Why “Baobab”? Many people ask me what the meaning of this word is, and it’s not exactly the easiest thing to pronounce, remember, or spell. It is a tree, and while the name may be difficult to remember, the tree itself is unforgettable. Think huge, like the California redwood of Africa. And suprisingly grows specifically in some of the harshest places on earth.
Southern Ghana is a beautiful tropical rainforest. When you come into Accra you are welcomed by lush greenery, high humidity, and smothering heat. From there, it takes about 20 hours to reach the Northern border Ghana shares with Burkina Faso. About 10 hours in, you come to a town called Kintampo. Up to that point the terrain is very hilly and still very tropical. About 4 miles past the famous Kintampo Falls there is a toll booth. When we have visitors, I tell them this is the gateway to the north. The hill descending to the toll booth is the last hill to be seen for several hours. Tropical rainforest begins to disintegrate into sparse trees in a dry savannah grassland. Even the local housing structures change.
The higher you go, the dryer, flatter, and hotter it gets and the fewer trees you see. In the long dry season here, temperatures can get up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. A few hours past the gateway to the north and this is where you start seeing them, Baobab Trees, Adansonia Digitata. In this dry savannah, the baobab somehow thrives to produce a more than 60 foot tall giant with trunks commonly reaching 5 yards in diameter. I have seen baobabs growing as far north as northern Mali and Mauritania where the Sahel meets the Sahara.
The name “baobab” comes from the Arabic بو حِباب (būħibāb), which means “father of many seeds”. It is called this because it produces a large fruit (roughly the size of a pee-wee football for you Americans), each containing 50-100 seeds. In the fruiting season, the tree will be covered with 100+ of these fruits.
This is our prayer as Baobab West African Missions. West Africa is not an easy place to be an active follower of Christ and disciple-maker. We pray for ourselves, our disciples, and our partners that they may be as the baobab, standing strong in the hope of Christ in this harsh environment, making disciples, and sowing many seeds of light in the darkness.