Ensuring social and environmental sustainability is not the easy way, but it is the right way. Developing Allanblackia into a successful and sustainable commodity faces distinct market, production, and social challenges.

Balancing Supply and Demand

Allanblackia seeds

To successfully develop a new commodity so it lasts, there are always economic and market challenges to overcome, and Allanblackia is no different.

To break Allanblackia into the market, the partnership worked to identify new markets and ways to differentiate it within the marketplace. Having a strong and verifiable sustainability standard is not just good for the environment and those producing Allanblackia, it also helps define Allanblackia oil in the marketplace and increase its value.

Available volumes of Allanblackia oil from wild harvesting are low, which means that prices are high and market applications limited. It is therefore important to increase production, while assuring sustainability.

The partnership has taken a number of steps to make producing Allanblackia more accessible to local farmers. In addition to market analysis, the partnership developed models for incorporating Allanblackia into cocoa farms and for creating solid business plans for local producers.

As Allanblackia grows as a commodity, it will continue to be a challenge to balance supply and demand in a sustainable way.

Increasing production

Allanblackia trees’ long germination and maturation times are significant challenges to increasing the production of Allanblackia oil. In the wild, Allanblackia seeds take a year to germinate, and it is another five to seven years before the young trees first bear fruit. Male trees do not bear fruit, and it is difficult to tell the sex of a tree until it reaches maturity.

Local researchers and planters in Ghana and Tanzania have found natural ways to accelerate the germination process such as shelling the seeds before planting and fertilizing the seeds with soil from under the mother trees. University researchers, government and non-governmental organizations are also researching Allanblackia oil, growth and reproduction.

This research is ongoing, and finding natural, sustainable ways to domesticate Allanblackia and accelerate its fruit production will be critical to meeting market demand for the oil while maintaining sustainability.

Ensuring sustainability in a growing commodity

To ensure social and environmental sustainability, there must be a clear understanding of what that means and how to achieve it. The partnership worked with the Union for Ethical BioTrade to develop criteria specific to Allanblackia and to ensure Allanblackia production meets the UEBT sustainability standard.

After many consultations with local farmers and other groups, UEBT certified Allanblackia production in Tanzania, the current source of all international Allanblackia supply, as meeting its standard. 

To verify the UEBT standard is met, the partnership also trained local auditors. Partner organizations also trained local gatherers, producers, and farmers about how to meet the standard and the benefits of doing so.

As work continues in scaling up the production of Allanblackia, the partnership will have to incorporate the lessons learned along the way into the Allanblackia standard to ensure continued sustainability and fairness.

Allanblackia: A tree for Africa and its people