Fifteen years ago, Andrew Hunt was working in the London advertising industry, promoting products he didn't believe in for clients who didn't appreciate it. He ended up asking himself, "What am I doing with my life?"
The lack of a sense of true purpose and meaning in his life sent him into a downward spiral and, when he was just 25, he had a complete nervous breakdown. He would look around the room of his London flat, and thought to himself: "The table is useful because you can put things on it. The sofa is useful because you can sit on it. The TV is useful because it can entertain you. I am the only thing in this room that has no purpose of use whatsoever." It was a devastating and debilitating thought.
He tried everything to heal himself, from antidepressants and psychotherapy to acupuncture and faith healers. But nothing made a difference. Then one morning, he got a phone call from a family friend, offering him the opportunity to volunteer his marketing skills to a farming project in The Gambia. "No thank you very much," he thought. "If I'm going to be suicidal I would rather do it from the comfort of my own living room." Thankfully, his friends and family had other ideas, and a few weeks later he arrived at "The Smiling Coast of Africa" ironically, clinically depressed.
Within a few weeks in the warm embrace of The Gambia, he experienced a personal miracle. Andrew came back to life. And instead of coming home like he planned, he stayed for four years, and started a social enterprise that worked with small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers.
During his time in west Africa, he witnessed first-hand the total failure of the "aid model" for agricultural development in Africa. Every year, millions of dollars were "invested" in time-bound "development projects", where thousands of women are trained to grow X, Y, or Z, which some highly-paid consultant identified as being 'the next best thing.'
Tragically, little to no thought was given to who was actually going to buy these crops. All the focus was on supply rather than demand. The project expires and the women have little choice but to uproot their crops and go back to their traditional subsistence activities and wait for the next aid project to come along. And so the downward spiral of aid dependency continues.
What is more extraordinary is that, as this wasteful production persists, Africa's rural landscape has an abundance of existing and high-potential indigenous crops which go completely overlooked. In fact, more than 25% of the world's botanical species originate from Africa, but less than 1% of what we see on the shelves in the $1 trillion+ global health and wellness market. The statistics tell it's own story.
The most extraordinary example of this dynamic is what Andrew came to call 'The Inspiring Possibility of Baobab.' Baobab is the highly nutrient dense fruit of Africa's "Tree of Life." It is rich in vitamin C, prebiotic fibre, and antioxidants, and has a delicious zingy sherbet flavor. If there is such a thing as a superfood, then this was it. It also happens to be the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on the branch, which means it does not require refrigeration or fancy processing. It just needs to be harvested and sieved to produce an organic superfruit powder.
But it gets better. There is no such thing as a baobab plantation. Every tree is community-owned and harvested in the wild. Growing the driest, most remote regions of 32 African countries, up to 10 million rural households can supply baobab fruit from a crop that is so abundant it mostly goes to waste. National Geographic estimates that if there were a global demand for baobab, this existing crop would be worth a billion dollars to rural Africa.
The only problem is that 95% of people have never heart of it.
So Andrew decided to bridge the gap between possibility to reality, and decided to create that demand. To manifest the market. To Make Baobab Famous.
He co-founded Aduna, an Africa-inspired superfood brand and social enterprise, with a mission to create an international market for under-utilized African natural products and creating sustainable incomes for rural African households. They call it "the demand-creation model."
Through their #MakeBaobabFamous campaign, they have catalyzed the creation of a global market for baobab. Within this, through their own proprietary value chain, they are now generating entirely additional incomes for over 1,100 women in 35 communities in Northern Ghana and Southern Burkina Faso, where their supply chain is based. And they are just getting started. In Norther Ghana alone, there are more than 8,000 communities who could participate in the value chain if the market were big enough.
This is where you come in. If Andrew and his team are doing to create a new billion-dollar industry for rural Africa, they need the support of the private, public, and non-profit sectors around the world. Through partnerships, they can scale the demand for baobab and turn it into a household name: the new "must have" ingredient for food and beverage manufacturers, and shorthand for "ethical, sustainable, and healthy. If you, or your organization, feel inspired to help create lasting transformation for millions of rural households, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Aduna team! www.aduna.com