphan crop' to be worked on at the Academy will be Baobab, Adansonia digitata, which can be used as a dried fruit powder for many products. Baobab is called "the wonder tree" in Africa - and with good reason.
Its fruit has 10 times the antioxidant level of oranges, twice the amount of calcium as spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges and four times more potassium than banana. It also has antiviral properties, is gluten-free ... and much more."
- The Ecologist, 1/19/14
The AOCC has created the African Plant Breeding Academy in Africa. The first step is to train 250 scientist and technicians, over a five year period, to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of Africa's 'orphan crops'. By studying the genomes of crops like the Baobab fruit they can figure out better ways of growing and harvesting the Baobab fruit so they have better yields and more nutritious.
You start hearing about scientist, genes, genetics, improvement and you immediately think about Genetically Modified Organisms. We want to be 100% clear, absolutely NO GMO work will be done with the Baobab or the other orphan crops. The whole idea here is to use bioscience to learn more about how the baobab fruit grows and what conditions can make it thrive, but no genetic engineering is being used to alter the Baobab Fruit in any way.
The Baobab Fruit will be poked and prodded in the name of science, but we will all be better off for it. First, the AOCC is training 250 scientist in Africa, so that is great for the people of Africa. All the information discovered from this program will be public - nothing is proprietary - so that is great for all of us! Of course, figuring out how to get the most benefits from the nutrient dense Baobab Fruit and other orphan crops - is a win for everyone!
Check out The Ecologist article to learn more about the AOCC