By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus
Economic development in rural areas is not just converting traditional structures into modern buildings but instead connecting rural small-scale producers to a value chain in the economy.
A cooperative of women called Eudafano Women’s Cooperative (EWC) has united/connected around 2 800 women within 26 Associations of rural areas to supply them with marula kernels and melon seeds to produce oil for export and local consumption.
In an interview with The Villager Business Desk, Eudafano Women Marula Manufacturing manager MarthaNegumbo revealed that the EWC had exported 53 298 kilograms of marula oil to Europe USA in the past five years and South Africa.
However, she added that production is determined by the demand for the oil monthly Eudafano can produce close to 2,000 kilograms of oils for marula.
On an annual basis, they can process/produce in their manufacturing plant, which is situated in Ondangwa, up to 12 tons of marula oil.
From 2017 to 2021, Eudafano Cooperative has collected close to 128 858 kilograms of marula kernels (Omahuku) and 77 675 kg of melon seeds (oontanga/kg) for processing.
This translates to the collectors paying N$ 9.5 million for their seeds and kernels (2017-2021).
Over 2 800 rural women have contributed to this harvest.
In the same period (5 years), the manufacturing arm has produced marula oil (omagadhi goongongo) 39 624 kg and 10 378 kg of melon oil (omagadhi goontanga).
This is made possible by the rural women who supply the factory with raw materials (marula kernel and melon seeds).
The demand for Melon Oil has decreased, and we only managed to ship 5 130 kg of oil over the past five years. Local consumption of our Oils is very minimal, and it is part of our strategy to start establishing the local market.
Dating back to 1996, the group of Namibia Women in the north-central regions railed with a common goal: harvesting and working on Marula Tree “Sclerocarya Birrea” and Kalahari Melon Seed products.
As the unity of purpose grows day by day, new ideas are shared openly amongst the women, culminating in naming the entity as EUDAFANO, which means ‘agreement’, henceforth registering the organisation as Eudafano Women’s Cooperative Ltd under the Cooperative Act Number 23 of 1999.
A board runs the cooperative made up exclusively of women from the community.
The cooperative owns a factory built for women by the first Namibia President, Sam Nujoma. His office secured finances and other resources, and different companies such as NAMDEB Social Fund came on board.
Currently, Eudafano is a leading producer of marula oil in the Southern African regions,
Eudafano has 14 permanent employees, and the cooperative has set its sights on recruiting more members and training them on the methods to produce marula oil and conservation efforts.
The main activities of the cooperative members are to supply marula kernels and melon seeds to the Factory in Ondangwa to extract oils further.
The supply chain is further extended in the north-central regions, where the cooperative has 26 associations.
The women deliver their raw materials to the collection centres. The factory’s responsibility is to organise logistics to collect kernels from the different regions and deliver them to the Factory in Ondangwa.
The factory uses mechanised equipment to extract oil. This is a standard process that most companies in the same industry use.
The main use of these oils is cosmetics, but in 2014 Eudafano, with the Assistance of GIZ, received funding to enable the cooperative to produce Marula Food Oil and Katutura Artisan Project of CRIAA SA-DC implemented this project with Eudafano, and the new product of Food Oil was achieved.
Negumbo explained that they do not have an agreement yet in terms of the off-take agreement, but they supply small local shops/lodges/restaurants and other cosmetics companies based on their needs/demands.
“We do not have any contract with the government,” she said.
The cooperative worked with the Centre for Research Information Action in Africa- Southern Africa Development and Consulting, a Namibian-based organisation, to turn the Marula fruit into an economically viable product.
The organisation provided research and technological support that enabled the cooperative to serve local and international markets.
The cooperative received 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.
Negumbo explained that despite their supply connection with various rural women associations in the central north, the cooperative faces multiple challenges.
She pointed out the lack of accredited laboratories within reach of the factory to enable more research and product development, and reliability in the service provision.
The availability of laboratories will also assist in the diversification strategy of their product offering.
Another challenge being experienced by the cooperative is the high cost of sending samples to customers due to distance from users.
Negumbo has also highlighted the cost (tariffs) involved in exporting their products and exchange rates (NAD vs Euros or USD) as an issue in their competitiveness.
The cooperative has also indicated that delivering on a large scale requires more machinery to process the products further and add value locally. However, the capital to acquire such is still limited.
In the future, Negumbo indicated that the Cooperative Strategic Plan is to upgrade their processing equipment to deliver advanced quality oil and have market-ready/filtered products.
They are also embarking on a local sales maximisation, given that the two types of cooking oil are also complementary goods to sunflower and olive oil products.
The cooperative is also working on a strategic plan for Marula Juice. The particular juice is currently made traditionally by women from north-central regions on a seasonal basis. The juice can also be fermented and brewed further into alcoholic beverages.
At the same time, the factory is also working on strengthening its current Standard Operation Procedures as part of its Good Manufacturing Practices as required.
In 2020 GIZ came on board to assist Eudafano in achieving some of its plans.
The project is still ongoing under the BioInnovation Africa that is commissioned by the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which Namibia as a country has benefited so as Cameroon, Madagascar, and South Africa
Furthermore, since the cooperative empowers and connects rural women to a formal value chain, it is also working on improving the various cooperative member’s benefits. Email: email@example.com