The sky’s the limit for Zambia’s rural women

28 August 2009 | News story

Mongongo fruits are widely used in Southern Africa as an important food source. In Zambia, local company, Kalahari Natural Oils makes products from the rich Mongongo oil to treat dry skin and hair. The business is based on wild harvested fruits supplied by large groups of primary producers based in western Zambia. Kalahari Natural Oils is a member of PhytoTrade Africa, which works with IUCN in implementing the Natural Futures Programme.

The Kalahari Natural Oils factory now has four full time employees and a manager and its products are sold at a number of retail outlets in Lusaka. Changes in the supply chain of Mongongo have generated a marked improvement in the livelihoods of the business and primary producers of which nearly 90% are women.

Among them is Bertha Monde. “I joined the Mongongo project because I need some cash income in order to take care of my family,” she says. “I look after and pay school fees for three orphans from my late brother-in-law and my own two children. I have made approximately US$ 450 from Mongongo during the past three months.”

Bertha learned to crack Mongongo at the age of seven. There is a special skill involved in cracking and storing dried nuts and she has passed this on to her children. In addition to making cooking oil from the nuts, Bertha turns the pulp from the fruit into a porridge that is used during times of drought. She is amazed at how much money can be made from the accessible and abundant Mongongo trees. Many say that their involvement in the trade has helped them survive the region’s dry years.

Bertha is investing her earnings in the family’s future. She has bought two cows to help with ploughing, two goats and has paid into the local parent-teacher association for the ongoing education of her children. After a few more years in the supply chain, Bertha plans to build a larger home for her family.