The !Nara is a thorny shrub that is endemic to the Namib Desert.The harsh desert conditions have formed a desert adapted plant, that grows on dune has up to 100 meter root systems , no leaves, small flowers but very nutritious fruit with seeds full of valuable oil…
The fruit are harvested as a valuable food source by the Topnaar (#Aonin) living along the Kuiseb river. The seeds are sold as snacks to the local community or fairly traded with desert hills, a Swakopmund based company that was initiated in 2007 by Volker & Stefanie Huemmer . Desert hills adds value to the seed sales by pressing a fine virgin oil that is used in a variety of food and natural cosmetic products.
The !Nara seeds are cold-pressed in a special patented spiral press without the use of solvents, chemicals or additives. The press technique allows the oil to keep its valuable healthy vitamins, pigments and flavors.
Tests (PPECB certificate no 57212 ANLA 0808) have shown that the oil has over 80% unsaturated fatty acids, with 58% being poly unsaturated and that it has a acidity of 0.5.
In 2010 the idea was born to use the !Nara oil in Natural Cosmetics. As the !Nara plant grows naturally in the Namib Desert without any human agricultural manipulation, this 100% pure, traditionally wild -harvested and truly “organic” plant seemed destined to be used to make up a true Namibian cosmetic line.
History had shown that traditionally the Topnaar (#Aonin) people had used crushed seeds to protect their skin in the harsh Namib Desert environment.
Today laboratory tests confirmed that the 100% pure, cold-pressed !Nara oil produced by Desert Hills is very high in Omega-6-fatty acids as well as vitamins. These fatty acid and vitamin combinations are very beneficial to dry and irritated skin conditions.
The !Nara Oil is also highly permeable, which means it has the ability to penetrate the skin and carry valuable vitamins, anti-oxidants and essential moisture deep into the hydro lipid layer to repair and re-hydrate sensitive skin.
Desert Hills use very high amounts of this healing !Nara Oil in each of their natural & organic skin care products. Together with other fine African waxes, butters and essential oils two !Nara cosmetic lines are produced by the company:
The !NARA BODY FOOD line is a natural cosmetic range especially developed for Namibian climate conditions. This well-priced line with its high levels of !Nara oil has proven to better dry skin conditions. For details regarding the products of this !Nara cosmetic line please go to the BODYFOOD page.
The !NARA NATURAL ORGANIC line has been formulated together with a professional team of skin care scientists. The scientifically backed formulations have been developed to meet the expectations placed on organic skin care today. The high permeability of the !Nara oil has been fully utilised while valuable African butters keep essential moisture and anti-oxidants “locked” in, keeping the skin naturally balanced, moisturised and protected all day and all night. All products in this NATURAL ORGANIC line have bar codes, INCI ingredient listings, as well by-pack booklets with translations into German / French / Italian and are export- ready. For details regarding the products of this cosmetic line please go to the NATURAL ORGANIC page.
Both cosmetic lines are not animal tested, further Desert Hills presses all !Nara oil using sun & wind power and subscribes to a holistic, ethical approach to the entire production cycle, this includes its out-sourced partner companies that are involved in some of the production process involving high-end equipment and technology as well as know-how not viable for a small company.
The rural Topnaar (#Aonin) pastoralists and gatherers that live in the lower Kuiseb valley, seasonally move into the !Nara “fields” between the dunes, on their donkey carts , to harvest these valuable !Nara fruits.
The hand-picked fruit are cut in half and the flesh scraped into a large drum. The peels are used to feed the donkeys
The pulp-filled drum is heated over a low-burning fire under constant stirring to slowly separate the seeds from the liquid fruit pulp.
The fruit pulp is a valuable food resource and the seeds are sold to create important income for some 300 rural Topnaar who live along the dry river bed and depend on small stock farming and !nara harvesting for their livelihoods. This 8000-year old tradition of hand picking and preparing the fruit is kept alive as a valuable heritage passed from generation to generation.
In a quest to help secure the !Nara plant for future generations, Desert Hills exchanges harvest information with the TTA (Topnaar Traditional Authority) and motivates harvester participation in plant monitoring and protection.
The Ministry of Environment as well as the Gobabeb Training & Research Centre research the ecology of this very dynamic desert plant, and give advice to harvesters using new findings as well as monitor the harvest.
Further the area that is actively harvested is only a fraction of the plants distribution area. Most of the !Nara plants grow in protected National Parks and are therefore not harvested.
Desert Hills has set up its Fairtrade responsibilities as follows:
At meetings held every year with the harvester groups and the appointed Topnaar trader, the prices, harvest conditions and seed preparation techniques are respectfully negotiated and set to benefit the harvester groups.
An amount of N$ 5.00 per every litre of !Nara Oil pressed by Desert Hills flows back into the Topnaar Community
The Topnaar Soap Ladies Project was initiated by Desert Hills. The project is backed by Cosdef (Community Skills Development Foundation) and the Topnaar Women’s Council. A group of Topnaar ladies have been trained to make beautiful hand-crafted artisan !Nara Glycerine soaps and sell these through shops to create valuable income for their families.