Makalani wine tapping kills palms

25 October 2017 | Agriculture

The Uukwambi Traditional Authority says it was not aware that the tapping of sap from makalani palms to make a traditional wine known as omalunga is wiping out the trees.

Many Aawambo people make wine from the sap of the makalani palm.

According to Shivute Iiyambo, an elder of Iiyale village near Elim, the process begins by selecting a mature, male palm. Its size and proximity to groundwater determine the amount of sap it produces, with some palms secreting over 100 litres.

The trunk is pierced with stakes carved from a harder wood that act as a ladder to the top of the tree. The men climb up and behead the tree by cutting its crown from the trunk.

This eventually causes the tree to die, but first the sweet, white sap that flows out is collected and fermented with naturally occurring yeasts.

“This is very simple and we earn a lot of money from the sale of the wine that is liked by many of the Aawambo people. The palms are many, even if they die they will not get finished,” Iiyambo said.

In his Arbour Day message this year, the minister of agriculture, water and forestry, John Mutorwa, called on all Namibians to commit themselves to reducing deforestation and at the same time promoting sustainable livelihoods for all forest-dependent communities.

Mutorwa said all citizens must be reminded of the importance of planting and conserving trees.

“Globally, Arbour Day provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees. It is a day on which individuals and groups are encouraged and motivated to plant trees,” Mutorwa said.

The spokesperson for the Uukwambi Traditional Authority, Reinhold Iita, said it was not communicated to them that the practice was killing trees, otherwise they would have stopped it.

“At Uukwambi Traditional Authority we care about the environment. We always try to conserve nature by preventing community members from engaging in practices that may harm the environment and its resources,” Iita said.

Iita said he could not remember any report that reached the authority about environmental damage caused by the wine making.

A conservation scientist in the ministry of environment and tourism, Ipeinge Mundjulu, could not say whether the tapping of makalani sap is legal.

ILENI NANDJATO

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