The Devil’s Claw harvesting season which ended recently saw San communities generate close to N$1million in sales for approximately 450 harvesters in the Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna Conservancies, with both conservancies having reported a bumper harvesting season of the sought-after herb.
The circumstances facing the San communities residing in the Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna conservancies are difficult, however many members have taken to harvesting and selling devil’s claw to earn much needed supplementary cash income.
Nyae Nyae Development Foundation coordinator Lara Diez said Devil’s Claw harvesters have produced around 20 tonnes of the organically certified plant.
Namibia is the largest supplier of Devil’s globally and is the only source of organic Devil’s Claw in the world, which is higly sought after and valuable. Although complying with organic certification is a costly exercise for the conservancies, it differentiates their product from competitors.
In Namibia Devil’s Claw is listed as a protected plant, however the law allows for the harvesting and sale of the plant, but permits are required.
Devil’s Claw is used all over the world as a non-prescription medicine and is taken to relieve arthritis, lower back, knee and hip pain amongst other ailments. It is can also be used to treat a number of other conditions including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendonitis, loss of appetite and digestive disorders.
In addition, Diez said the conservancies also managed to generate their own income that covered the costs of organising and implementing their devil’s claw activities.
Of the total income generated harvesters retain over 90 percent of the income, creating a real self-sufficient money making endeavour, she added. According to her, the income makes a significant difference in and to these impoverished communities.
The conservancies are currently being supported with an EU Climate Change Adaptation Grant, focused on food security and livelihood diversification, according to the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation, that is implementing the project, amongst others in both conservancies.
Many of the Devil’s Claw activities would not have been implemented, were it not for the important work carried out by the conservancies’ Devil’s Claw coordinators. N!aici Kaqece has been a Devil’s Claw coordinator in the Nyae Nyae conservancy since 2010.
He is responsible for numerous activities that enable the harvesters to reap and sell the rare plant. “It is essential that the harvesters and others comply with the standards that are required in order to be able to sell certified organic Devil’s Claw and Kaqece ensures this is the case,” she acknowledged.
N!aici said: “Devil’s Claw is a medicine and therefore it must always be of the highest standard, complying with these quality standards also ensures harvesters can earn more income. We are proud that our medicine is used by others all over the world.”
N!aici further said organic certification ensures that sustainable harvesting methods are used, adding it is important that they harvest sustainably so that they can continue to harvest and sell the valuable plant in future.
“It is for this reason that we monitor our harvesting and manage our resources. It is good for me to do this work as it builds my capacity and experience. It is also good to work with members of the conservancy by enabling them to earn an income,” he said.
According to him, the income is essential for the people in the conservancies, as it enables them to buy food, clothes and even livestock, as well as giving them a sense of pride and self-worth by being able to provide for themselves.
N!aici said although it is sometimes challenging, the key to success is to engage with the harvesters so that problems can be identified and addressed in good time.