News and knowhow for farmers

700+ Laikipia women find employment in cacti & aloe value addition

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By George Munene

Laikipia Per­ma­cul­ture Cen­ter (LPC) a com­munity-based Trust has cre­ated em­ploy­ment for over 700 women in the county of Laikipia by en­ga­ging them in value ad­di­tion of cacti and aloe vera by-products.

Foun­ded in 2014 as a part­ner­ship of four women groups from Laikipia, the cen­ter has helped women har­ness the eco­nomic be­ne­fits of this un­tapped ven­ture through value ad­di­tion and link­ing them to ex­port mar­kets.

“At its found­ing, the trust sought to fig­ure out ways of eas­ing pres­sure caused by over­graz­ing in most of the coun­try’s arid and semi-arid re­gions and also give the women in the area eco­nomic in­de­pend­ence,” ex­plains Joseph Len­tun­yoi, one of the group’s founders.

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LPC propag­ates aloe secun­di­flora vari­ety seed­lings, an aloe spe­cies in­di­gen­ous to the re­gion and sells them to the women at a cost of Sh80 each.

“LPC has really aimed at fully util­iz­ing cacti and aloe plants in this re­gion. For in­stance, the cacti fruit is used to make wine. Through us, the women also ex­port fresh Aloe leaves to the United King­dom at $10 per kilo of leaves.

Aloe value ad­di­tion is done by sun-dry­ing and grind­ing the leaves to make powder sold for Sh1000 per kilo, the gel in­side is ex­trac­ted to make aloe juice pack­aged in 500ml Sh400 bottles whilst the plant’s sap is also used as an in­gredi­ent in the mak­ing of cos­metic products such as soap sold loc­ally at Sh100 per­100 grams, cream and sham­poos at Sh200 per 100 grams and aloe tea sold at Sh500 per 500 grams.

Aloes are pro­tec­ted under the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dangered Spe­cies of wild fauna and flora; the trust has partnered with KWS to ac­quire per­mits to grow and sell seed­lings as well as ex­port aloe leaves and their byproducts.

The cac­tus is an in­vas­ive shrub that has been a thorn in the side of her­ders with their sweet spiky fruits caus­ing the death of many of their live­stock as well as re­du­cing the qual­ity and size of graz­ing land avail­able. The women groups are however har­ness­ing its nu­tri­tional value (low sat­ur­ated fats, high vit­amin A and C con­tent, high mag­nesium and cal­cium and iron con­tent mak­ing it an an­ti­ox­id­ant that helps pre­vent can­cer and other life­style dis­eases) of cacti fruits in the mak­ing of jams, juices, wine, yoghurt, honey and oils.

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Cac­tus fruits are plucked and their spikes scrapped off, they are stored and sold to LPC at Sh500 a crate. At an agro-pro­cessing plant at Jua Kali, Laikipia, the fruits are blen­ded and sep­ar­ated from their seeds. For wine­mak­ing, one liter of cac­tus pulp is di­luted into three liters of water and pas­tor­al­ized to 75 de­grees, cooled to 45 de­grees be­fore adding wine yeast and fer­men­ted for 14 days. The wine is again pas­tor­al­ized to be­fore being pack­aged as a final product.

With the suc­cess of Laikipia Per­ma­cul­ture Cen­ter. the trust aims to ex­pand the scope of its part­ner to women in neigh­bor­ing Isi­olo and Sam­buru counties.   

“Aside from value ad­di­tion of the crops, we also get the women en­gaged in rear­ing kienyeji chicken and rab­bits, bread mak­ing and in the con­struc­tion of mod­ern nat­ural cob houses from sand, straw and clay,” adds Joseph

Laikipia Per­ma­cul­ture Centre: 0727 845 123/0702 095 644/0726 787 085/0736053985

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