Aduna: opening new opportunities for smallholder producers in Africa

Launched in 2012, Aduna is a social enterprise building new value chains to take under-utlised rural resources to the international market. Aduna aims to create demand for often-neglected African ingredients such as baobab fruit, improving livelihoods for local communities while restoring land and conserving agrobiodiversity. Aduna's long-term sustainable business approach includes making sure partnerships with smallholder producers are at the heart of the business. It invests in supporting them to organise and deliver products that meet global market requirements. 

Article, 31 May 2024
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Baobab fruit on the tree

Fruit on a baobab tree (Photo: Aduna Superfoods) 

Aduna is building demand via two routes. The business has a ‘purpose-driven’ health and wellness brand bringing consumers sustainably-sourced African superfoods, and it markets and supplies sustainably- and ethically-sourced plant ingredients to other companies (focusing on baobab, moringa leaf, fonio grain and hibiscus). 

Aduna is also building supply chains that sustain local livelihoods and environments through its partnerships with smallholders that produce the commodities the business sells.

Smallholder partnerships at the heart of business

Aduna puts partnerships with smallholders at the heart of its operations, and has been working with the NGO ORGIIS (Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability) in Northern Ghana since 2014.

Working closely with ORGIIS, Aduna supports its producers to create and deliver quality, scalable and traceable supply chains that bring measurable social and environmental benefits. 

This relationship provides tailored training and support to smallholders. Local communities are helped with activities including organising harvests, transportation, food processing and sustaining cooperatives. The products meet food quality control standards appropriate to Western markets while ensuring social and environmental benefits.

One of Aduna’s suppliers is KANBAOCU, supported by ORGIIS (see the related case study). Every year before the baobab harvest season, Aduna funds the full costs for ORGIIS’s operations in Ghana. The NGO’s staff, who understand the local context and engage directly with the communities, work alongside Aduna to facilitate the harvesting, processing and supply of baobab powder that meets Aduna’s international quality requirements.

Sharing the burden of certifications 

Aduna has B Corp, Eco Cert and Soil Association (organic) certification and the baobab sourced in partnership with ORGIIS Ghana is FairWild certified. 

These certifications provide independent visibility and transparency to the ethics of the value chain. Aduna works with ORGIIS to manage social and environmental risks and impacts in the supply chain, and shares its producers' burdens when it comes to meeting standards. This stands in stark contrast with most businesses, which only pay for specific services from local partners for specific supply chain needs.

Delivering social and environmental impacts

The ingredients Aduna sells are not only full of nutrients for people but also have important cultural, social and economic values for local communities.

For example, baobab grows in extremely dry conditions, and trees are usually owned or managed by local communities. Providing a new market for the fruit offers sustainable livelihoods as well as incentivising tree planting.

Baobab fruits stay on the tree until they are completely dry, and are harvested and processed during the dry season. This provides an entirely new revenue stream at the most vulnerable time of year. Baobab has six times the vitamin C of oranges, twice the calcium of milk, six times the potassium of bananas and the vitamin-rich seed oil is suitable for cosmetics. Aduna co-founder Andrew Hunt sees a potential market worth millions, coupled with an “extraordinary capacity for social and environmental impact”.

Hunt estimates 10 million households in 32 countries could supply baobab from existing trees. Through the UNCCD’s Great Green Wall initiative, Aduna has helped plant over 15,000 baobab trees and over 60,000 moringa trees in Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso, through its partnership with the Great Green Wall.

In Ghana and Burkina Faso over 3,300 women now have sustainable income streams where previously there were none. Together, these women have 20,000 family members who rely on them for care.

A group of smiling women, with trees in the background.

A group of Aduna's baobab producers (Photo: Aduna Superfoods)

Demonstrating how scalable businesses can be a force for good 

Aduna has grown through impact investments, initially through equity investments but more recently via loans. High net-worth individuals and corporate impact investors are the main investors, but Aduna has also used the Seedrs platform to crowdsource equity investments.

Aduna products continue to win market share and are sold via retail and online with a strong international presence. Much of that growth is based not only on having a quality product, but on the strong partnerships built with its smallholder producers. 

For Aduna, the complexity and variability of working with smallholders is part of what makes them unique as a business. They publish producer stories and blogs on their website to communicate impacts to both their customers and potential investors. Aduna’s clear visions for business, social and environmental missions are key in securing sales and also investments for further growth.

Head and shoulders photo of Nicola Sorsby.

Nicola Sorsby ([email protected]) is a researcher in IIED’s Natural Resources and Climate Change research groups