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Rural women profit from biodiversity-friendly AfCFTA trade

Rural women profit from biodiversity-friendly AfCFTA trade

By Freeman Ngulu.

A study by the Division on International Trade and Commodities of the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD), found that sustainable use and trade of indigenous plants has created valuable economic opportunities for 2500 Namibian women and their communities.

Such an opportunity is the Eudafano Women’s Cooperative (EWC) which extracts ingredients from indigenous marula seed and Kalahari melon seeds for the domestic and international cosmetics industry.

EWC is a leading producer of marula oil in the southern African region and is run by a board made up exclusively of women from the community, its revenues steadily increasing over the years. In 2020, sales from marula kernels fetched the cooperative’s members about N$158,000, a 14% jump from 2019. The cooperative empowers its members and their communities economically by ensuring they are paid fair prices.

Oil extracted from marula seeds is rich in elements that are essential for the preservation of human skin, making it an ideal ingredient for cosmetics. The cooperative commercializes the marula and other plants in line with a set of guidelines on environmental, social and economic sustainability, known as BioTrade principles and criteria.

Through its activities, implemented under the BioTrade definition, EWC benefits around 2500 women working in 27 associations. EWC members’ revenues increased five-fold between 2012 and 2015 and continued to increase thereafter.

“We use the plants to support our livelihoods, while conserving them so that they sustain us for a long time,” said Martha Negumbo, the cooperative’s manager.

Ms Negumbo said applying BioTrade principles enables the cooperative to “promote sustainability, equal sharing of benefits and respect for the rights of all actors, especially the local community.”

The UNCTAD study was prepared by Frederic Perron-Welch, a consultant for Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in the Division on International Trade and Commodities of UNCTAD, under the supervision of Lorena Jaramillo and David Vivas Eugui.

The latest African Union’s report tabled in 2022 also notes that it is important to dedicate special efforts to liberalizing trade in environmental goods to spearhead efforts in Africa for radically improving environmental conservation and sustainable use practices. Increasing market access for BioTrade products will require addressing both tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

If implemented with a concerted effort, this will provide a sound basis for furthering the development of the AfCFTA framework in a manner that promotes the development and growth of sustainable enterprises focused on commercializing goods and services based on Africa’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems.

“We value the marula tree. You won’t find people cutting it down, now that they know its benefits,” Ms Negumbo said.


About The Author

Freeman Ya Ngulu

Freeman Ngulu is an investigtor, an author and a keen entrepreneur. His speciality is data journalism for which he loves to dig deep into topics often ignored by mainstream reporting. He tweets @hobameteorite.