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Healthy juice drink lends vigour, helps Saravan folk line pockets

or a long time, maoberries, or wild blackcurrants, known in Laos as “mak mao” have been a favourite fruit with people throughout the country.
In some regions, young maoberry leaves are added to dishes to give them a slightly sour taste, such as fish soup.
The maoberry is a wild fruit found in farmland and dry dipterocarp forests in all parts of the country, especially in southern Laos. It is a seasonal crop and the berries usually ripen between August and October.
Though the fruit is full of vitamins and amino acids that are beneficial to one’s health, in many parts of Laos, especially Saravan

Ms Viengsavanh Thammasalo with maoberry juice.

province, lots of maoberry trees were cut down and replaced by crops such as sweetcorn and cassava as the maoberries couldn’t be sold in markets.
To preserve the trees and create an additional source of income for local residents, Village Focus International established a group in Lao-ngam district to make products using the fruit which could be sold across the country. 
Project officer Ms Viengsavanh Thammasalo, better known as Koud, told Vientiane Times the group buys maoberries from local people for 1,000 kip to 5,000 kip per kilogramme, with the price depending on quality. Much of the fruit is used to make juice.
“After we buy the maoberries, we wash them carefully then we press them to extract the pure juice, which is boiled for about 20 minutes before being bottled,” she said.
A bit of salt is added to the juice during the boiling process to make it last longer. No preservatives or sugar are used, and the juice can last for about two years at room temperature after being bottled.
One kilogramme of fresh maoberries yields about 600 ml of juice and ripe berries have the best taste, Koud said.
Maoberries contain 18 amino acids, calcium, iron and vitamins. They also contain anthocyanin which acts as an anti-oxidant that is believed to reverse the effects of ageing. Many people believe the fruit helps remove toxins from the body.
“Local people can earn extra income by selling wild maoberries that grow on their land. Even though it’s not much money, it can help them to buy a few more household essentials,” she added.
More than 10 local women work for the group in their free time and have been making maoberry juice for the past two years. But they make only about 400 litres a year, which is not enough to meet market demand.
Due to strong sales, the group plans to expand production capacity and is applying for One District, One Product certification next year.
Last year, the group earned about 40 million kip in profit, which was a great help to the people in the district.
The group also makes maoberry wine, passionfruit juice, pineapple jam and snacks such as chips made from dried bananas, sweet potato and taro.
The juice and wine are sold in Vientiane and the provinces of Saravan and Champassak.
The group was established with grants and support from Village Focus International, which aims to benefit villagers and their families and help realise their dreams of a brighter future.

By Souksamai Boulom
(Latest Update October 28 , 2017 )

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