Baobab plant is indigenous to Africa and is referred to as the African tree of life due to its maximum health benefits. As the name Adansonia digitata implies, which means ‘tree of life’, it is a common multifunctional plant and native of West Africa's arid and semi-arid regions. The plant is regarded as a valuable plant, due to its remarkable specie, its size and lifespan, which makes it viable for about a thousand years. Moreover, it thrives specially in multiple fused stems with space in-between the stems which is popularly referred to as false cavities. The tree has about 300 uses with its leaves rich in iron and can be eaten like spinach when boiled. On the other hand, the seeds can be roasted to produce coffee substitute or further pressed to generate oil for cooking or even for beautification purposes in the cosmetic industry. Importantly, proximate analysis indicate that the Vitamin C in fruit pulp is six times stronger than in oranges, making it an important nutritional complement in Africa, Europe and Northern America.

Baobab plant is indigenous to Africa and is referred to as the African tree of life due to its maximum health benefits
Economic importance of baobab
Since its plethora of uses can be sourced from its fruits, seeds, leaves and flowers, its economic benefits touches on several provisions including: food, clothing, shelter, livestock fodder, medicinal compounds, raw materials employed in milk production, flavouring and binding agents, spice, protein, jam, juice, salad dressing, sauce, fermentation agent in beer, oils and feeds production.

Its health benefits
Baobab brings also several health benefits. Baobab is a rich source of vitamin C, which contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system, a healthy and glowing skin and functions as an energy source, as well as gut health. The human body cannot produce or store its own vitamin C, so we need to make sure we get a good supply from the foods we eat daily. A single serving of Baobab powder, which is around 10 grams, provides about 33% of daily vitamin C requirement. Since Vitamin C contributes to normal energy release, Baobab reduces or prevents sudden feeling of tiredness, fatigue and lethargy. It also builds support for normal energy-yielding metabolic activity which is vital for all functions and activities of the body, including physical activity and exercise.

Organic African Baobab super food (Queen of Fruits)

Source of fibre and antioxidants
Baobab has almost 50% fibre, whereof two thirds soluble and one third insoluble, and contains more antioxidants than any other whole fruit. This makes it a powerful prebiotic. It is a natural source of these nutrients and is more bioavailable than manufactured multivitamin supplements, implying that our bodies can absorb the nutrients more easily which ensures a greater uptake. The soluble fibre dissolves in the water found in the digestive system and can help in minimizing the cholesterol level in the blood. On the other hand, insoluble fibre does not dissolve, but passes through the gut thereby easily enabling other foods to move through the digestive system. It also helps in keeping the bowels healthy and free from digestive disorders.

Control of blood sugar
Baobab powder contains 34% soluble fibre, which helps in slowing down activities and release of sugar and spikes into the blood stream. Soluble fibre can help in regulating blood glucose levels, improving blood cholesterol and further reducing visceral and body fat stored around the organs in the abdominal region. Research and trial tests conducted by the Functional Food Centre of Oxford Brookes University indicates that participants consuming milk containing baobab powder had a lower blood glucose response than those who had a control drink containing no baobab powder. The researchers further found out that baobab powder could slow down the release of sugar during digestion when added to white bread. As such, baobab is considered ideal for those following a low GI diet. It could also be beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients.

Absorption of iron
Over 30% of the world’s population are deficient in iron, making it the commonest nutritional disorder. Many persons turn to various iron alternatives in increasing their intake. Iron promotes the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells ensuring proper oxygenation of body cells. Importantly, vitamin C is needed in helping the body absorb iron. It is pertinent to subscribe that pairing iron with vitamin C will increase its absorption. From a medical viewpoint, our bodies require two types of iron: iron present in fish and meat and iron present in plant foods. In other words, one of the important ways in which absorption of both types of iron can be increased is by combining the consumption of iron and vitamin C. As baobab is a rich natural source of vitamin C, iron is easily accessible to the body and is better absorbed than artificial supplements. As breakfast, nutritionists encourage meals consumption where baobab powder is added to Fonia Cereal to secure the balanced ration of iron and Vitamin C.

