Namibian co-op uses BioTrade principles

A UNCTAD case study tells the story of a women’s co-op in Namibia

A women’s co-operative in Namibia is applying BioTrade principles as it markets cosmetic ingredients from seeds of indigenous plants such as marula.

Set up 22 years ago, Eudafano Women’s Cooperative builds on the local community’s knowledge while promoting the conservation of indigenous plants.

BioTrade principles encourage sustainable trade and investment in local natural resources while ensuring their long-term conservation.

“We value the marula tree. You won’t find people cutting it down, now that they know its benefits,” Martha Negumbo, the co-operative’s manager, told the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly.

UNCTAD launched a BioTrade Facilitation Programme in 2003 to help enterprises in developing countries with export promotion. The organisation believes that trade and biodiversity are not mutually exclusive, but rather can be mutually reinforcing if done under social, economic and environmental sustainability criteria such as the BioTrade Principles and Criteria.

UNCTAD and its partners are working with several co-operatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America. More than 80 countries have implemented the principles so far, which are also aligned with other multilateral environmental agreements, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris climate agreement.

“These principles empower local communities and cooperatives to protect biodiversity and benefit from it at the same time,” said Lorena Jaramillo, project manager of UNCTAD’s BioTrade initiative, said in an article.

The co-operative is owned by 2,500 women farmers who harvest marula fruits from wild trees and deliver their kernels and seeds to the co-operative’s factory, which produces up to 12 tons of marula oil.