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According to Kate Philip, CEO of Mineworkers Development Agency (MDA), "It is a thrilling moment to see Marula Natural Products come into being as a successful commercial operation from its roots as a community upliftment project."

Kate Philip's won Gauteng Premier's Award for Women Achievers in the category for business and the economy and has held the helm at MDA since its inception in the National Union of Mineworkers. MDA has pioneered a number of ambitious programmes. The successful launch of Marula Natural Products Pty Ltd is one project of which Kate Philip is especially proud.

"We have been working to bridge the traditional gaps where commercialisation of new products generally falls down. By creating links between research and development, on one hand, and the creation of markets, on the other hand, MDA has been able to facilitate products into commercial production," she says. MDA's track record in creating jobs and income for Southern African communities is remarkable. From stonework to marula products to fence making and skills building, they have had a big impact wherever they work.

The key challenge for MDA as a Development Agency has been how to bridge the gap between the significant commercial opportunities identified for Marula and the communities that hold the resource and need the economic benefits.

Kate explained the process, "MDA has piloted the research and development, the marketing, the initial production, and the community facilitation processes required to deliver two key marula products to market-readiness: marula oil and marula fruit pulp.

"We have demonstrated that where market demand is created, we can provide the community interface required to deliver the raw and pre-processed products at the volumes required. We believe this intermediary implementation function has been a key gap in many attempts at commercialisation of indigenous resources to date."

Marula Natural Products Pty Ltd is therefore the outcome of an extension of this intermediary implementation role.

All of the marula products identified depend on supply of the marula resource through local marula collection strategies: and this is the key way in which income opportunities are provided for local people. This is because the marula grows in the wild; it has never been commercially propagated on any significant scale. Unlike so many resources in South Africa, the marula resource has never been colonized: it remains in the hands of local communities, who control access to it on their homesteads and in the communal areas and harvest and farm the trees. Of course this may change: all the more important to develop a viable and vibrant strategy of commercialization that ensures local communities lead the process and derive the maximum benefits.



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