Kenya: Aloe Vera Plant Gives Hope to Ukambani WomenWednesday, April 22, 2015 > 10:08:32
(All Africa by George Murage)
Despite the harsh weather condition experienced in Ukambani region, a group of women is taking advantage of the situation and their efforts are bearing fruits.
Ithumbi Women group, which comprises 30 members, is now the talk of Kitui county, thanks to their Aloe Vera venture.
With the plant coping in harsh weather conditions, the group based in Ithumbi location, is using the crop to produce shampoo and soaps.
Rose Muliungi, the group's chairlady, said, "We started this group in 2000 by targeting maize growing but we had to shift to Aloe Vera as this is the only plant that could do well in this area."
She says the project has positively changed their lives with many families coping with the drought effects.
Muliungi notes that through the plant, they have managed to produce various products which have a ready market.
"Through the proceeds from this business, our members have a source of livelihood and the issue of food security has been fully addressed in a span of five years," she says.
"We got tired of begging every day and moved to production of detergents using this plant and we have every reason to smile," said Christine Kasyoka, the group secretary.
The area sub-chief Elizabeth Makinda, who is also a member of the group admits that the venture has addressed many challenges.
She says that her office is receiving fewer cases of domestic violence as more women are empowered and can easily provide for their families.
"Poverty and hunger have been an issue in this area for years but under such ventures some of the problems have been addressed," she says.
Duncan Abudiku, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) field coordinator, notes that there is an increase in the number of women turning to agriculture in the region and called for increased capacity building.
Water scarcity is the biggest problem facing the region adding that there is need for the county governments to chip in.
"We are working on resilience building among communities in this area so as to reduce losses caused by the harsh weather conditions," he says.
In the 80s, over-exploitation of the commercial aloe species in Kenya led to a ban on harvesting of aloes from the wild for commercial purposes.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) then developed a licensing scheme under a regulatory framework for the wild harvesting of the aloe vera and it has also developed cultivation and propagation guidelines.
Internationally, trade in specimens of aloes is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wold Fauna and Flora (CITES) using a system of permit and certificates, which requires one to present an export permit incase of trade in aloe specimens expect aloe vera. According to the Kenya Aloe Working Group (KAWG), Aloe Vera is not indigenous to Kenya and it is predominantly exploited from the wild.
The group however notes that there is lack of quality control and standards of the aloe products in Kenya and that post harvesting methods comprise the quality.
"A lot of land where natural Aloes are found is community owned so there are benefit sharing issues. There is also limited marketing and branding of Kenya Aloe hence not able to compete within the international market," KAWG states in their website.