TOPNAAR !nara harvesters on the banks of the Kuiseb River have been busy processing the thorny melon, to get its valuable seed out before the end of the season.
At Utuseb village, Butros Beukes (21) and Evan De-Quiva Goeieman (22) have just returned from the river where they collected the green !nara melons. They have been part of the trade since their early teens.
“We chose to be out here after many failed attempts to get employment at the industries at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. We make a reasonable income from the !nara plants, and it can only sustain us and our families until June,” said Beukes.
Goeieman explains that the !nara plants have many uses and benefits.
“There is a German woman who makes shampoos, facial products, oils and many other products from it. But for us here the root has many medicinal benefits. It’s used for body detoxing. We also make milk from the plant,” he said.
A thick sweet soup, from the seed separation process is dried and referred to as Nama chocolate and consumed throughout the year as an energy bar.
Harvesting season starts in November and ends in February. Collecting the !nara melon and processing them is done by men and young boys in the villages. The process is labour-intensive and requires strength, especially separating the seeds from the thick juice as it involves stirring it in a huge drum on a fire for up to six hours. This trade is passed down from one generation to another.
The community is anticipating a bountiful season as there are still a lot of melons in the riverbed to be harvested.