AS WE continue our exploratory assignment in the search for a solution to bridging the development gap between the North and South, through identifying, exploring, and utilising the numerous natural resources in these regions, the Upper East File travelled to the northern regional capital, Tamale, to interview the National Coordinator of the Northern Rural Growth Programme, Mr. Roy Ayariga, to seek his professional view on the value of the Baobab tree, as an agronomist.
For the purposes of a flashback, the File on Monday published a suggestion that the search for an everlasting solution to bridging the development gap between the North and the South could be a thing of the past, if all the natural resources, including the baobab tree, are put into good use.
The File believes this could address the age-long anthem of “we have been deprived”, as it has always been said by the Northerner.
In the perspective of the File, even if northerners have a justification for making this 'anthem', their natural resources were not, and have still not been confiscated by whoever might have deprived them of whatever they say is theirs.
The File stated that though some of these natural resources have been identified, explored, and utilised in times gone past, others seem to have either been ignored, or are yet to be identified and put into good use for the benefit of individual households, communities, the three regions and the broader family - the country at large.
One of such untapped resources has been identified by the Upper East File as the Baobab tree, whose fruits are in abundance in all the three Northern regions.
The File has been monitoring the way baobab trees produce their fruits, what the fruits contain, how the fruits are used, and what the fruits could be used for.
When the this reporter caught up with Mr. Roy Ayariga in Tamale, he alluded to the fact that the baobab tree was full of potential, that if properly explored, would not only facilitate the process and programmes to bridge the gap between the North and the South, but would also add nutritional and medicinal constituents to our meals.
Using the countries earlier mentioned by the File, Senegal, The Gambia, and Burkina Faso as examples of countries that are making progress in the utilisation of the baobab tree, Mr. Ayariga said if one visits these countries, one would find out that the best drink they will be served with, is drink made from the fruits of the baobab tree.
He said in Burkina Faso, for example, they will serve visitors with Bisab, which is made from the flowers of the hibiscus and fruits of the Baobab.
The nutrient content of this is very high when you look at the analysis of the baobab. He said the nutrient value of the baobab leaves rank number one among all the other leaves, including cabbage, which will rank about twenty below.
Mr. Ayariga was categorical that the regions had the potential to commercialise the baobab tree, by making baobab drink out of the fruits and flowers of the tree.
The white pulps can be made into various forms of ice creams.
He recalled that some Junior High schools up north used to teach their pupils how to make ice cream from the white pulps, which is very nutritious.
He regrets that the tree, referred to as the African tree, is getting extinct, and called for its propagation before it can be commercialised. Its propagation, according the Coordinator, is very easy, because it could be propagated from the seed.
Mr. Ayariga acknowledged the nutritional and medicinal value of the tree, which he believes could be a good replacement for most of the adulterated foods full of chemicals, and now brings diseases that are now killing young people in Ghana, due to their habit of consuming those foods.
Research on food products from the Baobab
Many parts of the baobab are edible. The fruit is mixed with water and drunk as lemonade, or dissolved into milk and used as a drink, and is also enjoyed raw. Beyond the fruit, the seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and made into coffee, and they yield edible oil.
The leaves can be made into spinach, or eaten as relish, and the fruit dissolved in milk or water and used as a drink.
For instance, in Senegal, the baobab pulp is mostly used to make a drink called Bouye, a milky, tart juice made by boiling the pulp and seeds together with water and sugar.
The citric and tartaric acids found in the pulp provide the base for cream of tartar, often used as a baking ingredient. Other uses for tartar include a milk-curdling agent, and yoghurt or ice-cream flavouring. Baobab seeds and leaves are also prepared and eaten.
Some baobab trees, which are 80% water, are hollow and have been used in the construction of bars, shops and even prisons. The trunk is often home to bats and snakes, and even humans. A District Commissioner in Zambia once set up his office inside, and a tree still standing in Western Australia was used to imprison Aboriginal convicts in the 1890s.
The bark is stewed to wash newborn babies to give them strength. The bark can be used to make rope. In some African cultures, the pulp has also been used as an ingredient in traditional cosmetics.
Baobab trunks are sometimes hollow, and can be used as shelters. The bark can be used for rope and medicine, and the pulp can be used for cosmetics.
The baobab tree produces many usable products from its fruit, bark, leaves and seeds. Recent focus has been on products derived from baobab fruit pulp, and the hope is that this burgeoning industry will provide jobs and money for many Africans in the coming years.
If in a broader perspective (Africa), products of baobab could provide jobs, then the File agrees in absolute terms with Mr. Ayariga that the Food Research Institute, under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, should explore the potentials/value of the baobab tree, and commercialise it to reduce poverty in the Northern Regions, where the climate conduction is conducive for this tree. Please keep reading the File this and every Friday, as we continue to explore the various uses, potentials, and value of the 'African tree'.