Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom (fifth from right) with members of the Nourivier Kougoed project in the Kamiesberg region of Namaqualand
Three rural communities in the Northern Cape involved with agro-processing of essential oils and indigenous medicinal plants welcomed Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Mr Derek Hanekom, accompanied by delegates from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and CSIR project management staff, during recent project site visits.
The communities are situated at the rural villages of Nourivier, Pella and Onseepkans in the semi-arid north-western regions of the Northern Cape. The Nourivier Kougoed project is located in the Kamiesberg region of Namaqualand where project staff proudly showed their kougoed cultivation under shade house conditions and shared their local knowledge about the traditional uses of kougoed.
The next stop was the Pelsan Rose geranium essential oils project at Pella where Mr Hanekom met with staff and board members of the Pelsan Section 21 Company followed by a tour of the facilities including a nursery, distillation factory, offices and approximately 55 ha of cultivated fields.
Further along the Gariep River, the delegation visited Onseepkans where members of the Sidasoas Section 21 Company cultivate, harvest and distil Rose geranium on a 33 ha site. Due to the high demand for the essential oil produced at these sites, as evidenced by sales of the first 1.7 tons of oil during the past few years to local as well as international buyers, the final process of transforming the projects into sustainable enterprises is currently underway.
The visit illustrated the positive socio-economic impact that can be achieved by transferring agro-processing technology developed by the CSIR to resource-poor farmers in the rural areas of the country.
Agro-processing is one of the key sectors identified by government “that demonstrate strong potential for socio-economic growth, employment creation and value addition”, hence the initiative to demonstrate rural-based agronomy and value-adding processing of indigenous plants with commercial potential.
Through its enterprise creation activities, the CSIR implements projects funded by the DST and the European Union (EU), aimed at developing the local agro-industrial sector. The goal is to create community-based, agro-processing enterprises based on the sustainable cultivation, harvesting and processing of essential oils and indigenous medicinal plants. Essential oils are high-value products that find application in the fine fragrance industry while pre-processed plant material is supplied to manufacturers of herbal medicines for further processing and product development.
The CSIR identifies plant species with commercial potential for cultivation and processing by rural communities in the various climatic zones of the country. DST Sustainable Livelihoods and the CSIR have an ongoing partnership aimed at developing the local agro-processing sector by providing infrastructure, technology transfer, training, market development and business incubation for emerging farmers. The aim is to demonstrate commercial-scale agro-processing of indigenous plant species with cosmetic, medicinal and/or nutritional value, thereby adding value to indigenous knowledge on traditional plant use, while contributing to the conservation of local biological resources.