Source: US Departement of State
Like countless Namibian women before her, Emilia Kambonde learned from her mother how to extract the kernel from the marula seed and process its oil in the traditional way.

But for years, selling the seeds barely allowed Emilia to get by. Now, thanks to the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Emilia and other members of her cooperative are boosting their income by selling marula kernels and oil for use in products sold worldwide, from cosmetics to liqueur.

Namibia's indigenous natural products (INP) sector has public and private investment that enables it to produce goods, set up supply chains and build links with the private sector -- but limited local demand, a lack of economies of scale and underdeveloped export opportunities have hindered sales. Most of the products are exported to Europe, where the majority of value is added.

Through its five-year, $304 million compact with Namibia, MCC is helping to develop the country's INP industry by investing almost $7 million to improve local producer and processor capacity to compete in the global economy.

Technical assistance and small grants are starting to show positive results, MCC reported March 8 -- particularly for Namibian women, who are the main harvesters of INPs. MCC aims to benefit 7,000 households and some 35,000 individuals through its INP activities.

Most rural Namibian women's livelihoods depend substantially on harvesting and processing indigenous products such as marula, Ximenia, Devil's Claw, Commiphora resin and Kalahari melon seed. Women often perform the work because production and harvesting require very little startup capital, resources are accessible to all and the work can be combined with other household tasks.


Emilia, a grandmother with a household of 15 people in Olukango in the north-central Oshana region, began selling marula products 40 years ago, but because every local household produced its own oil, she often did not make much money.

Ten years ago, Emilia joined the Eudafano Women's Cooperative (EWC) as a marula kernel producer, and since then, the cooperative has helped her and other members increase their access to markets.

MCA-Namibia, the government entity that implements the MCC compact, is strengthening the organizational and technical capacity of EWC and organizations like it.

EWC began in 1999 as a women-only marketing cooperative and has since grown to encompass 24 producer associations representing 1,300 people and a factory that processes INPs for international export. Since 2005, EWC's factory has been supplying marula and Kalahari melon seed oil for use in cosmetics to global firms such as The Body Shop and Aldivia.


Emilia's hard work now brings a more consistent paycheck to complement her government pension. Beyond that, she says, it enables her to be more independent and confident. Her income ensures she can pay for food, household items, school fees, school uniforms and hospital fees for her children and grandchildren. Her husband also appreciates the added income.

The international demand for marula continues to be firm. The tree's tart fruit is an ingredient in the now famous Amarula liqueur. During the 2011 season, the cooperative purchased nearly nine metric tons of kernels from producers like Emilia. By November 2011 it had exported more than six tons of oil, generating nearly $120,000.

"I hope EWC continues its work," Emilia said, "so future generations of members can also benefit from the income they receive."

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