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Timeless Venda 'Viagra' waits to hit world markets

By unknown | 2007-03-22 00:00:00.0

Andrew Molefe

Andrew Molefe

Ongoing land claims are currently all that is stopping several communities in Limpopo from unleashing a potent sexual drug on the world market.

Once a number of claims are successfully concluded, several communities, mostly in rural Venda, will be able to produce Mpesu, the so-called "African Viagra", and propel the rural community into the First World economy.

Since Sowetan published the story on the financial viability of Mpesu almost a year ago, interest from the international media and pharmaceutical companies has been unprecedented.

The interest has spawned several community-based businesses, which are ready to harvest the trees that grow wild in this region for the purpose of producing Mpesu.

The bark of the trees is ground into a fine powder and is said to be an age-old aphrodisiac that has been used by the VhaVenda people since time immemorial.

Both the universities of Pretoria and Venda have vouched for Mpesu's potency. The University of Pretoria has tested Mpesu on rats.

However, the communities are faced with a dilemma. According to laws governing indigenous plants, the communities are expected to establish nurseries where they can replant these trees to prevent their extinction.

One of these communities in Songozwi, outside Makhado, has already initiated a project.

The community has approached the South African Forestry Company Limited (Safcol), a government-owned enterprise, to help them establish nurseries where Mpesu and other indigenous medicinal plants can be cultivated.

However, this community has to wait for the outcome of its land claim court action against a local farmer, who is farming avocados on the land.

The community claims the land is historically theirs.

Safcol's commercial manager, David Mbulaheni, said they were ready to do business with the Songozwi community. He said that they were only awaiting the outcome of the land claim.

Mbulaheni said: "We are even prepared to go in there and start planting trees, provided the current owner of the farm guarantees us that, regardless of the outcome of the claim, the local communities will benefit from the project."

Mbulaheni said Safcol had an understanding with several financial institutions, including the Industrial Development Corporation, that were keen to provide funding for these community projects.