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Rose geranium distillation project benefits rural community in South Africa

A rose geranium cultivation and distillation project is to be implemented in KwaNobuhle, South Africa, to benefit the community near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape

Derek Hanekom, the country’s minister of science and technology, was joined recently by European Union (EU) ambassador Roeland van de Geer and representatives from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as he announced the plans.

Hanekom said the Department of Science and Technology (DST) project, as implemented by the CSIR enterprise creation for development unit, provided a practical way to plan for, and build, an integrated initiative.

Hanekom commented, “At its heart is building a community through a land development process and has created a platform for various types of farming activities to take place in one peri-urban area outside of the motor manufacturing centre of Uitenhage.”

The EU has provided sector budget support (SBS) to the DST through a €30mn Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme, with support being channelled into a range of poverty alleviation initiatives that harness research and innovation to help improve peoples’ lives.

Van de Geer said, “We are particularly proud of our partnership with the Department of Science and Technology. On this Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme alone we have over a dozen collaborations and I believe that together we are making a real and positive difference to people’s lives.”

Rose geranium is an essential oil crop with a high market demand and is used to manufacture fragrances, flavours, cosmetics and household products. It is also used in aromatherapy.

The plants are harvested and the oil distilled then sent to the central processing facility in Pretoria at the CSIR for further refinement and quality testing before it can be sold locally and internationally.

Marthinus Horak, manager for essential oils and medicinal plants at CSIR, said, “The rose geranium project at Uitenhage has consistently produced oil of above-average quality, which demonstrates the value of transferring modern agro-processing technology and farming skills to community farmers. The project is nearing the stage where it can be transformed into a fully-integrated, sustainable business in favour of the local community.”

The essential oil processing facility at the project also has sufficient capacity to process essential oil plants from nearby farms and is expected to act as a catalyst for other agricultural initiatives.