Lesotho is a very poor country, with about 40% of the population living below the international poverty line. The rosehips are hand-picked, the dried shells of the hips being sold for the production of rosehip tea, and Earthoil buying the wild rosehip seeds, providing the local community with a sustainable income. The rosehips, which are not commercially farmed, are organically certified. Earthoil is working on FairWild accreditation for the project and has liaised with the Government in Lesotho and the local community councils to ensure that the rosehip which is growing wild there can be collected and is sustainable. In the rural areas of one of the poorest countries in Africa, Earthoil is creating significant economic opportunities where no others exist. Trade is far more valuable and appreciated than Aid.
Collection and Processing
The wild rosehips are collected by around 1200 local villagers who live in the mountains and the project has created a much needed income source for these deprived communities. The bushes grow throughout the villages, right next to their homes. The harvesters have lived amongst the rosehip plants all their lives without attaching any economic value to the plant, and certainly not obtaining any benefit from them. At first, the harvesters could not understand why these ‘mulungus’ (white people) would pay money for the berries and tested Earthoil by bringing small amounts to see if they got their money. As the promises were kept, and payments were made, they began to bring more and more. Much of the physical collection is performed by the women of these communities while the men tend to their cattle. This has turned out to be advantageous as the money paid for this work is more likely to benefit the entire family.
When the collection vehicle arrives at a village, an assortment of young and old, mainly women, form an orderly queue almost immediately with their sacks, plastic buckets and wheelbarrows full of rosehips. There is a great sense of community in the whole process, with people helping each other with their sacks and the measuring, and a great deal of jubilation – very much the African way of celebration – when the collection vehicle is there. The collectors are paid immediately in cash according to the number of bucketfuls they supply – the size of each harvest being measured by volume and not mass to take into account the drying of the hips, as they may change in mass when dried, but not in volume, so this is the fairest way. The amount paid to the collectors is a significant sum for these rural people in Lesotho and will be used straightaway, usually for essential supplies like maize meal, vegetables, paraffin and candles. Having separated the seed from the rosehips, the seeds are exported to Earthoil’s processing facility at Athi River in Kenya where they are mechanically cold-pressed to yield the rosehip oil.
Uses and benefits of rosehip oil
Rosehips were used by the ancient Egyptians, Mayans and Native Americans because of their healing properties. The oil from the rosehip seeds is very dry and light, renowned for its soothing, moisturising and softening effect on the skin, and shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy[i]. Rosehip is one of the best vegetable oil sources of omega 3 and also a good source of omega 6 and retinoic acid, making it prized for its ability to repair damaged skin tissue[ii] and ideal in face creams to reduce wrinkles and fine lines and also to improve healing from UV radiation[iii]. It also evens out skin tones. The oil is rapidly absorbed, giving it an extremely non-greasy feel on the skin. With its softness and smoothness, it is very useful for sensitive skin. It is also useful for dry scalps and in products for dry and damaged hair.
i. International Journal of Cosmetic Science Volume 35, Issue 3, pages 233–237, June 2013
ii. British Journal of Dermatology Volume 103, Issue 3, pages 319–323, September 1980
iii. Connective Tissue Research Volume 12, No. 2 , Pages 139-150, 1984
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