Indigenous Plant Products in Namibia

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Review Amy Schoeman

Indigenous PLANT PRODUCTS in Namibia

Venture Publications 2014

Specified on its inner title page as The Commercialisation of Indigenous Natural Plant Products in Namibia, the rationale for the publication of this visually captivating and highly informative book is creatively summarised on its cover by examples of the species that are harvested and utilised by rural people in Namibia.

Indigenous Natural Plant Products (INPs) are produced from plants that grow naturally in a particular region or environment in Namibia and which contain active components that can be used as ingredients in cosmetic, medicinal and food preparations. The sustainable wild harvesting and trading of INPs has the potential to contribute significantly to the alleviation of rural poverty and conservation of natural resources, partially through trade with developed markets internationally. It is mainly women who depend on INPs to improve their food security and who are increasingly engaged in the commercialisation of these products to improve their livelihoods.

Devil's Claw plant & Flower2

Devil’s Claw Plant, Harpagophytum

Until the late 1990s much of the economic contribution from INPs originated from the informal trade sector via local markets. However, Namibia’s proactive approach towards further developing the INP sector on a more commercial basis has yielded significant economic growth opportunities, particularly at the local rural producer or harvester level. Some estimates have put the current annual value of the contribution to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product of INPs at between N$30–N$50 million, with the potential to increase considerably. The growth in this sector is based on a strong and growing global demand for natural ingredients, including those currently harvested in Namibia for use in medicinal and cosmetic products.

morama page

Natural plant products being sold at market

The book highlights species that serve as the main pillars of INP commercialisation in Namibia, such as:

!Nara, the desert cucurbit that grows as a leafless, thorny bush throughout the Namib Desert, producing fruit with seeds that are cold-pressed for virgin oil for use in food and the preparation of natural cosmetic products.

Hoodia, which has gained a reputation as a dietary supplement that acts as an appetite suppressant.

Devil’s claw, traditionally known for its effective treatment of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and has demonstrated its effectiveness as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.

Marula seed kernels, from which oil is cold-pressed for use in skin-care products, as it naturally softens, nourishes and revitalises the skin.

Xmenia oil, cold-pressed from the seed kernels of Ximenia Americana and sought after for its anti-aging properties, as it increases moisture levels and improves blood flow in the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Commiphora resin, which yields essential oils that have long been used by Himba women in the Kunene Region as a major ingredient in their perfumes, with omumbiri from the Commiphora wildii being the most commercially viable.

Mopane bark, used for treating sore eyes, chafing, stomach-ache and kidney stones, while the foliage is used to disinfect wounds and reduce bleeding.

Marama vines, which produce the marama (gemsbok) bean, an excellent source of good-quality protein (29% to 39%) and oil (24% to 48%).

line of men & women

Harvesting of natural plant products

The book was funded by the Millennium Challenge Account–Namib (MCA–N) as an Indigenous Natural Products Activity aimed at increasing economic opportunities for INP stakeholders through improved organisational, business and technical capacities along the value chain. It was produced by Riéth van Schalkwyk and designed by Heike Lorck. The text was written by various experts and researchers in the field, with Dave Cole of MCA–Namibia acting as Technical Adviser.

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