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Santa Barbara-Based Kaibae Pioneering Holistic Business Model to Promote Health, Sustainability

"The tree is like a human being" from Kaibae on Vimeo.

A Santa Barbara-based dream team of entrepreneurs pioneers innovative, holistic business model promoting health and sustainability through their company Kaibae — a social enterprise that develops nutrient-rich superfood while helping communities in Northern Ghana to flourish through sustainable agricultural development and community advancement.

The first product launched by Kaibae lining the shelves of retailers in the region as well as Backyard Bowls, Brasil Arts Café, Yoga Soup and other active-lifestyle focused outlets is Baobab, the superfruit taking the country by storm heralded as “the superfruit to watch in 2014-2015.”

This dream team bringing Baobab to the world includes a dynamic union of expert professionals composed of local naturopathic Dr. Luc Maes, humanitarian and international development expert (and five-time world Frisbee champion) Thomas Cole, award-winning filmmaker Chris Jenkins, and recognized anthropologist and CSUCI lecturer Dr. Jaime Matera.

Under the Kaibae banner — a healthy lifestyle company based in Santa Barbara that produces a product line made from the unique Baobab fruit — the team is also on the ground in Northern Ghana working with the communities where the increasingly recognized Baobab fruit is harvested. By working together, Kaibae helps to promote sustainable agricultural development, job creation, economic growth and community development.

“Baobab’s potential has never been pursued in this region to help promote sustainable economic development and build the vitality of this region,” Dr. Maes said. “We want to be a part of the solution to positively affect and improve the lives of the communities in which we work, a model we have developed called Kaibae’s Seven Seeds of Sustainability. Kaibae has been active in the Northern Ghanaian communities where we source our products since the inception of our company and will continue to provide sustainable support for years to come.”

The team’s combined knowledge and experience is extensive with areas of expertise that include sustainable agriculture, food security, health care and community development. Collectively, they are inspired to promote Kaibae’s vision of helping communities while developing products inspired by nutrient-rich “lost crops,” such as the Baobab tree — the fruit of which has sustained African communities for generations with its “super-food” qualities. The fruit of the Baobab, one of the oldest living trees on Earth, is chock-full of health benefits and antioxidants and is rich in fiber, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The fruit has an exceptional nutritional value and has fed and healed African communities for centuries, which is why it is often referred to as the “tree of life.”

“Our mission in Northern Ghana is to help the local communities source the Baobab, whose potential for health and economic opportunity is undiscovered or under-utilized,” Maes said. “The Baobab fruit harvest initiated by Kaibae will provide new opportunities to improve access to education and health care for our partners in the region.”

Belgium-born Maes, a longtime resident of Santa Barbara, has had a lifelong enchantment with plants and health. He is a doctor of naturopathic medicine, doctor of chiropractic and a board-certified classical homeopath, in addition to being the director of the Maes Center for Natural Health Care. He continues his never-ending quest for knowledge in traditional uses of plants as medicine, and is currently focused on making simple, pure and healthy food, beauty and wellness products with exceptional nutrient-rich properties. His goal with Kaibae is to make an economic difference for his harvesting partners in Africa while doing his best to prevent disease and inspire good health here in America.

Humanitarian and farmer extraordinaire Thomas Cole is Kaibae’s vice president of sourcing and development. He has worked tirelessly for 18 years in sustainable agriculture, livelihoods and community development work, food production system design, organic horticulture, agricultural extension, permaculture and natural resource management.

“I love the Earth and the people who inhabit it,” Cole said. “And in Ghana, I believe there is the potential for subsistence farmers to more than double their yields with sustainable agriculture, and we will help them achieve that.”

Cole also has extensive experience working in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa with USAID’s Urban Gardens Program in Ethiopia, where he lends technical support to one of the world’s largest urban agriculture projects. He has also worked on Africa Region Food Security and Livelihoods advisor for Save the Children U.S., the coordinator for Save the Children International’s Africa Pastoral Initiative and Save the Children in Uganda’s (SCiUG) program development director.

Documentary filmmaker Chris Jenkins has produced award-winning films such as Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, The Matador and RiverWebs. His work has aired on a variety of channels including PBS, A&E, Discovery and The History Channel.

“My goal in Northern Ghana is not only to capture its natural sub-Saharan beauty," Jenkins said, "but to raise awareness of a region whose inhabitants have been marginalized yet have the potential with Baobab to reshape their economic future.”

Jenkins is also a lecturer in the Film and Media Studies program at UCSB where he helps students develop their filmmaking skills. Prior to receiving his master’s degree in documentary film and video from Stanford University, he was selected by the UNHCR’s “Camp Sadako” program where he worked with deaf Sudanese refugees in East Africa.

Goleta resident Jaime Matera, a Ph.D.-holding anthropologist who teaches at California State University Channel Islands. Matera, who earned his master’s degree in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami and Ph.D. in anthropology from UCSB, specializes in examining household and community livelihood strategies (i.e., how people make a living) to determine the social effects and challenges of conservation and development programs. His research focuses on determining the value of social networks as a means to build community resilience and decrease vulnerability when faced with social and environmental change.

“Northern Ghana is one of the poorest regions of West Africa, where the vast majority of the population relies on agriculture,” Matera said. “However, because of the Baobab fruit, which was once viewed as a ‘lost crop,’ it is possible for the people of this region to flourish for generations to come.”

Click here for more information about the dream team and Kaibae. Find Kaibae on Facebook and follow on Twitter (@GoKaibae).

— Barb Maes represents Kaibae.

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