Under the Marula Tree: We Learn How to Make Marula Oil the Traditional Way!

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During our recent Farm to Girl 20% Promise donation trip to Namibia, Dr. Kim Warren-Rhodes met under the beautiful marula tree with the ladies of the Limene Nelumbu Marula cooperative, who showed her how raw marula oil has traditionally been made for centuries in rural Africa.

The Marula Nut Tree. Photo Credit: Kim Warren-Rhodes

Kim Warren-Rhodes: “As you can see, this is such an amazing group of women. I was inspired by their joy for life, so evident in their beautiful clothing and in the singing and dancing that graced our meeting under the shady marula tree. I noticed that we, and the marula tree, were encircled by fields of maize—a staple for rural village farms in Namibia—and thought this was quite symbolic as a meeting place for women from a company called Farm to Girl.

The ladies of the Limene Marula Cooperative. Photo Credit: Kim Warren-Rhodes

So, how is Marula Nut Oil Made?

Take a look at the video and photos below to see Farm to Girl’s “production line.”

And, just know that with every purchase, YOU make a positive difference in the world by empowering every one of the women here to improve their lives and economic well-being.

The Marula Oil ‘Team’ in Namibia. Photo Credit: Kim Warren-Rhodes

Step 1: Removing the Seed From the Marula Fruit

The first step in making marula oil is to separate the raw fruit (like a peach with a fruit stone)—which is, by the way, an absolute favorite of elephants—from the seed. The women use a sharpened cow horn to do this, and the raw fruit is surprisingly mucilaginous (read slimy!) and astringent. [As you can see in the video, they got a big kick out of Kim trying this and admonished her not to hurt herself with the sharp point!]. The marula fruit is a delicacy and is still eaten raw and made into a famous liquor in both Namibia and South Africa.

Removing the Seed from the Marula Fruit. Photo Credits: Kim Warren-Rhodes

Step 2: Cracking the Nut to Remove the Kernels

The ladies use an ax and wooden hammer to crack open the dried marula nuts and then deftly remove the kernels from the seed with a fine metal pick.

Cracking the marula nut. Photo Credit: Kevin Rhodes

Removing the kernels. Photo Credit: Kevin Rhodes

The marula kernels ready for pressing into oil. Photo Credit: Kim Warren-Rhodes.

Below, our colleague Salmi collects the kernels and records the weight for each of the ladies’ efforts during the harvest season.

Painstaking effort by the ladies produces the highest quality marula nuts for Farm to Girl’s marula oil. Photo credit: Kim Warren-Rhodes

Step 3: Extracting the oil from the marula kernels.

Traditionally, the kernels are put into a large wooden mortar and hand-ground with a wooden pestle until the liquid oil is ready. It’s quite labor intensive, and efficient extraction is an art— and a two-person job! Today, the marula is cold-pressed in a nearby production room to ensure the highest purity is achieved to meet fair trade and international standards. In this way, the cooperatives achieve the highest returns for their local communities.

Using a wooden mortar & pestle to extract the marula oil. Photo Credit: K. Rhodes

Marula oil from the traditional process. Photo credit: K. Rhodes

As you can see, the ladies of the cooperative are intimately involved in each step of Farm to Girl’s marula oil process. Thus, with every purchase you make, you are DIRECTLY helping them to achieve better lives.

From all of us at Farm to Girl and the women of the Limene Marula Cooperative,

THANK YOU BIG for your support!

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