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Women group turn to aloe farming to change lives

Indigenous women groups in Laikipia North Sub County are sent to make fortune through aloe vera farming.

Land ownership has been a challenge and especially for the women from pastoral community even as the women grapple to make a living from the medicinal herb.

However, the enactment of community land of 2016, has seen majority of women included in land registers, which Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group director Rosemary Nenini applauds.

“Earlier, they would say if your husband’s a community member, he would tag you along, which severely affected women, especially the widows. Now we are fully members of community land,” says Nenini.

She reveals that, after the land transition from ranches to community land, they have been able to engage in economical generating activities like aloe vera farming for export market.

“The issue of the 2016 community land act of group ranches turning into community land has really helped because all women’s names appeared in the land registers unlike before. I tell men, we are not going anywhere with the land, it will still remain to be community land and all people will benefit,” notes Nenini.

Nenini reveals that, after acquiring community land, the majority of women from Laikipia North have benefited and with 203 from Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group who are direct beneficiaries of Aloe vera farming at Ilpolei.

“We grow Aloe Vera, which is indigenous and has medicinal value. Right now, our Aloe is generating a lot of income for Twala women because we sell raw leaves to lush cosmetics, a UK based company,” she reveals.

Aloe vera which is a succulent plant known for its medicinal value for instance the sap can be applied on fresh wounds, skin care among other benefits, a venture, farmers are banking on especially in warm areas of Kenya, points out Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group director.

Nenini says, before securing an export market for their aloe vera in 2013, they used to do barter trade with their husbands, twelve aloe vera roots for a goat. Men used the roots to make local brews mixed with honey, popularly known as “muratina.”

“Before, its roots were used by maasai men to make traditional brew when mixed with honey, but Laikipia permaculture trained us on how to do spacing and linked us with Lush Cosmetic in the UK,” revealed Nenini, who however, decries that with Covid-19 pandemic, exporting aloe vera products declined.

She says, a kilogram of aloe vera is sold at Sh 380 to Sh 400 in the UK, with only two leaves being enough for a kilogram.

The 38-year-old adds that they have partnered with other women groups like Munipicha, Nalepo Majooli, Melau, Nositua and Naserian, where they work together at the Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group.

She proudly says, with their partnership, they have been able to attract women from other areas who visit their farm to learn.

“I am very proud that Twala is coming up as a learning centre, Women are coming to learn here on how we have succeeded as women, and how we got land,” notes Nenini.

Eunice Kaparo, one of the Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group members says with land ownership, she has been able to practice passion fruit farming at her home in Ilpolei.

Laikipia, which is among the 24 counties inhabited by indigenous communities, leads in community land registration for groups like Musul, Ilngwesi, Maiyanat, Lekuruki and Shulmai among others.

Ilpolei Twala Cultural Manyatta Women group which sits on a forty-acre piece of land is composed of two community lands, that is Mulichui and Illpolei.

By Muturi Mwangi

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