Indigenous natural products
Bringing income opportunities for improved rural livelihoods
Commercially traded indigenous plant species in Namibia include !nara, devil's claw, marula, ximenia, commiphora, Kalahari melon, marama bean, mopane, hoodia and some other species. Commercial interest in indigenous plant resources emanated from Namibia's multi–cultural society with its high levels of traditional knowledge and use of these resources, largely for food, medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Today a number of products are made with ingredients from these resources and are available in the local and international market.
Indigenous plants are harvested by members of rural communities in communal, conservancy and community forest areas on a managed, open access basis. Permits from the relevant authorities are required for harvesting, transporting and trading these resources, to control activities and ensure sustainable utilisation of the resources. Namibia is committed to the principle of sustainable utilisation of its biological resources, by preserving these for the benefit of all Namibian, now and in the future. Over the years, Namibia has built up a reputation for successful natural resource management. This has been achieved though the community-based natural resources management programme, and in so doing has contributed to an improvement in the livelihood of rural people and the conservation of biodiversity.
Income generated from sales of indigenous plant products is estimated to have been in excess of N$ 100 million between 2008 and 2012. There are some 8,000 people involved in the indigenous plant product sector, of which 90% are woman. While the contribution of the sector to the GDP remains negligible, the sector is significant for the national economy both because of its contribution to the livelihoods of many rural people in Namibia as an alternative source of income.
Potential benefits to resource owners and holders of associated traditional knowledge from indigenous plant resources go beyond biotrade. Namibia is currently developing legislation and implementing procedures and regulations for controlled, conditional access to and use of these resources and associated traditional knowledge for further research and product development by interested bio-prospecting companies, organisations and research institutions, to ensure recognition and compensation for their developmental use.