Most persons are familiar with probiotics – good bacteria found in foods such as kimchi and yoghurt - having beneficial effects to the health, particularly the digestive system. However, very few are familiar with prebiotics which play an equally important role in gut health. Prebiotics are indigestible dietary fibres, also known as soluble fibres, comprised of non-living organic matter. The soluble fibers of baobab fruit pulp are prebiotics: non-digestible food components that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and activity of beneficial microflora. The University of Colorado Boulder suggested that prebiotics can improve sleep after a stressful event, suggesting that adding baobab into the diet can help in promoting a good night’s sleep.

Radiant skin
According to Journal of Nutrition, Baobab has the highest antioxidant content of any fruit. Its powder has twice the antioxidants per gram of goji berries and more than blueberries and pomegranates combined. Baobab is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C which supports collagen formation, thereby helping to keep the skin radiant and glowing, as well as preventing wrinkles.

Super5 Ready to drink meal showing a consumer serving some quantities. The mixture drink which is processed from Baobab and Moringa contains about 35g protein energy and nutrient dense. Moreover, it exudes a yummy taste

Helps in pregnancy
It is generally advised that pregnant women should consume 85mg of vitamin C per day, as it helps the body in producing collagen. Collagen is a structural protein that is needed for your baby’s normal growth during pregnancy. It plays a vital role in structuring a baby’s body and supporting their developing organs. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, helps your body fight infections and protects cells from damage – helping to keep you healthy. Another key role vitamin C plays during pregnancy is its ability in increasing the absorption of iron, a vitamin that most pregnant women are deficient in. Iron is needed to help our bodies produce red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and to the baby. A 10g serving of Baobab powder contains 26mg vitamin C.

Alkaline content
Baobab is considered to be one of the highest alkaline foods available as it has a Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) rating of minus 52. Eating highly alkaline foods helps to balance our body’s pH levels. The Journal of Environmental Health supports that alkaline-based foods could help defend our bodies from chronic diseases and ailments such as hypertension, arthritis and vitamin deficiency.

Pre and post work-out
Physical exercise increases oxidative damage to cells and muscle tissues. The intake of vitamin C reduces those negative effects. This is supported by a study conducted by the University of North Carolina (2006), which confirms that participants taking vitamin C before engaging in physical exercise for 4 days after the work-out, reported less muscle soreness compared to their counterpart who took a placebo. Furthermore, another study by the University of Birmingham found that volunteers who took vitamin C exhibited 75% more post-exercise recovery than those who consumed vitamin E or a placebo.

Baobab Tart Mayo. There is no egg or diary in this vegan and gluten-free Tart Mayo. This award-winning product in the flat calabash is made with Baobab Super fruit powder. The powder in the pack is organic Baobab powder rich in vitamin C, prebiotics, soluble and insoluble fiber. One of the best plant sources of calcium and potassium.

Harvest, processing and shelf life
Baobab is the exceptional superfruit of Africa's 'Tree of Life.' It is the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on the branch. Baking in the sun for 6 months, baobab is ready for harvest when coating transforms into a smoothened-brown, coconut-like shell, inside its hard casing. Oftentimes, a matchet is used in cracking-open its shell with the pulp naturally dehydrated. We simply harvest and sieve to produce about 100% natural and organic superfood powder that is exceptionally nutrient-rich, providing a wide range of health benefits. Baobab has a natural shelf-life of about 3 years. There are no additives or preservatives added to our products, which makes it 100% pure baobab fruit pulp powder. It also has a delicious sweet and tarts flavour.

Acha is perhaps the world's fastest maturing cereal, producing grain just 6 or 8 weeks after they are planted
Acha: Nigeria’s super alkaline ancient food
Indeed, the scenes of starvation and malnutrition have drawn global attention to Africa's agricultural and environmental crisis. Acha is perhaps the world's fastest maturing cereal, producing grain just 6 or 8 weeks after they are planted. Acha is literally the story of a legend and belief by the Dogon people of Mali, that the entire universe was born out of a single Acha grain. Hence, the reason for its name-caption: ‘Seed of the Universe.’

