In Kenya the recent discovery of old baobab trees being uprooted and prepared for export caused a public outcry .
The tree, native to Africa, is commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in dry areas.
Scientists believe the ancient species plays a role in fighting climate change.
“If we look at the composition of the baobab tree itself, it is a tree that is able to store large volumes of water, it is able to survive in different environmental conditions and baobab, by research, has been identified as the best tree that can be able to help in combating the effects of climate change”, said Duncan Omwami, environmental research fellow at Kenyatta University.
But despite its environmental benefits, some farmers feel they can take up too much space in their small farms and don’t generate an income.
Kibuyuni resident Mohammed Bakari added “in the old days, the baobab tree was very important culturally to us. This is not the case nowadays. It also occupies too much space in our small farms in which we plant maize and vegetables. That is why we have chopped the trees down or have planted our crops far away from where the trees are”.
Recently, the fruit produced by the baobab tree gained international recognition as a super food, a trend that may encourage farmers to preserve their trees and sell the fruits.
“Due to climate change variations and less rainfall, subsistence farming is increasingly failing. The baobab fruit can be used as a nutritional supplement for our traditional foods. This is because it is very rich in vitamin C, very rich in magnesium, and potassium and also fibre, which makes it a good supplement to replace our traditional foods during periods of drought”, claims Amisha Patel, founder of O’bao.
Under Kenya law, the baobab tree is not a protected tree species, but permission is required to uproot them.