One of Namibia’s great indigenous trees, Marula Sclerocarya birrea has been valued for thousands of years by local cultures. The fruit is an important food source for humans and animals alike, and elephants are known to travel for many kilometres to feast on its bounty.
Marula has also been recognised for its nutritious oil, a valuable ingredient used in beauty and skin products, prized for its moisturising qualities and chemical stability. Marula Oil is naturally rich in vitamin E and is renowned for its anti-ageing properties.
The Marula tree is one of the most valued trees in north-central Namibia, playing an important part in the cultural and social lives of the Owambo people.
A great African tree
This drought-resistant medium to large deciduous tree is venerated in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Marula has many benefits and the tree’s copious produce is extensively used. It also has a cultural significance that is woven into the culture of the Owambo people, who live in the northern reaches of the country. Songs and stories have been written about it and the Marula harvest at the beginning of the year is a time of togetherness and festivity. Traditionally, Marula wine was brought to the kings and headmen at the beginning of the Marula harvest. Although Marula is enjoyed by everyone in the family, the trees are owned by the women who collect the fruit, make the wine and extract and pound the kernels for oil.
Tropical fruit & oil-rich seeds
The flavour of the yellow plum-sized fruit has been likened to a mix of lychee, apple, guava and pineapple. The juicy flesh surrounds the brown stone, which cushions several oil-rich seeds.
Marula fruit is eaten in the summer months, enjoyed as a delicious juice and fermented into Marula wine. The inner nuts or stones of the fruit are stored and dried until winter when they are cracked opened to extract their oil-rich kernels.
In the Owambo regions in north-central Namibia, the Marula harvest usually takes place during February and March. The Omaongo festival celebrates the harvest and ‘omaongo’ – Marula wine. During the Omaongo festivities, traditional court sessions are suspended.
The nuts or stones of the fruit are kept for the drier times of the year when women carry out the labour-intensive kernel extraction. These are pounded for the delicious, nutty oil – ondjove - which is added as a condiment to foods.
Traditionally, the oil-rich kernels of the Marula fruit are pounded into a delicious nutty oil.
Rural women’s cooperative
Local women also extract kernels to deliver to Eudafano Women’s Co-operative. Located on the outskirts of Ondangwa, the co-operative manually cold-presses the Marula kernels to produce a high-quality Marula Oil. Omagadhi or ondjove has been identified as a valuable ingredient for natural body products to keep skin soft and supple. Eudafano means ‘agreement’ or ‘common understanding’ in Oshikwanyama, conveying the harmonious synergy of the project.
High in oleic and linoleic fatty acids and natural antioxidants, Marula Oil softens and rehydrates the skin. Marula is one of the more stable oils, considerably more resistant to becoming rancid than many other vegetable oils. This generous oil is known for its anti-ageing properties and has been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity.
Marula’s healing oil has been known and used traditionally over the aeons for its moisturising properties.