In South Africa, the marula fruit (Sclerocarya birrea) – aka morula / mokano in local languages in the Limpopo province forms a very integral part of the people’s livelihood and identity. It is found growing naturally without human supervision and care. Even so, the fruit bears socio-economic importance in that it is used as a food source (as a fruit and the nut inside the hard shell/seed) and again to produce local beer.
The beer is known as “morula” and is sold by elderly woman to tourists and local patrons alike. “To make the beer, we peel the fruits and place them in a funnel-like utensil with the nozzle pointing into a larger collecting container. We then compress the fruits into the funnel-like utensil causing the liquid to drain into the collecting container. Once we have enough marula juice, we close the collecting container and place it in the sun for at least four days for it to ferment. Upon the four or more days, we have well African brewed marula beer”, said Kgothatso Ngoepe from Mokopane.
The significance of the marula tree was also seen and acknowledged by a 12 year-old aspiring scientist who intends to save the tree from pests. Lehlogonolo Msuma, an eighth grader from Limpopo, has come up with a way to preserve the tree by preventing animals from feeding on the seedlings and thus slowing its growth. “In Phalaborwa where I come from, there are only old marula trees and no baby seedlings. The big trees are being eaten by cows, elephants and goats and we don’t know what eats the small ones and we wanted to find out. We found that they are being eaten by small mammals which are rodents” she was quoted saying, by South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
The young visionary from Gerson Ntjie High School earned a spot on the list of learners from the country that participated at a global Science competition in the United States. The group departed for the states on the second week of May. Lehlogonolo mentioned that she would like to pursue a career as an environmental scientist and believes that a country like South Africa can contribute positively towards environmental research. She encourages people to not only rely on natural seed germination of the marula but to help in conservation through growing seedlings themselves.