Each November when our giant Baobabs push out their spectacular white flowers is the best time to stop the crazy world, to rejuvenate your soul in a small 20-minute peep through a window of sheer wonder.
Did you know, baobabs start to flower at the tender age of 200 years and to see a flower opening with your own eyes, is like falling into a pot of magic potion?
Every November, in the Limpopo river valley at 19h00, you may begin to witness how a silky green baobab bud cracks a little open and from there, within 20 minutes, in small, jerky movements the calyxes starts to split, curl a little outwards to expose the awesome pearl-white petals changing right in front of your eyes, to a magnificent, sensual being as big as a woman’s open hand?
We’re talking trance-like stuff, when time drops away and here on the cool sandy floor of the Limpopo river valley you may become one with the birth of a Baobab. In this sacred space of delicate connectedness, you will feel the stirrings of an ancient calling: “be guardians to one another, oh please, guard our trees, our birds, insects, animals, rivers and seas”.
In the life of Baobab Guardians
In 2013 local baobab expert dr. Sarah Venter had a vision of creating a Culture of Caring for our Limpopo environment by training rural women to nurture baby baobabs until they are 3 m tall, able to withstand threats and thrive on their own.
They planted out their first seedlings in December 2014 and so the Baobab Guardians project was born. Her dream was to have 50 trees planted in the wild by the end of 2017.
A dream, and more, came true on 14 November 2017
With huge cumulus clouds building up in clear blue skies, the last of the 50 baby Baobabs were planted by one of 48 rural Baobab Guardians, women and men of the Niani region in the far north of Venda, a few kilometres away from the Kruger Park’s Pafuri gate and the Limpopo river.
Here most people grow up in the shade of a Baobab-tree but never thought they would one day become a proud guardian for the benefit of their descendants of 200 years to come. Such care and vision we celebrated this day when the first 8 Baobab guardians received their certificates for protecting their babies up until 3m tall, now ‘releasing’ them to the benefit and joy of their grandchildren’s grandchildren’s children.
The guardians donned their colourful Minwenda’s (traditional Venda attire) and started dancing as soon as their feet set ground out of the taxis at the church built between Baobabs and Mopani’s in Zwigodini village. Between each certificate the audience ululated and the guardian did ‘n deep, respectful bow (losha) and a little dance.
Our tree in our language
Part of Sarah’s dream was to release her informative Little Baobab book in Tshivenda for all locals to use and to spread the message of a Culture of Caring in the rural communities, schools, churches and crèches. Also, this came to fruition when each delegate of the 100-odd audience got their own Tshivenda booklet Bugu Thukhu ya Muvhuyu Muhulu with big smiles and excitement. “Our tree in our language,” bragged the VhaMusanda of Muswodi and held the booklet high up in the air. In the corner sat Sarah in her minwenda, dead tired, but deeply happy for all coming this far on such a worthy road.
Why plant more Baobabs?
“The baobab tree takes 200 years to produce its first fruits, can live for over 1000 years, survives and even flourishes in almost desert-like conditions; but even this mighty giant is succumbing to the environmental impact created by our civilization. While fruit collection remains a sustainable practice, and doesn’t in any way impact on the ecology or wellbeing of baobabs, studies show that the survival of baobab populations is being threatened in the long-term by environmental degradation and climate change,” explains Sarah.
“Impressively huge as baobabs are, like all growing things they begin very small and baobab seedlings don’t survive easily these days. Their tasty young tender shoots get eaten up by livestock such as goats, nor can they tolerate drought at this young age so it’s rare for a seedling to last the three years it requires until reaching self-sufficiency in the wild.”
This is what we’re doing and thanks to all the sponsors over the years, friends guardians and family of Boababs, we appreciate you,” she says and smiles.
Thank you to ALL our wonderful supporters!
Afke and Liesbeth from Netherlands and Melissa Krige from Platbos Forest Reserve & African Tree Essences. The Vhembe Biosphere Reserve. Bonga Foods and the Bonga Foundation has generously given sufficient seed-funding to get this project started. We’re also very grateful to Sevenhills Wholefoods for supporting the writing and printing of the first Baobab booklet. Support also received from Cosmetic Ingredients, Meester Masjineering, Graham Barker, Park School (Bournmouth), Murry and Sally Smyth, Lather, Tri-K Industries and Protec Botanica.