The ancient tradition of wild-harvest and why it so sustainable.

What is wild-harvesting?
Answers from the Cape Aloe Movement

You've probably heard of the new Netflix series "Down to Earth" with Zac Efron and Darryn Olien. No? Oh, I encourage you to check it out if you can. It is a really, really good series where they explore sustainable solutions for basic human necessities like food, water, energy etc. It is an ode to the green movement and excellently highlights how every person and organisation can, and should do their part to care for earth and her people.

I mentioned this because it sort-of (well I hope it does) set the scene for this little blog post. I believe that the wild-harvesting story of Cape Aloe's is a rich example of how we can do things differently and how we can consume without destroying - the planet, the poor and the plants. And how this way of consumption is actually good for us, the consumers, too.

In order to understand this topic in more detail, we partnered with The Cape Aloe Movement to learn more about wild-harvesting.

In general "Wild-Harvesting" refers to collecting superfoods by hand from a native ecosystem. This is usually done by the indigenous people from the area using traditional harvesting methods. The Cape Aloe Movement has defined traditional harvesting of Cape Aloe as "the manual sustainable removal of leaves of the Aloe ferox plant (Cape Aloe) by the indigenous Hessequa people for commercial trading". The hessequa people follow from generations of indigenous KhoiSan people in Southern Africa, specifically along the western and eastern coast of South Africa, where Cape Aloe's bloom in abundance in the wild.

The wild-harvesting of Cape Aloe is also colloquially known as "aloe tapping". It is a beautiful, culturally rich and historic practice that has been practiced for over 300 years and is passed down from generation to generation of the Hessequa people as the family and the tribe's business. The aloe tappers sell their harvest to nearby farmers and manufacturers for a profit, and conduct business according to sound demand and supply principles. The Cape Aloe Movement, which exists to underscore the values and regulations of the Nagoya protocol, ensures that the aloe tappers can continue to unlock their share of the value in the entire value chain of aloe products manufacturing and distribution.

The Cape Aloe Movement refers to this popular aloe of the region as "indigenous aloe" which is "naturally propagated Aloe ferox (Cape Aloe) growing in, and harvested from, its indigenous environment where it is exposed to the natural climatic, soil and environmental conditions of the Cape region. Indigenous Aloe, as well as the soil and environment from where it is harvested, is free from herbicides, pesticides or any artificial additive or treatment." Research shows that the wild-harvested, indigenous aloe, produces higher levels of nutritional compound compared to their cultivated cousins (for example 25% more amino acids) and can produce up to 20 times more aloe sap compared to aloe vera. We talk more about this in our blog post on "Why is it called cape aloe?".

Read it here > "Why is it called Cape Aloe?"

What is the value of wild-harvesting?

As wild-harvesting has been described above, this method of gathering superfood benefits all the parties in the value chain, which include the harvesting community, the manufacturer (sourcing sustainably adds to their CSR score) and the end consumer (who purchases produce with higher nutritional benefits). Wild-harvesting is in essence a fair trade practice, which helps to build up local communities and economies, especially in developing countries.

This process is also in favor of the end consumer. Wild-harvested superfoods contain more natural compounds and less artificial additives usually found in cultivated crops. This means that the the superfood as an ingredient in a product or as a product itself is more potent, effective and potentially safer to use than its cultivated cousins. Wild-harvest superfoods are known to have richer anti-oxidant properties and denser vitamin and mineral compounds. As the Cape Aloe Movement states "Because Aloe ferox (Cape Aloe) has been perfectly adapted by nature to this specific region of the Cape, and because the natural ecosystem is preserved, these plants flourish with minimal human intervention and produce naturally balanced levels of organic compounds, which distinguishes it from alien, genetically selected aloe sources".

As consumers favor more and more organic products and as manufacturers are required to source fairly, ethically and sustainably, the value chain continues to support the local harvesters in their business and everyone in the value chain is able to enjoy the value of these unique superfoods such as the Cape Aloe. It's a win-win-win.