Ongandjera queen eyes omagongo empowerment

29 May 2019 | Cultural

The queen of Ongandjera, Adelheid Mupiya, wants to commercialise marula products such as the traditional beer known as omagongo.

Mupiya says she intends to motivate women to continue processing marula fruit into omagongo, cooking oil and other products by rewarding them for their efforts.

She says she has observed that women nowadays are no longer motivated to process marula fruit and the fruit is left to spoil on the tree.

“[Traditionally] marula fruit processing to produce omagongo was the responsibility of every woman in the eight Aawambo communities of northern Namibia. There was no way these fruits would be wasted and it was also every woman's pride to process them. Nowadays women are not interested,” Mupiya says.

“This is an initiative to empower women by rewarding them for their effort. For now we will consider those that will be producing for the annual Omagongo Festival, which sometimes experiences a shortage of omagongo because many women are not interested. The reward will be either in cash or in kind.”

Mupiya says when Ongandjera was preparing to host the 2019 Omagongo Festival they experienced a shortage of omagongo, while marula fruit was rotting on the trees. During the festival, Mupiya rewarded ten women with cash and certificates of appreciation for their contribution to the event.

She says many people have come forward to support her initiative and she has so far generated about N$100 000. Omagongo is not the only product can be obtained from the fruit of the marula tree. When marula fruits fall from the trees people wait until they are ripe before extracting juice.

The fresh marula juice (oshinhwa) tastes sweet and can be drunk immediately.

If the juice is fermented for two to three days, it turns into omagongo, which is an alcoholic drink.

“After extracting the juice, the fruit skins and seeds are also useful. The skins can be dried and used as animal feed, while the seeds are left to dry until they are ready to be cracked to obtain the white kernels, which are then then processed to extract the oil,” Mupiya says.

During this year's festival, its patron, former president Sam Nujoma, encouraged young people to be innovative so that omagongo and its byproducts can be marketed outside Namibia.

“This adds value to these natural heritage products and has a significant impact on the socio-economic conditions in the rural areas of our country.

“To do this, we must commit ourselves to plant more marula trees, not only to ensure continuity, but also to have more trees on a larger scale to produce more omagongo,” Nujoma said.

ILENI NANDJATO

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