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Enterprise

Women turn soap making skills into money spinner

Rita Mnyika
Rita Mnyika makes soap at their workshop in Mwakingali area, Voi. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA 

Rita Mnyika puts on her welder’s goggles and gloves, scoops out caustic soda, adds it to aloe vera gel and stirs.

“We have to wear these protective gear because caustic soda is very corrosive,” she said while stirring gently.

Ms Mnyika is a member of Matokeo Women Group based in Mwakingali area of Voi, Taita Taveta County. The group makes bathing soap as an income earner.

Through training by ManGo Development — a community based organisation — rural women are taught how to make organic soap.

Mixing of ingredients is done manually but the group hopes to buy modern equipment to ease their work, she said.

Ms Mnyika blends other ingredients including coconut, organ, olive, baobab and moringa oils as well as cocoa butter, calendula, silk and charcoal powder depending with the client’s preference.

The final product is then scented with natural essential oils which include lavender, geranium, eucalyptus and ylang ylang.

“The soap does not contain artificial chemicals or harsh ingredients. It is good for those with sensitive skin and those who are cautious. We don't compromise hygienic standards," Ms Mnyika said.

“We mix ingredients into a blending machine through a process called saponification,” she added. Ms Rachael Mwakazi Skjaerpe said they source most of their raw materials from local farmers and dealers.

However they import cocoa butter, olive and argan oils from other African countries.

She said all the ingredients are carefully selected based on benefits to the skin.

“Many soaps available in the market have harmful chemicals and are for all skin types.

‘‘We provide a solution for different types of skin for all people,” she said.

Ms Skjaerpe, who owns the Savanna Rain line of products, said she has been in the beauty industry for over 10 years.

She said there is potential market for the women’s products in Norway when she is married.

Ms Skjaerpe said she was motivated to teach women how to make the organic soap to uplift their lives.

“If they meet international standards then I will close my studio in Norway and buy from them. This way I will be empowering my people to earn more income,” she said.

She said she intends to teach local women to produce baobab, eucalyptus and moringa oils which fetch good money in both the local and international markets.

"It’s unfortunate that my people are not empowered to reap from the businesses,” she said.

Together with her trainees, Ms Skjaerpe has also started looking for local clients targeting hotels.

She said she aims to create more jobs for local people.

Another trainee, Elizabeth Mwende, said she plans use the skills to open her own business.

“This is a good business and I am learning a lot about it,” she said.

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