The harvesting and sale of Devil’s Claw from the Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna conservancies significantly contributed to the income of women in 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plant reacted positively to the good rains that were experienced in the area in early last year and this year. Native to southern Africa, Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) gets its name from the tiny hooks that cover its fruit. Historically, Devil’s Claw has been used to treat pain, liver and kidney problems, fever and malaria. It has also been used in ointments to heal sores, boils and other skin problems.
When New Era arrived in Makari village early in the morning, we found the plant drying on a black net. Women wake up as early as 04h00 to go to harvest as they are motivated after the bumper harvest of last year.
A rotational harvesting system and sustainable harvesting methods introduced and diligently followed by harvesters allows them to benefit from this method every year.
#Nisa Tsamkxa, one of the harvesters New Era came across in the area, said they go there early in the morning to harvest Devil’s Claw and bring it home for drying before they supply it to the conservancy that sells it to a buyer in Windhoek.
In 2021, up to 1 200 harvesters received a direct income of between N$2.5 million and N$3 million dollars. In addition, conservancies receive a management fee for coordinating and managing the harvesting and sales. Harvesters, rightfully, receive at least 85% of the total income.
Project manager Silke Hofs said the women are now living improved lives, having been trained in the sustainable use of the plant.
“One of the results consisted in the development and implementation of an integrated land management plan for the two conservancies. Among many others, extensive training in the sustainable harvesting and processing techniques of Devil’s Claw took place in the framework of this project, as well as support to the certification process for the Fair Trade label, which ensures better market prices,” she noted.
Through the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation (NNDF), an important aspect related to the harvesting and sale of Devil’s Claw is that harvesters from marginalised communities with few other opportunities earn massive income.
Saskia Sheehama of the NNDF explained that the purchase price, negotiated at the beginning of each harvesting season, reflects the price paid for organically certified Devil’s Claw. This Devil’s Claw is sustainably harvested, quality-controlled, fully traceable and has been processed and stored in a manner that ensures that quality is assured.
She said an important part of the success of the harvesting and sale of Devil’s Claw in these conservancies has been the relationship with EcoSo Dynamics, which has been purchasing in both conservancies for more than 15 years consistently. This has brought stability and security to harvesters as they understand that they can sell what they produce, and will get a fair price.
“It is important to harvest properly so that the plant does not die, which allows us to harvest the same plant again in a few years. The training is vital. It shows us how to process Devil’s Claw because it is a medicine, and we want to produce a good quality,” said N/haokxa Kaqece and Xoan Kxam/oo, harvesters from the village of Ben se Kamp.
“Devil’s Claw is a good example of where the harvesters of the conservancy benefit directly and can decide for themselves on how to use that money. Our members, especially women, do not have many opportunities to earn cash income, and this (Devil’s Claw) provides them with an opportunity to do this,” reiterated Nyae Nyae Conservancy chairperson Xoan//’an /Ai/ae.
An important factor that contributes to the success of the Devil’s Claw undertakings in both conservancies is the consistency created by having a reliable buyer with proper contracts in place, and everybody involved knows their roles and responsibilities.