Mrs Memory Mukamuri is a wild collector of Marula fruit in the Chivi District in Zimbabwe.Two-thirds of the district’s land lies in Zimbabwe’s lowest agro-ecological classification where the soils are poor and prone to erosion and persistent droughts are common and rainfall is low and erratic.

Most households in the district are always food insecure. The Marula tree grows naturally in abundance in those areas and produces a fruit every year from February to April. Traditionally, the fruit is used for brewing a local beer. Memory joined a small project that collects Marula fruit, extracts the kernels and nuts and produces Marula oil and nuts.

The project participants received training on how to sustainably harvest Marula fruit, decortications of the nut, and hygienic extraction of Marula oil, and processing of nuts and nut butter from two local organisations. But the challenges were manifold: no access to larger international markets resulting in very low sales, quality and technology constraints as well as no certification schemes in place. Soon after, a funded program came into place with a consortium of NGO’ s and other players such as USAID, EC and BIZ.

The program commercialised 10 natural plant species (including Marula) for the global food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry on a large scale for more than 4,000 farmers and wild collectors in Zimbabwe. According to Memory, the USAID and EC assistance has significantly transformed her life. She boasts of the project having steadily improved her income.

She recounts: “I realised about $450 from the project last year and used the money to pay school fees for my 3 grand children, buy food, clothes, blankets and a she-goat. I encourage other women to join the project so that they uplift themselves from poverty like I did.”