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THE BAOBAB, THE TREE OF LIFE

Actualizado: 22 de dic de 2019

WHAT IS A BAOBAB?


There are 8 species of baobab and they are present in 31 African countries. In many cultures they are sacred and it is forbidden to cut them.

This majestic tree has a slow growth and exceptional longevity since they live about 2,000 years. The trunks of some species reach up to 12 meters in diameter and 30 meters high.

Thanks to its shape, it can contain up to 80% water and, like us, its weight also varies according to the seasons. The largest can contain up to 150,000 liters of fresh water and ready for human and animal consumption.

It is not surprising that in different cultures it is known as "The Tree of Life", "The Guardian of Water" or "The Tree of Water".



ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD "BAOBAB"


The baobab was first described by a European, Alpine Prospero, in 1592 in De plantis Aegypti liber (book on Egyptian plants). The term baobab was used for the first time in this book as "ba hobab" (originating in the Arabic word "bu hibab" which means "fruit with many seeds"). It was renamed "baobab" from the 17th century. Its scientific name, Adansonia, is a tribute to Michel Adanson, a French naturalist and explorer who was the first to describe the African species.



THE SHAPE OF BAOBAB


Several legends are associated with the strange shape of baobab.


1. The most popular legend says that a long time ago, the baobab observed its surroundings: the surface of the pond smooth as a mirror, other trees loaded with leafy flowers... He saw in the reflection of the water how everything shone around him, but he also observed that its leaves were small and its flowers almost imperceptible. He was fat and his bark looked like the wrinkled skin of an old elephant. The tree invoked God and complained about his appearance. However, God had created the tree and was satisfied with his work and appreciated that it was not a tree like the others. I loved diversity.

The baobab never ceased its complaints until one day God came down to solve his discomfort. He grabbed the baobab, picked it up and put it back on the ground, but this time face down. Thus, the tree could no longer see itself or others to complain anymore.



2. Another legend explains that when God created the earth and everything in it, he placed a baobab in a garden. The vegetation was amazed by this beautiful and majestic tree, so big, so powerful. The birds nested in their branches and the rest of the animals liked to rest in their cool shade. Everyone congratulated him for his size, for his beauty, for the greatness of his trunk, for the shadow he offered to all. But the baobab became too proud. Then, to punish him, God tore him off the ground and replanted him backwards.


3. One of them, of Arab origin, explains that a demon uprooted the tree, planted its branches on the ground and left its roots in the air.


4. Finally, there is a legend that explains that the first spirit of an ancient race offered animals to plant trees. The hyena was late and received the last remaining tree, the baobab. I was so furious that he planted her face down.




THE BAOBAB IN MADAGASCAR

Avenue of the Baobabs

Although it is undoubtedly one of the symbols of Madagascar (especially the majestic Avenue of the Baobabs, which is one of the most photographed places on the African island), the baobab is much more than just a tree. Malagasy use all their parts in their daily lives.

Its fiber is used, for example, to make ropes, roofs or walls of the house or even for the manufacture of fabrics.


Almost all parts of the baobab are edible:

   * Young shoots and roots are eaten as vegetables.

   * Fresh leaves can be eaten as an infusion or porridge.

   * Dry leaves are reduced to dust and serve as a binder.

   * The seeds are used to make an oil, soap and fertilizer.


In addition, baobabs serve as homes for many species of orchids, lemurs, birds and reptiles that can spend their entire lives without seeing the outside world.



THE BAOBABS AND THE MAHAFALY ETNIA


In Madagascar, on the Mahafaly plateau, the baobab acquires a larger dimension. In this extremely arid region, the tree has literally become a cistern. A natural container that allows the local population to store water to survive.


It is a particular practice inherited from the ancestors of the people in adaptation to the drought and famine that hit the region, around 1920. The holes in the baobabs stored water after the few storms, but they did not rot. Thus was born the idea of turning it into a cistern.

There are several rules for having a Baobab as a water cistern. When the farmer finds an adult baobab tree, the area is cleaned and marked to inform that someone has taken the tree. Then, a rooster is sacrificed to ask permission and blessing from the Malagasy ancestors, because the baobab is sacred and houses spirits.

In addition, not everyone can work the baobab to prepare it as a cistern. Young men whose father is still alive cannot dig the baobab, otherwise the father would die. Depending on the time spent working, the hole will be large enough when an adult can stand inside. Once the tank is full, the entrance closes with branches to prevent animals from entering and contaminating the water.



The Mahafaly ethnic group has adapted to a hostile but exceptional environment and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Water is life and, for them, partly thanks to baobab.



BENEFITS OF BAOBAB


Baobab is a trending topic nowadays! It is not surprising, since it is considered a superfood: it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, antioxidants...

In addition, its leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and phosphorus. And the seeds are rich in protein.


All these natural components make baobab an almost inexhaustible source of energy for the body. Here are some examples of the benefit of its medicinal virtues:


- In the form of powder or oil, baobab is presented as a miracle for its cosmetic virtues. It is a natural product to fight against skin aging. It also helps speed up the process of removing those pimples and unpleasant blackheads from acne.


- Baobab can treat many gastric ailments, such as dysentery, diarrhea and inflammation. It also helps fight dehydration caused by these gastric ailments. In addition, thanks to its high fiber content, it keeps the digestive system in good condition.


- Baobab bark is famous for its antipyretic properties. Therefore, an infusion makes it possible to fight fever attacks.


-Numerous studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of baobab.


- For patients with osteoarthritis or polyarthritis. Very rich in phosphorus, calcium and potassium, baobab facilitates the proper functioning of the muscular system.


Unfortunately, in Madagascar, burning and deforestation for rice plantation has led to the disappearance of certain animal species, necessary for the reproduction of baobabs. Currently threatened, like most of the Malagasy nature, Madagascar baobabs are not only endemic, but they can also be the last of their kind.

If you are interested in traveling to Madagascar to enjoy this unique nature in the world, contact us to organize your custom trip.


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