Farmers in Voi area of Taita Taveta County tired of depressed rainfall and low yields from traditional crops have embraced aloe vera cultivation and value addition, a group venture that is now seeing the group pocketing up to Sh3million after every value addition exercise.
Members of Marungu Aloe Common Interest Group came seven nine years ago and decided to start producing Aloe products as an alternative source of generating income and the progress has been impressive.
Through their extension service provider, group members acquired knowledge on cultivation, propagation, product development, value addition, product branding and marketing. Members immediately translated these lessons into action by cultivating Aloe Secundiflora and Aloe vera varieties. The group got permission to cultivate Aloe Secundiflora from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) as the variety is classified as ‘endangered’. KWS even supported the group by supplying members with Aloe Secundiflora seedlings. KWS also facilitated the group on issues of conflict resolution, and the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES) .
When the project started, the plant population of cultivated Aloe in Marungu Location was just about one thousand five hundred. The variety under cultivation then was the indigenous Aloe S ecundiflora which despite having good qualities such as hardiness and resistance to bollrots fungus is low sap yielding. The group has since been introduced to superior varieties such as Aloe vera var. chinensis and var. barbadense which are high sap yielding. The plant population in the Location has increased to over 28,000 plants with thousands more in nurseries.
Due to the enthusiasm with which the group members adopted the new technologies on Aloe, they were able to produce large volumes of sap. This triggered the need for value addition. Through a value addition proposal, the group received a grant of Sh1.2m for the purchase of Aloe sap extracting machine and value addition. The machine was installed in one of the member’s houses, after entering into a comprehensive agreement with other group members. The group is processing and selling Aloe products such as soap, cream, lotion, shampoo, detergent, petty jelly and Aloe vera juice.
The cream and lotion contain natural moisturizers emollients that leave skin smooth and soft. It also penetrates deep to solve various skin problems, giving it vibrant and revitalized skin. These products are now found in super markets, shops and pharmacies in Voi, and the Group’s main shop at Maungu township. From the sale of sap and Aloe products, group members have been able to pay school fees for their children.
Some of the direct beneficiaries are Mrs. Esther Wakesho who is now educating her children in secondary school and Mrs. Celestine Maghanga who has also taken her two sons to secondary school from the sale of Aloe secundiflora seedlings and sap. According to the local elder, Ms. Josephine Wanjala domestic wrangles have reduced drastically as most family members now engage themselves in the Aloe project. Most group members have opted to grow Aloe instead of burning charcoal as they have appreciated the economic value of Aloe, and have also understood the need to conserve the environment. After harvesting, adding value to the product and selling them to a growing network of customers, the farmer group earn up to Sh3million which they divide among themselves.
The service provider, Ms Eva Kisikeu envisions a national outfit from this humble enterprise. The group has received recognition from various collaborators and has even participated in a number of exhibitions and conferences.