Pastoralist turns to soap for extra income

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Making soap from the aloe vera plant has allowed pastoralist Sago Berger to earn additional income to support his wife and children.

24.04.2014 | Action for Development and Belete Debre

The land degradation in the Anbule area in the south of Ethiopia has accelerated the vulnerability of the 39-year-old father of eleven who already subsists on a limited income. The land has various resources that can improve the quality of life of the people provided these resources sustainably utilised and managed. The aloe plant is one such resource. The NPA partner organisation, Action for Development (AfD) supports 25 252 people, half of them women, in the pastoralist communities in South Omo. The aim is to enable the communities to effectively participate in the management of and decision-making regarding natural resources.

Sago says although he has lived with the aloe vera plant all his life, he was not aware of its potential for income generation. A community meeting was called by AfD to discuss ways to improve the livelihood of the pastoral community. It was here that Sago says he learned about the benefits of a ‘species that we neglected for years.’

AfD established the Pekella Soap Making Cooperative with 26 pastoralists as members, including eight women and with Sago as the chairperson. Assegid the Project Coordinator of AfD explains: “Sago is an innovative and committed to Income Generating Activities (IGAs) and a visionary pastoralist that all members of the cooperative voted for to become the chairperson”.

Sago has attended seven days training on soap making and five days of leadership and business plan development training. He also took part in a three-day experience-sharing in Borena on best practices of natural resource management and soap making.

“Before the training, I wasn’t convinced of making soap from the aloe vera plant and I thought it was impossible,” he says adding that “I better understand the aloe vera plant and its potential. I am now promoting the species as an option to diversify the livelihood of pastoral communities.”

AfD also provided the cooperative with a 10,000 liter plastic tank and constructed a building used as an office space and to store the soap.

“Although it is premature to estimate the income to be earned, I believe I will be able to generate a reasonable amount and contribute to the improvement of my family’s life’,” Sargo says.