Get your exercise on the aircraftAugust 6, 2012
BIG STORIES about little things – Namib Desert beetleAugust 6, 2012
Text and photographs Tim Osborne
No, I’m not talking about the sci-fi movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but about the ladies who sell acacia pods along the roadside.
As you leave Windhoek on the B1 heading north, you might notice piles of white bags stacked neatly along the verge of the road. These bags contain seedpods from the camel-thorn tree, Acacia erioloba, and are for sale. As you drive farther north, you might well see the big, white seedpods on the large trees next to the roadside, depending on the time of year. After these have fallen to the ground, they are collected by enterprising women, bagged and then offered for sale to passersby.
Two of these women, Elina Mushi and Telesia Hatutale, have been selling the pods since 2003 to make money to send their children to school. They work from eight in the morning until six in the evening, Mondays to Saturdays, picking up the seedpods and sitting by the roadside to sell them, thus working long, hard hours. The sacks they use to hold the seedpods are recycled frozen-chicken bags, which they buy for 50 cents apiece. There is no weight or set standard on the amount of seeds pods or weights, but most of the bags are a uniform size and hold about 5 kilograms of pods.
The bags sell for N$10 each, the price not having changed since the ladies started the seedpod business. Initially Elina and Telesia were the only women selling the pods, but others saw the opportunity and now there are about 10 women following suit along the B1.
The seedpods of the camel-thorn acacia Acacia erioloba are highly nutritious, containing up to 14% protein
Most of the ladies’ customers are farmers who live in the north and are on their way home for the weekend. They buy the seeds as supplements for their domestic livestock, goats and cattle. During a good week, especially on Fridays, they might sell 10 bags at one time. If they’re lucky, they might even sell all their bags (up to 100) in one go. In the evening they haul their bags 20 metres off the roadside and stack them for the night. They then go to their homes in the nearby Babylon location. The next morning, unfortunately, because they have no night-time security, they occasionally find that some of the bags have been stolen.
The seedpods of the camel-thorn acacia Acacia erioloba are highly nutritious, containing up to 14% protein and 3.5% fat, which makes them a good source of energy. Immature seedpods are not collected because they contain prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide), which is poisonous to livestock. Although the camel thorn is widely distributed throughout Namibia, there are enough areas where there are no mature seed-bearing trees, which are thus potential markets for the pods. Animals such as giraffe, eland and elephant are also partial to the seedpods.
On my game farm just south of the Etosha National Park there are no camel-thorn trees. Nevertheless, the pods have proved to be in great demand, because when I buy seedpods and place them at my waterholes, one or two nights later they have all been consumed. By way of experimentation I once left a 150-metre trail of pods from a waterhole to my house. By morning both kudu and eland had eaten their way up the trail, and, very much sated, were happily looking at me from close by, as if to say thank you.
This article appeared in the January’12 Edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.