When a tradition protects a culture –
and empowers women

“We use this resin in our own culture, and it is also helping to maintain our culture, ” explains Veerii Tjivinda, a young Ovahimba woman who lives in the Otjimenji Village (which means ‘place of the springbuck) in the Orupembe conservancy in the Kunene region of Namibia. This region is not only home to the nomadic Ovahimba people, but also to a large number of endemic plant species, such as the Commiphora wildii, which is being sustainably harvested to generate much needed cash income.

Like most Ovahimba women, Veerii covers herself in the thick ochre paint that the Ovahimba are well known for. This “paint” serves a number of purposes, including acting as a mosquito repellant, and when mixed with the perfumed Omumbiri resin (which comes from Commiphora wildii), something Ovahimba women have done for time immemorial, it also serves cosmetic purposes.
Omumbiri resin
  • 221 Harvesters Trained
  • 60% of harvesters are women
  • US$ 7479 earned in 2015 in total
“The Omumbiri project is important to us because we are able to buy food and other necessities, such as blankets,” she says. “I will do this for the rest of my life, and just as my own other has taught me, I will also teach others.” Veeri has never been to school and has no other income earning opportunities. She lives with her mother and helps to take care of the goats.

The Himba, the only remaining nomadic people in Namibia, rely on livestock farming (cattle, goats, and sheep) to support their livelihood. They are highly marginalized due to their geographic remoteness, associated limited access to all services (e.g. healthcare, education, agricultural extension, etc.), the historical legacy which limits their few rights over natural resources, and low levels of literary. Climate variability and the impacts of climate change make these communities increasingly vulnerable.
Much of the important ground work for this project has been carried out by IRDNC. Currently, this work is supported by the BIG Lottery Fund. Thanks to Karen Nott and Veerii Tjivinda for giving so freely of their information and insights.