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    Vambo: Marula Fruits As Our Socio-Economic Power

    Marula wine harvesting activity has been the most important role among the Vambo people. 
    The marula fruits grew from an African native Marula tree a single-stemmed tree of about 10 metres in height and it given a scientific nomenclature (Sclerocarya birrea), ''Omungoongo'' as it termed in Oshivambo vernacular language it is highly prized for its socio-economical and cultural importance to Aakwanyamas and more particularly the rest of the Ovambo people and Africa at large.  Marula tree is African endemic literaly means it only found on the African continent in 29 sub-Saharan countries from Mozambique to the kingdom of Swaziland. In Namibia, Marula tree is commonly found in ''O'' regions mainly Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Okavango, Caprivi, and part of Otjozondjupa region. 

    The tree produces an outstanding and famous Marula wine (Omangongo) that people obtained from the juice after it squeezed out of the marula fruits. The fermentation process normally takes few days (depending on individual trees' taste). Thereafter the wine is properly cleaned by sieving the liquid then preserved them at room temperature in a clean clay pot (Oshuuma).

    Omungongo (Marula tree) is a good source of nutrition to indigenous people because the fruit is highly concentrated in Vitamin C and protein-rich at its nut core. The nutritious kernels (Iipeta) can be eaten raw, roasted and branded into juices or jam that very rich in antioxidants. Marula juice is four times healthier as compared to the orange juice. Many communities in Africa brew their own local version of marula beer. In south-eastern Zimbabwe, Marula wine is known as “mukundi,” It has been reported that drinking Marula wine is quite good for human health.

    Marula Festival in Namibia
    Namibian man enjoying Oshituthi shomagongo
    The fruit ripens from February to April, Marula fruits fall off automatically from the tree when they are still green and hard, and ripen within five days while on the ground. People often grouping them together in one place called ( Etumbo lengoongo ). Fully ripe marula fruits are tart, with a pleasant sweet-and-sour taste. Everything that comes from Marula tree is edible even those small worms (Nanghalingongo) that used to be inside the fruits are eatable and very delicious.  Some fruits are eaten raw, but most are processed into beverages or jellies.  Namibia has an official marula wine season known as Omagongo Festival hosted every year from March to April, the Omangongo Festival brings together all eight tribes of Awambo community include Aashimbas and visitors. The Omagongo Cultural Festival is an annual event celebrated on a rotational basis within the eight northern Traditional Authorities, namely Uukwaluudhi, Ondonga, Ongandjera, Ombalantu, Uukwambi, Uukolonkadhi, Ombandja and Uukwanyama. Everyone participating in the event had a drink of Omagongo as a gesture to show unity.

    The Marula tree itself demonstrates the most significant value of Ovambo people just like the Manketti nuts in the eyes of the Sans (Bushmans), thus indicating that many people still depend on them and regard Marula product as supplements to food security that sustain the community during the year of poor harvesting. 

    Ovambo woman with Iiyuma yoMangongo at Omagongo Cultural Festival 26 May 2018.
    The alcohol content is quite high and if consumed randomly can drive a person wild, it is estimated to be up to 15% per volume, depending on the individual tree and the period the liquid has been fermented for. It is believed that Marula wine increases people's appetite and generate body heat to warm the body especially in the cold. However, there is a time calendar of drinking Omangongo, so drink it in public without permission from the king or headman is totally illegally. In Ovambo there is a certain date authorized by the headman; this normally done for the fear that people may get intoxicated and start to cut crops while weeding their Omahangu field or commit something regrettable to the community. During Omagongo festival, people celebrate to together eating meat and show off whatever they got like boasting about livestock. There is a time calendar of drinking Omangongo. During Omangongo all civic orders are relieved and people allowed to unwind their spirit; since there would be no traditional court or prosecution of any offense that perpetrated during the Omagongo period.

    Marula wine extraction:  Or harvesting (Okukola Oomongo) has been a job of the woman only. There is another second drinking product from marula fruit which is very sweet and almost non-alcohol drink (Oshinwa). One may compare it with Appetizer or other fruit juices from processed fruit trees. Oshinwa is prepared as follows: Putting the fresh nuts in a separate container (normally clay pot) and then add water about ( 20 litre for 10 litre container of fresh nuts) and left it for about 12 hours or the whole day. After a few hours, the water becomes sweet and a person who doesn't like the alcoholic drink can take this favor. This is usually a drink for children!

