Nelly Bassily | May 17, 2010
Devil’s claw is a plant native to southern Africa. The variety found in northern Namibia has the scientific name Harpagophytum zeyheri, or Xam!abo to the Khwe. A related plant named Harpagophytum procumbens is found in other regions, including Botswana and South Africa.
Devil’s claw is a shrub with lush foliage and red flowers. The plant gets its name from the miniature hooks that cover its fruit. Its active ingredients are harpagosides, which are found in the secondary root. Devil’s claw has been used for thousands of years in Africa for fever, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions, and conditions involving the gallbladder, pancreas, stomach and kidneys.
This story highlights the difficulties that can be encountered even when harvesters manage their own sustainable business. The world market affects prices, and even organic certification does not always guarantee a good return. While the product is managed sustainably, this is not enough. Some farmer’s organizations have joined together to get their products certified as organic or fair trade. Others find this route too expensive or unable to open as many doors as they hoped. While organic markets are small in Africa, there are opportunities for export. But can harvesters or small-scale farmers really benefit? This topic could make a good discussion or call-in/text-in show. You may wish to find some farmers’ organizations that grow certified organic crops and ask them about their experiences. Suggested questions:
-What changes did they need to make in order to meet the certification requirements?
-What certification procedures (inspections, audits, etc.) were conducted?
-What costs were associated with making changes and meeting certification requirements?
-How has their income changed as a result of certification?
-What tips do they have for farmers or farmers’ cooperatives who wish to obtain certification?
-Why did they decide to apply for organic certification?
-How can harvesters like the San overcome pressures such as tourism and climate change to develop their business?
For more information on the Soil Association, the UK-based organization that certified devil’s claw, go to: http://www.soilassociation.org/.
More information on organic agriculture, certification and trade can be found at:
A booklet for farmers thinking about entering the organic export market can be downloaded at: http://www.agromisa.org/index.php?PageId=140&PerformAction=ShowDetail&RecordId=303&StartRecord=0.