by Brooke Brock
Tedious work, but none the less unique – this is what comes to mind when I think of the Eudafano Women Cooperative’s Marula Factory.
Marula is an amazingly UNIQUE fruit is essential to this women’s cooperative. Used down to the seed, the marula fruit (Sclerocaraya birrea) is first picked and juiced. The juice is later consumed after it ferments. The marula nut is then taken and laid out to dry for three to four weeks. Next, The nuts are cracked open by hand, one-by-one, to extract its kernels, its main source of value.
This is the process that some 1,400 women complete each year, receiving 23 Nambian dollars per kilogram of marula kernels; that’s less than 4 U.S. dollars for 2.2 pounds of kernels!
I know that some of you are reading in disbelief, thinking you would never do such TEDIOUS WORK for such little money, but this annual cycle is a part of these women’s lives… And their families’, too.
The cooperative is comprised of various subdivisions that have grown from nine associations to 22. Women of the area have been making use of Marula for years, but the cooperative started in 1996.
The marula factory officially opened on March 11, 2005. This is one of few, if not the only, sources the U.S. and France has for marula oil for cosmetic use; other small buyers also use marula oil for cooking.
Now before you think, “Wow,” think about this tedious process.
A) The women who pay N$30* to N$40* for membership, annual fee and new membership respectively, whether rain or shine.
B) The women, who pick the fruit by hand, wait three to four weeks for the nut to dry (because it cannot be cracked until dried) and crack the nut one-by-one with something similar to a hammer, only to get about four kernels per nut.
C) The women hand inspect the kernels.
D) The men and women, who use a machine to hand press 40 kg of kernels daily, only get about 10 kg of oil.
This is a long process, and that’s only part of it!
Thanks to the U.S., France, and mainly The Body Shop these women have a job to support their families because of marula’s promising market. The Marula Factory has also started processing kalahari melon seeds for oil as well and hopes to market it for uses similar to marula.
As we finished walking through the Marula Factory and saw men and women using a hydro press to hand press the oil, I think of how tedious their work is. I am unsure if I should be upset or fascinated by the whole process.
Then I think this Marula Factory is one-of-a-kind and before the cooperative started these women were doing this same tedious work for not much of a profit. I can only be joyful that they are able to better support their families now.
Help these women continue to support their families and keep the market strong by running to the nearest The Body Shop and stocking up!!!
* $1 US is about N$8.5.