For our team located at our marula production facility in Botswana, each day offers a story. Some of the stories relate to the trials and tribulations of running a factory in a country, which cannot guarantee electricity or Internet… or even water at times, those essentials needed to keep a business rolling. Other stories focus on our buying adventures, trips to parts of Botswana, places that invite producers of “Naked and Afraid” to film episodes of contestants challenging the elements for survival.
We go in search of “pips” – those hard cores of the marula fruit. The fruit is like a plum… flesh surrounding a hard core. That core, once the flesh is removed and the “pip” washed and dried, holds one to four “eyes” – the kernels that hold the oil we will process into a clean, rich, pure ingredient for cosmetics.
The pips are collected by Batswana (the citizens refer to themselves as Batswana) and either brought to us “at the gate,” as we call delivery at our door, or we go to the villages and buy the pips directly from the local harvesters. The pips are dry, as the fruit has either rotted away on the ground or been made into a strong “beer,” after which the pips are set in the sun. When ready, the people put the pips in to bags for sale to us.
So, what is the story here? A few days ago, a “bucky” – a small pickup truck – arrived at our gate. In the back of the truck were bags of marula pips, all dried and in beautiful condition. ½ ton of pips! The truck had traveled from Shoshon, about a three-hour drive from the factory. The pips had been collected by a group of people, who are building a church in their community. They all chipped in enough pula (the country’s currency), so the driver could afford petro. The driver and his passenger arrived hungry and thirsty, and we were happy to feed them. The funds for the sale would be applied to their church building.
In fact, they promised us more pips over the coming months. We are delighted! The marula comes from an area we know produces excellent oil. But, beyond that, we achieve our mission of enhancing local economies. The money gained by the sale of a local, sustainable, natural product supports individuals and communities.
A “win-win” – and we love it!
Speaking of stories, we recommend Alexander McCall Smith and his series of novels, “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (http://url.ie/11w17), for anyone interested in learning more about Botswana. The stories are delightful and fun to read. Each book offers a picture of Botswana – its land, its people, its development. The stories are a bit dated (set a couple decades ago), but much remains unchanged. And, of course, there are mysteries to be solved….