Oil from allanblackia tree offers new sources of income
Unilever’s role in the Allanblackia Partnership has brought about a substantial increase in allanblackia production in Tanzania. The fruit of the allanblackia tree, which is commonly found in rainforests, is rich in oil, but up till now it has been ‘wild harvested’ – simply picked up from the ground. Through the partnership, Unilever is helping the transition from wild harvesting to the sustainable domestication of the tree, in a supply chain which conserves biodiversity and brings benefit to local communities.
Creating an equitable supply chain
In 2002, Unilever co-founded the Allanblackia Partnership, a public–private collaboration with NGOs and local African partners. The partnership aims to increase the production of allanblackia in a sustainable way and establish a supply chain that will be viable in the long term. As well as generating profitable growth, the Allanblackia Partnership is committed to ensure that the local communities don’t lose out as this new business/supply chain is created. There are socio-economic benefits for local people, while landscape restoration and reforestation is helping to conserve biodiversity.
In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and especially Tanzania, the allanblackia fruits are ‘wild harvested’ for their seeds, which are then pressed to make pure allanblackia oil. However, wild harvesting will never be able to deliver the oil volumes requested by the market.
Since 2006 the Allanblackia Partnership has been working on strengthening the domestication of the allanblackia tree. Allanblackia nurseries have been set up in Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria to provide seedlings to smallholder farmers to plant on their premises. And research is centred on increasing the speed of seedling production by improving the germination process.
The new smallholder plantations are a clear improvement on wild harvesting, but if the farmers are to generate large volumes of allanblackia seed oil in the right quantities and at the right price for commercial use, then production will need to be increased. The aim is to do this through planting the indigenous allanblackia tree on degraded plots of land and restoring the original forests, which will help to conserve biodiversity. As one of the partners in the Allanblackia Partnership, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is helping to achieve this goal.
Rehema Bilunda is a clerk in the village of Mlesa, in the Mhuheza district in the north of Tanzania. By selling allanblackia – harvested in the wild, – on market day, she earns an additional income of €1.5 every market day, plus a 10% commission on the volume of allanblackia seeds bought. This doubles the family income during harvest season.
Tatu is 38 and has three children to provide for. She is one of the Tanzanian women who harvest allanblackia in the wild. Collecting allanblackia seeds makes all the difference to her family, providing her with an additional income of €60 which pays for a year’s school fees for one of her children. She has already collected 120kg of seeds around Mlesa and expects to deliver two more 40kg bags this season.