Harmonious Creations - The South African Marula Tree
The Harmonious Creative Process
With every African Botanics product, we strive to create harmonies not only within the products themselves, but also within the regions where our extraordinary ingredients are carefully and thoughtfully sourced. We are committed to working closely with our partners in South Africa who assist us to ethically source and process each ingredient in an eco-sustainable way and meticulously produce every finished product we share with the world.
10,000 Years of Marula
Known in South Africa as the Marriage Tree, the Marula Tree (Sclerocarya birrea) grows bountifully as one of the region's natural resources. With its delicious fruit, which can grow to the size of a large plum, a large mature Marula tree in the wild can produce 3000 kilograms of fruit and live several hundred years. As a dietary mainstay in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia throughout ancient times, archaeological evidence has revealed a magnificent history going back 10,000 years. The Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) subspecies caffera, is one of Africa’s botanical treasures. As part of the rich history of South Africa, it is estimated that 24 million marula fruits were eaten in the Pomogwe Cave in Zimbabwe. As with so many of the naturally growing resources of South Africa, both the fruit and the nut of the marula are rich in minerals and vitamins.
There is a rich tapestry of legendary stories surrounding the many uses of the Marula tree, bark, leaves, fruit, nut and kernels. Known as the fruit that “drives elephants mad” when dropped to the ground and lightly fermented, marula is a much-loved tree in the wild of Africa.
The Regions of the Marula
The North-western region of South Africa is a highly diverse area in all respects and is a top priority for conservation. As a protected area for biodiversity, the land is shielded from pollution and other agricultural efforts. Also contributing to the overall conservation efforts for the region is the fact that it is near the South African Kruger National Park as well as the Marula Woodlands which are both protected and managed to ensure their sustainability. The efforts of the South African government to protect the marual species as a vital national resource were initiated as early as 1941, when timber shortages during World War II led to an increased depletion of the South African timber resources including Marual trees. In order to protect Marula trees (S. birrea) and many other rapidly depleting species, Forest Act 13 of 1941 was enacted.
The People and Culture Where the Marula is Cultivated and Harvested
The South African residents who live in the regions where the Marula trees naturally grow are cultivators and harvesters, passing on their traditional knowledge of how to cultivate and harvest the Marula fruit from generation to generation. This multi-generational knowledge has helped the families of these regions to thrive. The industrious people of these regions understand how important the Marula trees are to South Africa as a country and, more specifically, to those regions where the trees grow naturally. Many residents of these regions have started home-based microenterprises such as sewing, welding and the cultivation and selling of the Marula fruit for jam, semi-sweet wine, port, liqueur, beer, juice and nectar. They understand the importance of the Marula species and have seen the positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of their local communities. The people of these regions are very supportive of the national conservation efforts surrounding the Marula species and participate in these efforts by abstaining from cutting any trees for firewood despite the local residents still depending on firewood as a main source of energy. They are also very careful to not cut any branches when they are cultivating and harvesting the fruit and thus wait for the fruit to drop off of the trees on their own. As a means to ensure the continued flourishing of the Marula species, many residents continue to plant trees on their own properties. The Marula trees are drought-resistant and one of the fastest growing trees in South Africa with growth rate of up to 1.5 meters per year.
The Strong and Sustainable Future of the Marula
After six years of negotiation, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties on 29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan. The signing of this very important agreement means that these important resources growing naturally in these regions of South Africa are protected. As noted within the language of the agreement, there must be, “Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.”
At African Botanics, our key values are: mutual benefit sharing with our regional partners, fair trade practices, respect for the indigenous intellectual properties, sustainable harvesting, farming organically without depleting resources or impacting air and/or water quality. Indeed, these important values were and are the basis of the Nagoya Protocol, to protect the people and resources and require that the country and people share in the resource revenues and benefits. All companies including African Botanics must abide by these rules and regulations to ensure that the people and resources of South Africa continue to thrive now and for generations to come.