In Nigeria it is usually called "Acha". Acha, also known as Fundi, Fonio, hungry rice and petit mil is a grass indigenous to West Africa, which grows in Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea and other ECOWAS nations. To the Dogon, an ethnic group of Mali, Acha is an important grain. To them, the whole universe emerged from a Fonio seed—the smallest object in the Dogon experience—a sort of atomic cosmology. Acha grows well in drought conditions and poor soils without the need for fertilizers. Acha, has thrived in Africa for 5000 years, and is probably the oldest African cereal lacking the support of the then authorities like non-African colonial authorities, missionaries and agro researchers. The local grain crop could not keep pace with the foreign cereals which were made for consumers with the use of processing mills. The ancient, miracle grains languished and remained principally as the food for the poor and rural areas due to the tedious and difficult nuances associated with the evolving ancient processing methods. From records, a breakthrough was recorded when Prof Sanoussi Diakite, an engineer and academic invented Acha or Fonio husking machine that removes the husks in seconds.

Acha powder displayed in a calabash

Acha can be classified into 2 main types:
    1. Digitaria Iburua: This white grain has black or brown spikelets and grows in Western African region such as Nigeria, Togo and Benin.
    2. Digitaria exillis: This white grain is grown in West African countries from Senegal to Chad and Nigeria.
In some West African countries, Acha holds socio-cultural significance. In Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo, Acha is traditionally reserved for chiefs and royalties. It is also served during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan or at festivities and celebrations like weddings and baptismal ceremonies. Sentimentally and as records indicate, ‘ancient Egyptians used to serve Acha to the dead to keep them nourished in the afterlife.’ In some parts of Togo, Acha is used in preventing blood-clotting after childbirth, as well as in stimulating milk production for nursing and breastfeeding mothers. In these times, when the world is yearning for more inclusiveness, diversity, health and well-being, Acha remains the answer to global food security. As its name implies ‘seed of the universe,’ it has become one of the most indigenous African foods to influence the developed worlds.

Acha taste: its products and usage
It is a fact that Acha is an award-winning grain, with a light, nutty but mild flavour, fluffy couscous-like texture and somewhat tasty. Though unpopular compared to other staple grains, we must reckon that it is already voted in the US as the most popular ancient grain. Irrespective of its popularity and versatility in its usage, in the fast-food industry, it cooks for about 2-4 minutes and according to a popular African saying “Acha never embarrasses the cook”.
Furthermore, Acha is described as a delicious alternative to quinoa, couscous, polenta or rice. It can be stirred with fries, stews, sauce, vegan burgers, salads or as a side dish. It can be used to replace grains in any dish and also in making a delicious creamy porridge, as well as Acha flour for baking gluten-free pancakes, cookies and bread.

The ready to drink 35g protein with 500 calories energy nutrient-dense meal on the go leveraging the underutilized climate-smart and regenerative crops of Africa. Baobab and Moringa are the bedrock of the product

Health benefits of Acha
Acha is a highly nutritious Super-Grain that is packed with health benefits. Acha is 100% natural, organic, gluten- free and vegan. With the increase in gluten intolerance and celiac diseases in many countries of the world, Acha is the antidote to them. Thereby, it is high in fibre, which can be useful when trying to lose weight. Acha is a great source of energy: is not called a super grain for no reason. It is easily digestible and provides you with slow release of energy that will last till the next meal.

Low GI and detoxification
Acha is a good source of B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. These are necessary for the growth, development, and function of cells, as well as energy production. It is rich in iron and amino acids, often deficient in today’s regular cereals. Its major source is zinc, vitamin B1 & B3 and phosphorus. Thereby, it contains amino acids, especially methionine and cysteine, that help detoxify the liver to function properly. Early studies findings suggested that eating of Acha may help to prevent liver diseases. Methionine is also known to be important for the body's production of cartilage and can help strengthen the hair and nails.

