Enhancing underutilised plant species value chains to improve rural economies: A case study of Baobab in Chimanimani District
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Commercialisation of natural plant species is widely recognised as a mechanism for improving food security and income, especially for the rural and urban poor. However, studies undertaken by various researchers have revealed that small-scale producers in the sector face challenges in their natural products enterprises. Baobab collectors in Chimanimani have been harvesting baobab fruit in an organised manner since the 2011/12 season when a private company, KAITE (Pvt) Ltd signed contracts with the collectors. Although the baobab collectors are earning significant income from their baobab enterprise, it was perceived that there were constraints in the baobab value chain. The researcher conducted a case study among baobab collectors using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Key informant interviews were conducted with the KAITE (Pvt) Ltd CEO and directors of Utsanzi and Speciality Foods of Africa. The aim of the study was to identify the baobab value chain, key actors involved and their respective roles, identify constraints/challenges in the development of the baobab value chain, identify pre-requisites for baobab value chain development and come up with recommendations for improving the value chain. The study revealed that the baobab collectors experienced constraints during baobab harvesting, processing (which was discontinued in the 2013/14 season), and marketing their produce. The constraints include traveling long distances to collect baobab fruit, lack of value addition, lack of access to financial services, the perceived low price of US$0.20/kg paid by KAITE (Pvt) Ltd for their baobab pulp, and lack of information on prices of baobab powder and baobab oil on the local and export markets. The baobab value chain needs improvement for the benefit of all actors involved.