Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Morula tree, products greatly underexploited in Botswana

In a typical Botswana household in the rural areas, a morula tree and its products have six uses on average. In north central Namibia however, there are many more uses for both the tree and its products. Its fruit and kernel are used to make wine, juice, cooking oil, cake, porridge, animal feed, cosmetic oil and jam. The tree itself is used for firewood as well as to make housing/fencing poles and wooden utensils. Its leaves, branches, roots and bark are used as medicine and edible caterpillars and larvae are harvested from it. Whereas the empty nuts are thrown away in Botswana, in the north central regions of Namibia, they are used to make firewood. The shelf life of the wine made from morula in Botswana is very short ÔÇô only a couple of days. On the other side of another border, that wine can last up to one year depending on how it is stored. In the Limpopo province in South Africa, harvesters make a much stronger wine called nhlowa which, for an undisclosed reason, is usually drunk over the Easter holiday period. What this establishes is that commercial retailing of the morula tree is greatly underexploited in Botswana. A desk study by the Private Sector Development Programme under Business Botswana shows that in as far as traditional morula uses go, north central Namibia is unrivalled in the region. The high utilization of morula owes to the cultural practices of the Owambo people who settled within the Cuvelai Delta due to its higher quality soils. The Owambo have cultivated and protected morula trees on their farms as a valuable multipurpose tree crop. In the north central regions of Namibia, the tree is mainly found and owned by farm households, rather than grow in the wild on common land. Oddly, these practices have not been replicated in other parts of the country. In the Kunene region, morula trees are not protected on farms but grow naturally in the wild. Here, the trees are considered a source of food for livestock and the fruits are not collected for human consumption. In the Kavango region, people are only interested in the tree for shade than for the fruit and prefer the non-fruiting male tree over the female tree. In the Caprivi region, people tend to shun the morula tree because it attracts elephants.
Morula trees tend to be more productive with a bit of tender loving care that the Owambo lavish on them. The average number of fruits in the north central regions of Namibia in farm land where the trees have been nurtured and selected over time for highest yields produce 35 000 on average. On the other hand, fruits from trees in unprotected communal land produce 6 500 fruits on average.
A lucrative export market for morula cosmetic oil is waiting in the European Union and the United States for Botswana but before it is exploited, there is need to develop a supply chain. “The implication for developing a supply chain of morula oil in Botswana is that it is uncertain as to whether the fruit yield of trees has been developed by selective grafting of new trees by communities, and the extent of ease of access and ownership of trees by individual households, and the extent of traditional and current use of the fruit and tree as part of their daily food and livelihood. These will be important parameters to understand in order to develop a scalable supply chain to meet export demand for morula oil,” the study says.



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