You may know of marula as the fruit that makes elephants drunk and from which a delectable liquor is made. You probably never thought of it in terms of make-up and you almost definitely never thought of it in terms of sustainable tourism. But now, Swaziland tours can include a visit to a marula cosmetics factory where you can not only make a difference but also see the difference that is being made.
Swazi Secrets, part of Swazi Indigenous Products (SIP), is dedicated to empowering rural communities in Swaziland, particularly women, by enabling them to create and sell all natural beauty products made from one of the country’s most abundant resources, the marula fruit.
The average marula tree, which grows naturally all over Swaziland, is capable of producing half a tonne of fruit annually. While some of the fruit is eaten by animals and some is used to brew a traditional alcoholic drink, Swazi Secrets puts the seeds from fruit fallen from trees to good use.
In the interests of sustainability, Swazi Secrets has taken steps to ensure that not only are existing trees protected but additional trees are planted. This is also in keeping with traditional beliefs that prohibit the wanton destruction of trees. Furthermore, the company adheres strictly to an all organic policy and has even been certified organic by Ecocert. It gets even better, as Swazi Indigenous Products is also a member of the Word Fair Trade Organisation, as well as various other fair trade associations.
Even the packaging is designed to have as low an impact on the environment as possible.
It’s not all about good deeds, however, as the skin care, hair and beauty products have been proven to be effective and popular all over the world.
Marula is not the only secret ingredient used by Swazi Secrets. While marula oil (pressed from the seeds) has valuable moisturising and anti-oxidant properties, Ximenia oil has added benefits for skin cells and Trichilia oil (from Natal Mahogany trees) serves a nourishing and revitalising purpose.
Tourists are encouraged to visit the factory, not only to see how the oils and lotions are made and to get bargain deals on the products (which include lip balm, soap, body lotion and natural oils) but also to witness first hand the good that is being done.
The factory is located more or less midway between the cities of Manzini and Siteki in the east of the country.
Business hours are the normal 08:00 to 17:00, but it is possible to tour the premises before the doors open or after they close, provided you contact the centre and make the appropriate arrangements beforehand.
Sandy writes for a number of different blogs, including those on Swaziland tours and other African adventures.