A KATIMA Mulilo resident recently started stocking up on devil’s claw roots to dry them for medicinal and other uses.
Margaret van Rooi says inhabitants of the region, especially the elderly, are suffering ill health, and she wants to make a difference.
She is adamant that the plant’s root has medicinal properties.
In the Silozi language the plant is called malamatwa, and is found not only in Namibia, but also in other southern African countries, such as Angola, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.
The plant’s roots and tubers are used to make medicine.
Devil’s claw, or the harpagophytum plant, has been used to treat atherosclerosis, arthritis, gout, muscle aches, back ache, tendonitis, chest pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, heartburn, fever, and migraines.
Van Rooi claims the plant can also relieve high blood pressure and stabilise blood sugar.
She sells the roots cut into smaller pieces, which are then exported to South Africa and Germany, where they are crushed and processed into a syrup.
Van Rooi, who relocated from Windhoek to Katima Mulilo last year, started her devil’s claw business to support her family, and has created job opportunities for 18 locals already.
On site she fills bags with the plant’s roots after a cleaning process, before the bags are sent off to Germany and South Africa.
“Most of the roots come from Botswana. It all started at Gobabis, Rundu, Divundu, Tsumkwe and Katima, and thus the demand is slowly rising,” she says.
She says she has received orders totalling 50 tonnes of the product so far.
“One thing I love is the process of how it is prepared. It’s really amazing to see how they take it out of the soil, how deep they actually go. And then they cut it and dry it. All of that is an experience I love partaking in,” she says.
Van Rooi says she prepares around 10 tonnes of roots a week.
In 2010, Namibia’s government approved a national policy on the utilisation of devil’s claw products.
To sell the plant, three permits are required: a cultivation permit, research permit and transport permit.
“It’s really high in demand. Now, the only thing is the price. People disagree over the pricing. It all depends on the quality they are looking for. The yellow ones are procumbens, and the brown ones are zahire. This means a lot to the people of Katima, because these people are suffering, especially the elderly,” Van Rooi says.
She encourages people to get familiar with this natural remedy while the demand for it is still relatively low in the region.
Research confirming the plant’s medicinal properties is not readily available.