Control of diabetes
Acha has a very low glycemic index. It is slowly absorbed into the body and contains sulphur, chromium and amino acids, which helps in the control of diabetes. Thereby, studies have shown that consuming some quantities of Acha may control the blood sugar.

Prevention of anaemia
Acha has a high concentration of iron of about 7mg per 100g, corresponding to 50% of daily requirements. It contains folic acid and other amino acids that are very beneficial for pregnant women.

Enhances strong teeth and bones
Acha is a very good source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which help to build strong bones and teeth, makes it an ideal food for growing children, also food that may help stop bone diseases like Osteoporosis in elderly.

Enhances smooth and healthy functioning of the heart
Whole grains are considered an essential for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. It is pertinent to note that Acha contains more of the heart-friendly vitamins and minerals than other grains.

Invaluable food for the future
Acha was named a future food of the world by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever’s Knorr brand in their joint 2019 “Future 50 Food” report. In fact, 75% of global food supplies comes from only 12 crops and five animal species, despite the fact that there are more than 20,000 edible plants which are wheat, rice and maize. Without further damaging the planet, protecting food diversity is vital if we are to feed a global population estimated to be 10 billion persons by the year 2050. Importantly, Acha was named as one of 50 nutritious future foods we should all be eating more of to promote more inclusiveness, diversity and sustainable global food system.

The Superfoods of Africa: Acha, Bambara nut beans, Moringa and Baobab

Social & environmental impact
Acha is a fast-growing grain, with some varieties producing grain within 6 to 8 weeks after planting. That it is drought-resistant and tolerant of poor soil conditions implies that it can grow where little else succeeds. It also provides a valuable source of income to small-scale farmers. It is a regenerative crop, so it helps to restore degraded soils and reverse the effects of climate change.
Acha has a crucial role to play in supporting global food security and income generation for the hard-working women in rural communities of Africa. Acha is grown and processed by women smallholder farmers in Northern Nigeria. These women are enterprising and very hard-working. It is an opportunity for Europe, the US, Canada, Asia and other nations to partake in this ancient miracle food of Africa for the purpose of enhancing the health and well-being of individuals.

About the authors

Jennifer Chinyelu Ikeaba-Obiasor is the founder and CEO at Blendego Empire, formally called Chiblenders Green since 2018. She is a serial entrepreneur with experience in non-profit organizations, politics, project management, strategic marketing and communication, sourcing, negotiation, project development & delivery. Regarding her academic experience, Jennifer is trained as Business Studies specialist from the Stratford Academy of Business and Management UK, ATHE UK Level 5 Business Management and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from HGTG University, Republic of Benin. At Blendego Empire, she utilizes plant-based natural food items as a source for good health and well-being. Her long-term goal touches on incorporating not less than a network of about 30,000 small-scale farmers, 200,000 retail shops and over 75 million consumers of her healthy products worldwide. “Our approach is indeed sustainable,” she retorts. Importantly, Blendego is affiliated to the African University of Science and Technology SME Hub at Abuja, Nigeria.

Ikechi Kelechi Agbugba, PhD is an agricultural economist by training. Since 2003, he has been carrying-out researches on food and agricultural marketing in Sub-Saharan Africa. He earned his PhD in agricultural economics and gained postdoctoral research experience on a collaborative study on Smallholder Development with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the University of Fort Hare, South Africa. Currently, he is a senior academic/researcher and is involved in mentoring university students, African youths, as well as engaging with international networking volunteer organizations across Africa and outside as either senior advisor or director in championing Africa’s transformation through the agriculture/agribusiness and education sectors. Dr Ikechi is a Faculty Member in the agribusiness management program of Rome Business School, as well as a Senior Academic/Researcher, Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics, Rivers State University/ Moreover, he is a selected academia in the Feed-the-Future initiative of the USAID Global Food Security Strategy Whole-System Workshop and has led plenary sessions on Food Security and Agribusiness, including at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association World Congress (IFAMA).