Salim Khan, founder of Cycle Tena Enterprise in Mlindi which manufactures natural soaps is seeking farmers who grow neem trees in the coastal region in order to supply company which is currently in need of 400kg of neem seeds to meet its target of 100 litres of neem oil per month.
The enterprise which was stated in 2002 has been relying on casual labourers who are hired daily to go in the fields where they can get neem trees to harvest the seeds, take to the enterprise’s workshop where the seeds are weighed and payment done depending on quantity delivered.
However, due to a lack of contract with them sometimes majority of fail to show up for work leading to an undersupply of neem seeds resulting to underproduction of neem oil hence hurting his soap production.
“I have been depending on youths who come from the surrounding to collect the seeds but lack of any formal commitment with them makes some fail to report to work. This affects my production and may further hinder my dreams of expanding the business if I do not get farmers who can grow the trees.” said Khan.
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Currently there are four community based organisations in the coastal region with about 4500 member farmers who grow neem trees. However, they cannot meet over 1.5m tonnes of neem seeds needed by various companies in the region.
“There are other companies which may be in need of neem seeds of various quantities and this makes it difficult for the few farmers available to meet the demand,” said Khan.
Some of the companies in the coastal region dealing in neem oil business include African Neem Oil Suppliers and Manufacturers, Malindi oils, Maitha Organics, and Abeity Traders among others. This makes the demand for the oil grow as the oil is used to manufacture anti-bacteria products, insect repelant products and the likes.
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Harvesting 30kg for two rounds yields gives 60kg of fresh seeds. The 60kg in turn yield 15 litres of the oil.
He pays between Sh20-30 per 650 grams of neem seeds delivered. The neem seeds are then crushed producing neem oil and the seed fibres as a byproduct. The oils is used to manufacture medicinal soaps while the fibres are used to make handmade papers which are used to wrap the soaps for sell.
He makes his sales through Cycle Enterprise in Malindi, agents in Nairobi and Kampala Uganda. Some people also buys the product and take to with them and sell to countries such as Sweden and Australia where he says the products are widely accepted due to it medicinal values.
These soaps are loved because of the neem oil which is the key ingredient in them thus making them antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, anti – inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-malarial and anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Neem oil is a remedy for almost all health concerns,” said Khan.
Cycle Enterprise also makes other soaps from avocado oil, olive oil, castor oil, baobab and moringa trees juices whereby there is a blend of neem oil in each of them.
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Besides neem tree farmers, Khan also need farmers growing avocado, baobab and moringa trees among others to help with the supply.
According to Alex Mwangemi, a neem trees farmer from Kilifi County, the neem leaves have antibacterial properties and are believed to work wonders on infections, burns and any kind of skin infection by destroying the bacteria that cause infection and strengthens the immune system and encourages rapid healing.
“Neem leaves are do wonders in solving health issues, some farmers crush the leaves, add some water to it and use the solution as a natural pesticide in their farms. Neem oils when used on jiggers infected arears on the skin it will kill the flea and dry the infected area without any pain caused,” said Mwangemi.
Mwangemi harvests seeds twice per year from the neem tree. Where harvesting period normally begins from end of March to June and another, from October to December.
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“The giant neem trees require no attention to bear the seeds. One mature tree gives 30kg to 40kg of fresh seeds. One litre of the oil is extracted from four fresh kilos of the seeds,” he said