PhytoTrade Africa

panier de Marula
Local development & biodiversity
Promoting four sustainable sectors
in Southern Africa
At the heart of PhytoTrade
4 sectors
marula, baobab, devil’s claw, mafura
It represents
12,510 members
engaged in a cooperative or association
Amon them
are women
By partnering with the initiative led by PhytoTrade Africa, FFEM and AFD aim to demonstrate that promoting certain natural products and traditional knowledge, in a concerted and responsible manner, contributes to both preserving the ecosystems they come from, curbing deforestation, and also to increasing incomes for rural communities, who are the first beneficiaries.

Community-based natural resources management practices – meaning the management delegated by the State of resources from communal land – are at the heart of the PhytoTrade project.

This community-based management method offers benefits at all levels:

  • It diversifies and increases sources of income for rural communities, especially for women.
  • It develops small industries in Africa and inclusive supply markets for natural products.
  • It increases annual sales of ingredients and finished products for its members.
  • It promotes the sustainable management of the environment.
  • It curbs deforestation.

“Today, we have some 70 member SMEs in 8 countries. They produce the ingredients mainly for local and international cosmetics and agrifood industries. It is in this context that PhytoTrade’s two flagship industries (Marula oil and Baobab powder) were presented at the Paris International Agricultural Show this year, in 2016.

Most of our industries concern the development of non-timber forest products. We are supporting about ten, which all meet the principles of BioTrade as defined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  

With the recent entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, and as we are de facto involved in the resulting legal obligations, we are actively supporting the establishment of laws that are pragmatic and as simple as possible, while ensuring the interests of supplier countries are effectively taken into account.”

Véronique Rossow, Research and Development Director of the Platform.
cracking kernel
group offering basket marula
Women are mobilizing to develop the Marula oil industry
In the Ondangwa region in Namibia, 100% of the rural production of marula is carried out by women. The Eudafano Women Cooperative (EWC) counts over 2,500 collectors organized into communities. Each collector is the “owner” of her trees and the cooperative belongs to Namibian women.

EWC provides raw materials, supports the industry and ensures that producers receive a fair remuneration.

The communities harvest the fruits and sell the kernels to the Ondangwa factory (also owned by EWC), which processes them into fermented drinks and Marula oil.

The hulling is done manually, using a rather dangerous traditional method: you need to use an axe to open the nut. The hulling stage is a key issue for the development of the industry, and a prototype of a mechanical huller is currently being tested on site.
marula fruit
EWC and PhytoTrade Africa are working together for research and development in the industry
EWC has been a member of PhytoTrade Africa (PTA) for about ten years.

They work together for research and development, the economic viability of products and the management of resources. This partnership contributes to the economic and social development of poor rural communities in Namibia and to the preservation of ecosystems, thanks to the marketing of natural products.

The objective is to further open the market, increase demand and strengthen the resilience of the industry, by seeking specific properties associated with the use of this oil in various cosmetic formulations. This stage includes making its potential better known to users (cosmetic brands and consumers). Another major challenge lies in obtaining Novel Food and GRAS approvals for Europe and the USA, with the aim of developing the agrifood sector.
marula fruit
The Marula is a tree used for a number of domestic and traditional needs
The Marula can grow up to 20 meters. It is a tree highly resistant to drought which is found abundantly from the Bushveld to the woodlands.

Each part of this tree is used to meet a number of domestic needs and perform important traditional rites. A tree produces about 500 kg of fruit every year, which is commonly eaten fresh, or used to prepare juices and jellies. This fruit is also considered locally as a powerful insecticide.

Marula oil is slightly yellow, with a strong smell of nuts. It has a low oxidation rate and high antioxidant properties. The bark is used as a prophylactic treatment for malaria, and the leaves are chewed to treat indigestion and heartburn. It is very rich in vitamins C and E, in oleic acid, in minerals and in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. It softens, moisturizes and naturally revitalizes the skin. Its properties are highly sought after in the cosmetics sector as it is stable against oxidation and organoleptically neutral: Marula oil is used by cosmetic brands.

Production stands at approximately 10 tons a year, part of which is reserved for local food consumption.

FROM 2012 TO 2015

The Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supported the project Natural Products Certified to Preserve Biodiversity and Support Local Development in Southern Africa, led by PhytoTrade Africa.


PhytoTrade Africa has received a EUR 900,000 grant from FFEM and a further EUR 1m from AFD.



The project has been implemented in eight countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


In the field, the cooperative members of PhytoTrade apply the principles of the Nagoya Protocol of the International Convention on Biological Diversity, concerning access to and the equitable sharing of the exploitation of genetic resources. These initiatives contribute to a relevant structuring of the industry in terms of:

  • Regulation
  • Traceability
  • Guarantee of quality
  • The territorial approach, which integrates environmental, economic and social issues.

Through a common ethics charter, the members undertake to establish sustainable management plans for targeted species and respect fair trade relations.