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Unilever wins award for Allanblackia

Unilever has won a Biodiversity Innovation award from the Union for Ethical BioTrade, an organisation promoting sourcing with respect.

Potential for our products

The award applauds our work in recognising the potential of a novel ingredient, Allanblackia, and developing a business model promoting conservation and sustainable biological diversity.

Allanblackia fruit contains oil with a unique composition (mainly stearic and oleic fatty acids), structure and melting properties. It’s ideal for margarine, dairy cream alternatives and more and will enable Unilever to introduce new products and improve existing product quality.

It comes from the Allanblackia, a medium-sized evergreen tree naturally occurring in the moist tropical forest belt of Africa from Sierra Leone in West Africa to Tanzania in the east.

Biodiversity is important because it helps communities to benefit in a sustainable way without depleting or damaging the environment. It’s a term used to describe the variety of life on Earth and natural patterns formed. It describes the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms and genetic differences within species and ecosystems.

After discovering the potential of Allanblackia in 2000, Unilever set up local teams in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania to establish a supply chain for producing oil from wild harvested seeds.

We played a leading role in helping to set up a private/public partnership (PPP) to support producers and help them meet demand. Members include the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and non-governmental organisations such as TechnoServe.

Creating a sustainable supply chain

“Previously, there was no existing Allanblackia business/supply chain,” explains Maha Misbah, Project Leader, Supply Chain Innovation for Unilever. A sustainable business would not have developed without business demand. Current volumes produced from the wild are approximately 200 tonnes while the estimated interest from Unilever and others may exceed 100,000 tonnes.”

So Unilever helped co-fund and co-found local companies and is helping them to develop into independent companies capable of owning and running the supply chain.

Farmers are being trained to plant Allanblackia and become crucial supply partners in smallholder schemes being set up to scale up the project. The project has so far generated extra income for approximately 11,000 farmers, around half of whom are women.

Under the plan, our goal is to link 500,000 smallholder farmers into our supply network. We want to help the farmers improve their agricultural practices and enable them to supply materials to the global markets at competitive prices.

Respecting biodiversity

“A key aspect of the programme is to capture and retain the value of the harvest within Africa. Before the project, the value of the Allanblackia seeds was not fully recognised and many trees were cut down and used as timber," Maha adds.

“Since then, there have been awareness-raising programmes for farmers. No more trees are being cut down and a domestication programme for replanting and maintaining biodiversity has begun.”

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