In the French novella The Little Prince, the titular prince comes from a very small asteroid planet called B612 where soil is full of baobab seeds. He tells the author that if left to grow, the baobabs would become so numerous and huge that they could make the little planet explode.On Earth, though, baobabs are quite the opposite. Anyone living in Africa where baobabs grow to enormous sizes would be able to tell you about the numerous benefits the trees provide for humans and animals.They would probably describe the marvellous generosity of its trunk and its hospitality to many creatures, and extol the hardy and light fruit pod with its deliciously powdery pulp and nutritious seeds that remain fresh and edible over long periods of time.
But there is a mystery to baobabs, as they are also found in India. How did they get there?
Baobabs are found in different parts of the Indian subcontinent, and many of them are so voluminous that they could easily be several thousand years old. No one knows how they arrived in these places. A few studies on baobabs in India have speculated that the fruit pods may have floated across from Africa on ocean currents and washed up on the shores, or that they may have been brought over by Arab traders.
The earliest interactions go back more than 4,000 years ago, when African cereal and legume crops arrived in India from Sudan, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
The subsequent expansion of the Indian Ocean trade between Africa and India occurred through Swahili-Arab networks. The arrival of the Portuguese and the establishment of their colonial bases in Mozambique and western and southern India contributed to new flows of Africans between these places.
And finally, we found that during the 18th and 19th centuries, the English and Dutch colonial authorities recruited soldiers from West Africa for regiments in southern India and Southeast Asia.
More about the study here.