Calls are mounting for urgent research of the possible value addition to devil’s claw as well as its potential multiple uses.
Pushing for the calls is the long held view that further research of the plant’s value could boost small business opportunities.
Otjozondjupa Governor Otto Ipinge is the most recent politician who wants to see more research done on the indigenous plant. He made the call when visiting the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community Forest offices at Mangetti Dune in the Tsumkwe west area, where he was given a briefing on the business activities of the conservancy.
The roots of devil’s claw – dubbed Namibia’s valuable healing plant – are used to reduce pain and fever and stimulate digestion.
However, there is very little entrepreneurial drive towards value-addition and exploiting the business ventures within the ambit of the multiple use of the plant.
This is besides the fact that the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) estimates that volume traded and the significant export earnings that Namibia accrues [from devil’s claw] are in the region of N$20 million to N$30 million per annum in the last five years.
NBRI has noted that devil’s claw harvesters are generally subsistence farmers living in communal areas, where resources are limited and shared.
NBRI aims to promote the understanding, conservation and sustainable use of Namibian plants for the benefit of all.
“Many households do not own livestock or only have small numbers of animals. These communities are most vulnerable during the dry months, especially if they have been unable to store sufficient quantities of grain during the rainy season to provide staple foods during the rest of the year. During these periods households need to buy food to supplement the limited amounts they have been able to produce through agricultural activities and, in some cases, what they can harvest from wild foods,” says the NBRI.
Devil’s claw harvesting and sales by harvesters to traders take place after the end of the rainy season. The Namibian devil’s claw policy states that devil’s claw can be harvested from March to October, but harvesting generally starts in June, once the rains have ceased and crops have been harvested from the fields
At N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community Forest the majority of the San community makes a living by generating income via various tourism-related activities, mostly trophy hunting, in the conservancy.
According to the conservancy vice-chairperson, Sarah Zungu, harvesting devil’s claw and selling it to local buyers in raw form has become a major source of income at Mangetti Dune, which is situated over 180 kilometres east of Grootfontein in the Otjozondjupa Region. The local buyers export sliced and dried devil’s claw to various countries, where it is in demand for medicinal purposes.
Devil’s claw derives its name from the fruiting body, which has sharp, re-curved hooks protruding off the fruit, which assist in seed dispersal by attaching themselves to almost anything, including animal pelts.
Interestingly many of the local names for devil’s claw (gamagu in Damara, makakata in Oshindonga, omalyata in Oshikwanyama, otjihangatene in Oshiherero and malamatwa in Silozi) in Namibia refer to this feature. The name devil’s claw is a direct translation from the German name Teufelskralle whereas the English name for the plant is grapple plant.
Ipinge said it would be good for his office to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development to request them to consider value addition to devil’s claw before it is exported.
Ipinge also said his office would contact Unam’s research department for it to conduct a case study on the multiple uses of this natural resource.
He said that adding value to the plant before export will automatically create employment. – Additional reporting by Nampa.