One of the little-known Namibian treasures Ximenia americana (sour/ wild plum) is attracting attention internationally in the natural cosmetic industry for its anti-aging properties.
The Ximenia americana (sourplum) is fairly widely spread in northern Namibia, often found on sandy plains. The fruit is gathered and eaten when yellow and ripe, tasting plum-like when overripe.
There is much more to the medium-sized drought-resistant shrub/small tree with its orange-coloured fruit than initially meets the eye. The oil extracted from the kernel is a powerful tonic for dry and aging skin. Easily absorbed into the skin as a moisturiser, it also stimulates the functioning of the sebaceous tissue improving skin elasticity - soothing, softening and rejuvenating tired skin.
In Namibia a skin-softening oil is extracted from the Ximenia seeds.
Ximenia oil has had a long history of use in southern Africa, which includes the treatment of wounds and the maintenance of the bows and arrows of the San people. It has been used traditionally in northern Namibia as an emollient and hair-conditioner.
The production of this Namibian Ximenia oil is a result of the collaboration between the Tulongeni Twahangana Cooperative (TTC) in north-central Namibia and CRIAA SA-DC (the Centre for Research, Information, Action in Africa – Southern Africa Development and Consulting). CRIAA SA-DC is an NGO that supports rural communities, enabling them to benefit from sustainably-produced indigenous natural products.
Tulongeni Twahangana (meaning ‘Let us work together’ in Oshiwambo) has been operating as a cooperative since 2012 and has around 1000 members in the Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions where it is based, 98% of them women. Both TTC and CRIAA SA-DC are members of PhytoTrade Africa.
Women in rural areas delicately crack open the Ximenia nuts to extract the oil rich kernels for further processing.
From harvesting to home
The Ximenia oil-bearing kernels are exclusively produced by the cooperative members, who follow regular training on quality operations from harvesting to delivery of produce to the cooperative.
Ximenia fruits are harvested during the rainy season between November and February, when fruits are collected under trees after they ripen and fall. The harvesting is not harmful to the trees. Harvesters carry the fruits to their homesteads where they can carefully dry and be safely stored.
Around mid-year, when the local agricultural harvest is over, cooperative members clean the dried fruits, delicately crack open the nuts by hand and extract the kernels, which are protectively stored until sold to the cooperative at a collection point around July/September. Here each member’s delivery is checked, weighed and recorded so as to ensure clear traceability and accurate payment to each member. Kernels are therefrom transported to a facility to be cold-pressed for oil extraction. The virgin and refined oil qualities now makes its way into the cosmetic industry - locally and abroad - to be used as a valued skin-care ingredient.
The Tulongeni Twahangana Cooperative has got 1000 members, mainly women. The main objectives are to promote the economic and social interest of the members, and to preserve local biodiversity.