Community members from the Eiseb conservancy and Omuramba ua Mbinda conservancy in the Omaheke region were overjoyed by the financial boost close to N$ 300 000 from the sales of Devil’s Claw at their second buying event in July 2021.
The Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) with funding of N$1.5 million from Social Security Commission (SSC) under the Employment Creation Scheme has sought to support and equip around 100 Devil’s Claw harvesters from the two conservancies for two years to become self-employed and successful in generating an income from harvesting and selling the natural product.
Devil’s Claw (Harpophytum procumbens) is an indigenous plant to Southern Africa and is widely used as a medicine for treating arthritis, reducing pain and fever and stimulating digestion. More recently, it has become an important product for export to the European market with the biggest exports to France and Germany.
Since the first buying event at Okatumba Gate in August 2020, where N$160 000 was generated, two storage units have been constructed at Eiseb 10 and Okatumba Gate to serve as established buying points and managed by the conservancies.
“In the midst of a global pandemic that has now had a prolonged economic downturn, investments in income-generating opportunities, especially within rural areas, remains of vital importance as unemployed people and those that have lost jobs retreat to the villages for survival as urban areas prove to be difficult to live in,” said Nabot Mbeeli, NNF CBNRM Coordinator.
A second formal buying event was organised by Omuramba ua Mbinda Conservancy and Eiseb Conservancy with the support of NNF and was held on 9 and 10 July at Eiseb 10 and Okatumba Gate. Here, harvesters had the opportunity to sell their harvests at what they termed a “good price”, worthy of their efforts and without needing to travel long distances to find a buyer”.
Community members commented on the noticeable increase of participating harvesters and the amount of Devil’s claw at the events. Around 5 000 kilograms of Devil’s Claw were sold to EcoSo dynamics at N$58 per kilogram of which N$6,00 is subsidised for the administration of the conservancy’s buying point.
The administration of the conservancy plays a vital role in the selling price of Devils Claw by ensuring the quality of Devil’s Claw sold at the buying points is of a high standard and best harvesting practices are adhered to, to ensure sustainability.
In Namibia, Devils’ Claw is listed as a protected species under the 1977 Nature Conservation Ordinance of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and may not be harvested or exported without the correct permits. A “Sustainably Harvested Devil’s Claw (SHDC) Model” is being implemented in the Omaheke Region to ensure the long-term use of this plant resource. Sustainable harvesting of Devil Claw involves only partially harvesting the plants underground tubers, therefore not killing the plant, but allowing it time to recover for reharvest in future.
This in addition encompasses the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) model which ensures that the natural resources that community members are dependant on for their livelihoods are managed in a sustainable manner. Moreover, the sustainable use of the Devil’s Claw contributes to the extensive generation of incentives and conditions for an identified group of resource users in such conservancies. In addition, under the same model, formal buying events are also organized by the conservancies to cut out the middlemen and ensure that harvesters receive a fair price for the Devil’s claw.
The managers of the two conservancies Erwin Tjituka and Jacquiline Kandapaera commented that if harvesters continue to harvest sustainably, Devil’s Claws would continue to generate income for the community members, their families and generations to come.
Threats to Namibia’s Biodiversity
Namibia is a vast country with magnificent scenic beauty and well-preserved natural habitats. The country is rich in fauna and flora with a large number of endemic species concentrated along the west coast of the Namib Desert. These resources enrich the country through tourism and the ecosystem services provided.
However, biodiversity conservation is threatened by several factors such as over-exploitation of natural resources, poaching, overgrazing and bush encroachment. Humans have a dominant influence on the environment and most activities may pose a threat to biodiversity conservation. This places humans in a position of “primary drivers” of biodiversity loss.
Visit the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) articles and stories feature to read more on other issues such as landscape fragmentation and over-utilization of water which are threatening the conservation of biodiversity in Namibia.