    Nuts and Oil: Marula product comprises a kernel, fresh juice, and hardcover (nut). It is quite hard to remove nuts from the seed. It is a woman's tasks to remove nuts. They use an axe to open a seed on one side. They use a tool made of iron to remove the nuts. The embryo (Omaxuku) inside the nuts is really delicious and so highly priced that it is given to special guests. In Vambo society, woman have produced oil product for food delicate called (Ondjove). Omaxuku is mixed with Mahangu cake (Omungome) to make a very delicious food. Recently, elders have recommended that children should eat food peppered with Omandii gondjove as they say that if a young person makes a habit of eating such meal he/she will have an uncontrolled appetite for food and at the end, she/he will grow up as a well-nourished individual.

    The Ondjove is very highly priced, although local product lack market exposure due to stupid trade policies African governments have adopted. Usually, every household in Ovambo has kept Ondjove oil in a special reservation for the important guests. In all important feasts, such as a wedding ceremony, marula oil is one of the special foods and the event organizers have to see to it that they are available. Nowadays, some local markets are also considering to have a shelf available for customers who are interesting in Ondjove. Jam too can also be produced from Marula fruits (Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, Project on Indigenous Fruits, (1999).  In Xwama Cultural Village, a Marathon chicken is worthed about N$180.00 without Ondjove and if you request it as additional spice up make sure your pocket is okay. I am teasing!

    UNESCO video watch how Namibian woman actively harvesting Marula wine.  

    Economic Value

    Marula product holds a great commercial potential that could be done in the marketing of the indigenous products and their derived products. All these products, be it wine or unprocessed kernels or Ondjove itself, are now available in open markets such as Havana, Soweto, Ekutu Latika and other informal markets around the country. Marula wine prices approximately, range between N$15 to N$100.00 per litre. 

    Thanks to women's groups in northern Namibia especially at Okandjengendi in Oshakati who involved in oil production and do trade their Marula products at Ongwediva Trade Affair every year. The total number of women involved in these cooperative businesses are ever increasing regardless of the financial hardship they always experiencing. It has been noticed that, to a great extent, these women do manage themselves showing that there is a good scope for a large and effective economic operation in the near future. Ondjove oils and other Marula products like kernels are useful for modern cosmetic production and pharmaceutical purposes in Europe and far Asia, but there is no tangible or consistent trading platforms part from Ongewediva Trade Affair and other trade expos that only hosted once a year. For this reason, a Sustainche Farm™ Project: The Marula Oil / Odjove Production Episode II which was a principal and excellent move of inspiring rural Namibian people to engage in a profitable business. 

    The trial marula oil project shows that interest in Marula oil from commercial parties is as strong as ever, and negotiations with premier potential buyers show that the project is on the verge of an important commercial breakthrough, despite unwillingness among Namibian politicians. The project also brought to light that Marula oil and kernel contains at least one powerful antioxidant and this is regarded as a major marketing benefit.  It is clear that there is tremendous economic potential from the use of the marula fruits. It is necessary to formalize the production, markets and expand the mechanical extraction of Marula product.

    Marula Cosmetic Uses  

    • Moisturizing.  Marula oil in cosmetics forms a hygroscopic film on the skin surface that supports the natural level of skin moisture and does not allow it to dry out.
    • Omolazhenie.  Marula oil in cosmetics stimulates metabolic processes in the skin, effectively fights free radicals, improves the cell repair process, and prevents premature aging of the skin. 
    • Mitigation.  Marula oil in cosmetics intensively nourishes and softens the skin, penetrating it easily and deeply, absorbs quickly, prevents cracks, gives smoothness and elasticity, suitable for baby skin care. 
    • Reduction of inflammation.  Marula oil in cosmetics reduces skin sensitivity to external irritants, soothes itching, relieves pustular rash. 
    • Healing.  Marula oil in cosmetics restores damaged skin during sunburns, cuts, scratches, stimulates rapid wound tightening, protects against the harmful effects of wind, frost, UV rays, and other adverse factors. 
    • Strengthening. Marula oil in cosmetics has a beneficial effect on hair after dyeing and perm, nourishes and strengthens curls, moisturizes the scalp, conditions hair. Improves the appearance of nails, preventing their delamination. 
    • Tonification.  Marula oil in cosmetics effectively strengthens connective tissue and fights cellulite, stretch marks, improves skin elasticity. Marula oil is effectively used to treat dermatitis, sunburn and to prevent baldness.

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