Marula Fruit Brings Everyone Together
Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Southern Africa with the highest density of marula trees. Wherever it grows, it is venerated and preserved by local people for the abundance and reliable harvest of its edible fruits. In many areas people believe that ancestral spirits reside under marula trees and for this reason the trees are used in many traditional ceremonies.
Marula trees thrive in Chivi, where the climate is hot and dry and the soils are sandy. Seventy-year-old Norah Munyarari from Charunengwe village is a big fan. She can remember the days when the trees were used by everyone in the community for all kinds of purposes. The most popular traditional use has been to make the fruit into traditional beer, known as mukumbi, still enjoyed by all members of the community today. Beer making brings friends and families together and is an essential ingredient in traditional ceremonies.
BIZ has been partnering with local women in Chivi since 2012, helping them add value to the fruits and find markets for their products. They receive training on how to collect the fruits, dry the nuts, and extract the kernels.
Vongai (39) from ward 16 in Chivi district joined the project at the start. She explains: “I wake up early to pick freshly fallen fruit, probably all from 1 tree. Once home, I remove the yellow skin and squeeze the juice into a container, separating out the nuts. Sometimes when I mean business I use a mortar and pestle to pound the fruit. The juice makes a delicious drink for my family. I spread out the clean nuts just behind my house and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks. I then place my 2 rocks on a clean sack, sit on my grass mat and crack the nuts, patiently plucking out the kernels. A day of cracking gives me enough money for at least 2 meals for my whole family; I’m proud to be such a business woman.”
Vongai’s life changed for the better when she began cracking nuts from the local marula trees and selling kernels. She manages to pay school fees and buy books for her 3 children now. She also bought 3 goats, blankets, kitchen pots and even built a better house with zinc roofing. “I’m planning to build another house to rent out after the next season. I am now a homeowner with plans for expansion, which will generate more money. I have learnt that it is important to preserve marula trees for the women who come after me.”
When asked about community attitudes towards the marula tree gogo Norah speaks of its power to unite. “The marula trees belong to all of us in the community. There are unwritten rules, social and traditional norms that govern how and where to harvest which keep us connected, working towards the betterment of our families.”