Women in Arid areas minting millions from the Nopal Cactus!

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 “We  warm the succulent  leaves  under 60 degrees and mix  one pulp of the juice with 3 liters of water then ferment it for 14 days where we get a very soothing wine”

Cactus juice-Image Courtesy

Nopal Cactus plants are  suited to a hot, semi-desert climate and grow mostly in the Northern parts of Kenya where they receive low amounts of rainfall and can grow in any environmental conditions.

Residents who live in the northern part of the country try their best to get rid of the Cactus because they see it as a non-beneficial plant.

The Nopal Cactus are uprooted, Burnt and even cut down, as they are perceived to hinder the growth of pasture for the livestock.

The nomadic communities believe the cactus spines injure their livestock by causing eye blindness,  low vision and even death when consumed.

However, for the nomadic women in Laikipia County, the Nopal cactus plant is  highly  valued .

The women here have learnt the art of making a living out of the Cactus that has  employed thousands of women  who  now depend on the plant  to provide for  their families .

Priscilla Sentina, head of the Twala cultural farm says  they collect nopal cactus plants, remove the spine, pack them in crates and supply them  to a processing plant in Laikipia County.

The succulent cactus are used to manufacture the Nopal Cactus fruit juice, The purported benefits of fresh nopal juice include lowering blood sugar, healing wounds, and reducing cholesterol.

“  The company buys  a crate at Ksh.700, its  juice  is  highly  sorted for by  people suffering from diabetes ,With the money we  can now pay for our  children’s  schools fees and  are  able to sustain our  families ”Sentina Opines.

Rosemary Nenini, Twala Chairperson, emphasizes many of the women are  now  economically empowered  by the Wild  Nopal cactus that was once  dreaded by the Nomadic communities .

The Women here also harvest the wild cactus seeds and dry them and use them to produce cactus oil that is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, soaps as well as creams and shampoo.

Ann Tome a resident of Laikipia also explains that the Cactus succulent leaves are diced into small pieces and used in the production of  biogas,

“the leaves are chopped into small pieces  put  in a grinding machine, resulting into a slimy product that is  then put into balloon biogas digester and after a while it produce gas that can be used at home for cooking,

Under  the hot  sun,women here  continue to make money  from the Nopal Cactus Wine ,

“We  warm the succulent  leaves  under 60 degrees and mix  one pulp of the juice with 3 liters of water then ferment it for 14 days where we get a very soothing wine ,we package that and  supply to the market ,It  has a huge  demand ” Says Florence Larpei

However these benefits could be short-lived  due  to the over harvesting of the  Nopal Cactus in Arid and Semi Arid Areas .

The women here  hope  the  National Government  and  the county Government could help in the  conservation of the Nopal cactus .

These efforts will not  only ensure economic  sustainability for the communities in Arid and  Semi-Arid  areas but  will also breathe life to the 2023 Africa Climate summit  agenda that seeks to explore climate change adaptation, resilience and solution strategies for Africa and the World.

STORY BY: JESSE ABISHECK

Email: abijessyshi@gmail.com

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