Multipurpose Soap Is Cleaning Up in Matsakha
There is nothing like starting a new year with new opportunities. Especially when the old year was dominated by a global pandemic. In early January seven members of the Matsakha Development Group (MDG) Production Committee were trained by Ezra Wangai to produce liquid soap. They weighed and poured and mixed and bottled over 400 liters of soap – we’ll call the color Matsakha blue. They named their soap Meta (which means Bright in the local dialect). And they have already sold over 200 liters of it for 12000 KSh (Kenya Shillings). They’ve even sold to people who don’t live in Matsakha.
The Multipurpose Soap program is led by the local community through MDG. The Group came together following our three day Community Engagement in the Fall of 2020. The group is led by Mr Alfred Muyumba (pictured on the left, below). He is retired from the Kenyan Government Department of Forensic Investigation (the soap is in safe hands). He is a father and husband and a board member for multiple organizations in Matsakha, including Matsakha Secondary School. The group he leads includes a Multipurpose Soap Marketing team and Production team (pictured on the right, below) staffed with people from the local community.
At this point, you might be asking, what exactly is Multipurpose Soap? First, it’s one of the Friendly Water for the World technologies. We used to call it Soap-Making, but that isn’t accurate. It’s more clear to say that the process to make this soap is soap-mixing. We don’t make (at this time) the core ingredients. We invest with local partners to create a recipe that reflects the desires and potential interest of the community. And then we, or the local community, source those ingredients from a supplier. The recipe for the Matsakha program is for a multipurpose soap, or a soap that can be used for more than just washing hands and was created by Ezra Wangai.
Ezra is a chemical engineer who volunteers with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC), our community partner for the Matsakha program. He first met Getry Agizah, the Executive Director for TCSC almost 15 years ago. He had been adversely affected by violence and was inspired by the peace-making work that Getry was promoting. Most recently he has worked with vulnerable Samburu and Pokot pastoralist communities. He partnered with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to facilitate cross-border dialogues and develop shared security processes. In the past Ezra worked for Nzoia Sugar Company as a Chemist conducting experiments, evaluating output efficiency, and creating safety guidelines. His background in chemicals and communications has been a powerful asset to help the Matsakha Development Group plan, produce, and market their new Meta brand Multipurpose Soap. He created the soap formula they are using and has been instrumental in helping the team position and price the soap for the community.
Multipurpose Soap is a cleaning product made with surfactants as the main ingredient. A surfactant reduces the tension between surfaces making it easier for to mobilize and combine materials that would otherwise not mix. They make toothpaste foam, help detergents clean, and can be found in both consumer and industrial products and processes. A soap, like the Meta soap, may have multiple surfactants, each with slightly different properties. The rest of the ingredients for the Multipurpose Soap include:
- Sodium Chloride – used as a thickener to build viscosity
- ETDA – to stabilize the detergent
- Fragrance – to mask the odor of the raw materials
- Pigments – to add culture-specific color
- Preservative – to prevent bio-degradation
- CDE – to boost foaming
- CMC – to enhance viscosity
- Acidifiers – to adjust the PH balance
The next question you might be asking is why. Why Multipurpose Soap? MDG selected this as their first technology program for a few reasons (they hope to implement all of the technologies). First, the Kenyan government has been encouraging citizens to wash their hands and surfaces to help prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. Soap is not always available and some in the community are better able to afford it than others. Second, school was just also just returning to session and even though each school has a budget for soap, there is an opportunity to provide it to them at a lower cost. Finally, what soap is available in the community is often considered to be of poor quality (does not clean, foam, or lather well) and/or inconsistent across purchases. And of course, as water is poorly sourced in the community, waterborne diseases can also be a problem, which using soap can help eliminate.
The Production Committee members were trained by Ezra during the second week of January. The Marketing Committee members will also be trained on how the soap is produced so that they may be better equipped to talk about that process with consumers. The team was taught:
- How each of the raw chemical components worked
- How to source the materials
- How to handle and measure the materials
- Safety steps
- Mixing ratios
- How to best combine the materials
- How to package, label and track
Meta soap is currently selling for 60 KSh per liter. That cost is subsidized for schools and more vulnerable and underserved members of the community. Victory Academy, a private primary school in Kambiri near Matsakha, has already purchase five liters. People can purchase the soap in sizes ranging from 100 ml testers up to 5 liters. Already we have heard that the soap is of higher quality than comparable local offerings. The soap is currently only offered as a liquid soap, as this is considered more sustainable, but the Production and Marketing Committees have been talking about making bar soap as well. We love the labels and marketing they’ve designed so far for the liquid soap. To learn more about how this soap is cleaning up in Matsakha, watch our recent Chat about Multipurpose Soap.