The cottage industry of making and selling of soap, liquid or/and solid, has been a favourite for social groups as income generating activity. For the Nalapatui Community Based Natural Resource Management Committee (CBNRMC) in Kalobeyei Ward – Turkana West Sub-county, their activity has incorporated a nature-based enterprise element; aloe.
Based twenty kilometres off the Lokichoggio – Kakuma Road, 30 members of the Nalapatui Village formed a group to establish a plantation of two species of aloe (aloe turkanensis and aloe vera), then harvest to extract the sap to make liquid and solid soap and shampoo.
“We [community] have always known that aloe has medicinal properties,” said Edward Etot Samal, the group’s Secretary. “By adding aloe to our products makes them better and the group can make money out of this plant that grows in the wild.”
With the assistance from the Turkana County’s Directorate of Natural Resources, the members were able to transplant the two varieties propagated at Kakuma Tree Nursery to a plantation adjust to the village.
“Aloe is easy to manage unlike other horticultural crops like tomatoes,” said Boaz Ekiru, Sub-County Natural Resource Officer of Turkana West. “The plant also offers bonus benefits such as improvement of the aesthetic of the land, acts as a cover crop therefore protecting the soil and has medicinal and cosmetic properties.”
He added that other group in Loima Sub-county’s Locher Angikalalio had done their own plantation and already begun making products. This is sustainable utilisation of non-wood forest products is environmentally friendly. This also promotes food security and a secure means of livelihood which takes into consideration conservation of the environment.
With an easy-to-follow pictorial manual, Samal explained how each product was made; the process from harvest, measurement of the different ingredients and methods of preparation such as how to stir and for how long. It also included important reminders like storing the solid soap for six weeks for the harshness of caustic soda used to dissipate.
“We perfume our soaps so as to be different from the rest and so is the use of aloe as one of the ingredients,” he said.
Another selling point is their soaps last longer and cheaper than the commercial ones; the solid soap goes for Sh50, half a litre of soap and shampoo at Sh100 while a litre is Sh200. This has made their products popular in the village and the nearest centre, Kalobeyei. The group also sells at barazas and to some customers in Lokichoggio and Kakuma.
Since the group began the project, the members have used the profits made to improve their lives. Samal says that some members have managed to open kiokis while others have bought animals to increase their herd numbers.
As the business grow, they hope to increase production and reach more markets like Lodwar.
The project was implemented in collaboration with GIZ TCF Project, and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).