The rural Topnaar (#Aonin) pastoralists and gatherers that live in the lower Kuiseb valley, seasonally move into the !Nara “fields” between the dunes, on their donkey carts , to harvest these valuable !Nara fruits.
The hand-picked fruit are cut in half and the flesh scraped into a large drum. The peels are used to feed the donkeys
The pulp-filled drum is heated over a low-burning fire under constant stirring to slowly separate the seeds from the liquid fruit pulp.
The fruit pulp is a valuable food resource and the seeds are sold to create important income for some 300 rural Topnaar who live along the dry river bed and depend on small stock farming and !nara harvesting for their livelihoods. This 8000-year old tradition of hand picking and preparing the fruit is kept alive as a valuable heritage passed from generation to generation.
In a quest to help secure the !Nara plant for future generations, Desert Hills exchanges harvest information with the TTA (Topnaar Traditional Authority) and motivates harvester participation in plant monitoring and protection.
The Ministry of Environment as well as the Gobabeb Training & Research Centre research the ecology of this very dynamic desert plant, and give advice to harvesters using new findings as well as monitor the harvest.
Further the area that is actively harvested is only a fraction of the plants distribution area. Most of the !Nara plants grow in protected National Parks and are therefore not harvested.
Desert Hills has set up its Fairtrade responsibilities as follows:
At meetings held every year with the harvester groups and the appointed Topnaar trader, the prices, harvest conditions and seed preparation techniques are respectfully negotiated and set to benefit the harvester groups.
An amount of N$ 5.00 per every litre of !Nara Oil pressed by Desert Hills flows back into the Topnaar Community
The Topnaar Soap Ladies Project was initiated by Desert Hills. The project is backed by Cosdef (Community Skills Development Foundation) and the Topnaar Women’s Council. A group of Topnaar ladies have been trained to make beautiful hand-crafted artisan !Nara Glycerine soaps and sell these through shops to create valuable income for their families.