Mongongo Nut or Manketti Tree 2017-04-07T07:46:25+00:00

Project Description

(Schinziophyton rautanenii) / Mungongoma (Sh) / Umgoma or Umganuompobola (N)

Mongongo trees have been used by Kalahari peoples for centuries. The wood makes excellent fishing floats, canoes, toys and musical instruments. The fruits are consumed especially during times of drought. The nutritious nut is pounded; the oil is extracted and used in cooking. The oil is also used as a body rub that protects the skin and hair from the harsh desert environment.

Mongongo kernels are increasingly valued more widely for their outstanding nutritional content; the oil is known to be stable and it is a prized cosmetic ingredient.

Where it can be found: The tree is widely distributed in Southern Africa. It prefers hot temperatures and little rain. In its ‘core’ area (northern Namibia, northern Botswana, south western Zambia and western Zimbabwe), it can be found in large stands, several hundred meters wide and stretching for several kilometres, across the well-drained Kalahari sands. Other belts are found in eastern Malawi, and in eastern Mozambique.

What is harvested – Harvesting time: Fruit picking starts at the end of the rainy season (April-May) but is often delayed due to the danger of confronting competing animals (elephants and others), and the high grass that makes access difficult. Therefore, harvest normally begins in June (after the passing of bush fires) until the end of the dry season. A single tree yields as many as 900 fruits per year. In some years the fruits are so abundant that they lie knee deep on the ground. The pulp is removed and the nuts dried for a few months. There are no insects known to attack the nut in storage and so it is easily conserved, either in the bush or at the home compound.

Average yield per collector: Cracking the nuts is traditionally the domain of women, who use stones or small axes to break the hard outer casing. Cracking (made easier when the nuts are roasted in a fire first) can be done throughout the year, typically when people are less busy in their fields and/or at a time when income is needed most. The average income per year is around USD 200 per producer.

The nutritional content of mongongo kernels is outstanding:

  • The kernel is 57% fat by weight. Of this, about 43% are poly-unsaturated fats and about 18% mono-unsaturated fats. These fats have lower cholesterol levels and help reduce heart related diseases.
  • The kernel has 26 grams of protein per 100 grams, an amount similar to peanuts and other protein-rich legumes.
  • The kernel is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc with very high levels of vitamin E.

The seeds are at least 30% oil and the oil has a unique composition. The high levels of vitamin E (tocopherol) and linoleic and eleostearic acids make it a very useful oil for skin protection. It is effective not only for hydrating the (normal to dry) skin, but also reduces inflammation and redness and promotes cellular repair. The oil is restructuring and regenerative.

The very high vitamin E/tocopherol content also gives the oil its extra-ordinary stability hence it is not susceptible to rancidity.

Fruit can be eaten fresh or dried, boiled to remove the tough outer skin and mashed into porridge, or fermented to give a refreshing potent beer. In the absence of moisture, fruits can remain edible for up to 8 months left on the ground where they fall. Fruits are also enjoyed by both cattle and game.

The tasty kernels can be eaten raw or roasted, turned into a paste to use as a sauce thickener/flavouring, or oil can be extracted from them. The oil is edible and used for cooking.

Commercially, the oil is used for making soaps, cosmetics, varnishes, and by the linoleum and oil cloth industry.

The market for mongongo kernels is growing. A good opportunity on the local market lies in the food industry. There is also growing demand for the oil locally from SMEs that formulate skin and hair-care products. The oil has good export potential.

Some recipes using mongongo / marula