You are currently viewing Rediscovering the significance of marula fruit in Namibia

Rediscovering the significance of marula fruit in Namibia


For 1000’s of years, Southern African communities have used the bark, leaves, fruit and kernels of the marula tree for his or her medicinal and dietary properties. Martin Rust spoke to Magda du Toit about how his household is exploiting this multi-faceted useful resource, which happens naturally on their farm in northern Namibia.

Rediscovering the importance of marula fruit in Namibia
The marula tree is dioecious: solely the feminine bushes bear fruit, whereas the males bear small, reddish flowers.
Photograph: Magda du Toit

Ghaub farm, close to Tsumeb within the northern a part of Namibia, is the epitome of a blended farming operation. Right here, the Rust household run a sport farm, increase cattle and develop greens and citrus. Furthermore, they’ve not too long ago begun capitalising on the fruit of the marula bushes that develop wild on their land.

Martin Rust’s dad and mom, Joachim and Caroline, purchased Ghaub in 2016.

“On the time, our major focus was ecotourism, however we’ve since expanded into agriculture. The thought is to supply as a lot as attainable of the meals we’d like for our tourism operation.

“Below the label Ghaub Farm Merchandise, we began producing beef and sport meat, milk, and eggs, in addition to offering braai wooden for our lodges. Our vegetable manufacturing started in 2019, and we’re now harvesting lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, beans and carrots regularly for our lodges at Ghaub and Waterberg Wilderness Non-public Nature Reserve.

“We additionally planted citrus bushes and are all the time investigating new issues so as to add to our product line and our visitors’ experiences,” explains Rust.

The indigenous marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) is a botanical landmark on Ghaub. The excessive protein and vitamin C content material of the fruit make the marula one of the vital vital indigenous fruit bushes in Southern Africa. In reality, archaeologists have established that these bushes have been a supply of meals for the area’s human inhabitants for millennia.

The marula, with its scaly bark and rounded crown, can develop to between 15m and 18m in top. On Ghaub, the fruit ripens between January and March.

Rust says his mom had lengthy needed to place the marula bushes on their farm to good use.

“We’ve so many, and not too long ago began making a wide range of farm merchandise from the fruit. We’re additionally exploring methods to increase our product line and improve our quantity.”

The bushes on Ghaub
In 2018, as a part of the analysis for her grasp’s dissertation, and to get an outline of the marula tree inhabitants on Ghaub, agronomist Nadia Löffel, with assist from Caroline, used GPS to map these bushes that have been inside 100m or so of the roads.

As well as, she decided the gender of every and measured its circumference 1m above the soil floor. In all, 281 bushes have been mapped, and their common circumference was measured at 158cm.

Again in her research, Löffel mixed the mapping with an outline on the makes use of of the bark, wooden, roots, leaves and fruits. She additionally researched the wildlife discovered on and across the bushes. Lastly, she carried out two assessments as a facet mission to find out whether or not the juice from the fruit could be appropriate for the manufacturing of fruit gums.

Marula bushes are dioecious; that’s, they’re both male or feminine. The intercourse of every tree within the research was decided by whether or not it bore fruit (feminine) or inflorescences (male). An inflorescence is a cluster of flowers organized on a stem.

Löffel’s analysis indicated that the intercourse distribution was roughly balanced, with 146 and 135 female and male bushes respectively. Rust explains that they solely make use of bushes that happen naturally on the farm.

“Our farmworkers accumulate the fruit. More often than not we anticipate it to fall from the bushes, so we solely want to gather a few times. We’ve quite a lot of antelope species on Ghaub, significantly kudu, which additionally love the fruit, however there’s all the time loads of fruit for all, so we be sure that to depart some behind for the animals.”

Fruit pulp and kernels
Rust remembers that they began small, accumulating the fruit in a number of buckets, and experimented to search out one of the simplest ways to course of them.

“Whereas we do eat a few of the fruit, most of our harvest is used for our product line. The pulp is processed into a variety of juices, jellies and jams. Final yr, we additionally began utilizing the kernels, as they’re wealthy in fat and oils.”

Dried marula nuts
The pits are dried within the solar and cracked by hand. The kernels inside are then eliminated and used to make oil. They will also be roasted or eaten as is.

Processing the fruit is a labour-intensive endeavor. As soon as it has been harvested, the pulp is separated from the pits by hand. The pulp is then cooked till mushy, pressed by way of a sieve to take away any remaining impurities, and boiled with sugar to make jam or juice.

The pits are dried within the solar, cracked by hand, and the 2 or three little kernels inside are eliminated. These may be eaten uncooked or roasted with salt as a snack, and make a very good addition to salad.

Marula oil
Oil from the kernels can be used within the lodges’ kitchens for cooking and in salad dressings. A wood pounder is used on the kernels to extract the oil. The pounder is a standard device utilized in northern Namibia for grinding millet and maize.

“To ease the work course of, we’re contemplating investing in a mechanical oil press. Our first oil yield was solely 10ℓ, and we expect it will improve if we use extra kernels and a mechanical press.

Rust provides that in the event that they used a mechanical press, the extraction course of wouldn’t be as messy. A machine that robotically cracks the pits would even be an important enchancment.

“Marula oil is a superb different to sunflower oil, which can be changing into more and more costly. It presents visitors of Ghaub and Waterberg Wilderness a particular style expertise,” he says.

The long run
Rust plans to construct on the chance supplied by their tourism arm to promote marula-based farm merchandise.

“At this stage, we don’t have sufficient quantity to promote to the open market; we solely use the produce to offer a particular expertise to visitors in our lodges. Nevertheless, we all know that we will increase. We plan to slowly develop our marula-processing amenities and hopefully, sooner or later, set up a central processing plant the place native communities can ship their marula harvests with the intention to earn a small revenue,” he says.

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