They are also in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris climate agreement and the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources.
“These principles empower local communities and cooperatives to protect biodiversity and benefit from it at the same time,” said Lorena Jaramillo, project manager of UNCTAD’s BioTrade initiative.
Tapping traditional knowledge
The Eudafano Women’s Cooperative established 22 years ago harnesses the community’s traditional environmental knowledge to promote the conservation of indigenous plants and prevent overexploitation.
“We value the marula tree. You won’t find people cutting it down, now that they know its benefits,” Ms. Negumbo said.
About 2,500 women working in 27 associations harvest marula fruits from wild trees and deliver their kernels and seeds to the cooperative’s factory, where oils are extracted through a combination of hand and machine processing.
Each year, the factory produces up to 12 tons of marula oil, which is sold to companies such as The Body Shop International.
It was the cooperative’s first global customer, attracted not only by the properties of marula oil but also by the rural women’s cooperative’s conservation efforts.
The cooperative carries out rainfed agriculture and advocates for the planting of more marula trees to promote the regeneration of local biodiversity.
Changing local fortunes
Its revenues have increased over the years. In 2020, sales from marula kernels fetched the cooperative’s members about $158,000, a 14% jump from 2019. The cooperative empowers its members and their communities economically by ensuring they are paid fair prices.
The income to the members is seasonal, as the marula fruits are harvested seasonally, typically between May and November.
The cooperative, a leading producer of marula oil in the southern African region, is run by a board made up exclusively of women from the community.
It has set its sights on recruiting more members and training them on organic farming methods to boost both its production of marula oil and its conservation efforts.
Partnerships for success
The cooperative worked with the Centre for Research Information Action in Africa — Southern Africa Development and Consulting, a Namibian-based organization, to turn the marula fruit into an economically viable product.
The organization provided research and technological support that enabled the cooperative to serve both local and international markets.
The cooperative received further research and development support from PhytoTrade Africa, the southern African natural products trade association.
The partnerships opened new markets for the cooperative and helped it expand income opportunities for local communities.
This article is also available at UNCTAD website here.
Comms and Media Unit
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development