How Marula Oil Is Produced

African Natural Oils is indirectly employing over a thousand rural woman that uses their unique skills handed down from generation to generation to extract the kernels from the nuts. Inside the marula fruit is a large nut, that has two to four locules. When broken open, each nut contains an oil-rich kernel. This process takes time, patience, and a lot of hard work.

The kernels are cold-pressed by our custom-made presses to produce one of the most sought-after natural oils in the world. Marula oil is used either as an ingredient to complement the base of massage oils, hair oil, shampoos, skin products, cuticle oils, scar/skin products etc. Marula oil contains antioxidants, is stable, and mixes well with other cosmetic ingredients without negative reactions. This is why Marula oil is known to be one of the best oils in the world.

Marula harvesting and processing is carried out exclusively by women. This highlighted the need for women in the region to work together to make the Trial Marula Oil Production Project economically viable. Thus the Eudafano (meaning loosely “we work together”) Women’s Co-operative was established, based on village associations in twelve areas of north-central Namibia, to process oil from marula kernels at the Katutura Artisans’ Project under an agreement between CRIAA SA -DC and Eudafano Women’s Co-operative. Here a specially designed hydraulic press produces the unrefined marula oil, which is then sold to a company in the United Kingdom in 25- or 210-liter drums that are shipped via Walvis Bay Harbour to the USA. Here the crude oil is refined and sold to cosmetic companies for inclusion as an ingredient in a variety of beauty products.

Freshly processed marula oil has a pleasantly light nutty smell and pale yellow-orange colour. Once refined, however, the oil becomes lighter. When the crude oil is refined, the so-called ‘red units’ and other unacceptable elements such as free fatty acids and undesirable odours in the oil are removed.

Marula oil contains antioxidants, is stable and mixes well with other cosmetic ingredients without negative reactions. This, as well as other features of the oil, make it usable in this niche market. Namibia is the first country in the world to market marula oil for the manufacturing of high-value or special cosmetic products.
The process whereby women remove the oil-rich kernels from the locules inside the marula nut is called “decortication”. This is done during the dry season between June and September, after the marula fruits have dropped from the trees between January and May in the wet season. Marula nuts have the added advantage that they can be decorticated for up to a year after the fruit’s fleshy cover is eaten or has rotted away – as long as the nut remains intact.

The decortication process is highly labour intensive and requires a great deal of time. This is one of the beauties of the project, namely that decortication can be done at household level, allowing an income to be generated by people with no other source of income.

African Natural Oils is determined to maintain the best extraction process without any contamination with their cleaning process. All their oil machinery is only cleaned with high pressure water every 12 hours. The oil is not extracted 24/7. Keeping the marula oil as perfect as possible.