20 college students use elephant dung to manufacture herbal soap

Mara elephants
Elephants at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. [Photo: ElephantVoices]

When COVID-19 pandemic struck in March and it became imminent that it would be with us for a long time, a group of 20 college students from Narok put their brains to work.

They had been idling at home since all colleges were shut down and the boredom was too much. But they had plenty of time in their hands and this is what has now transformed their lives.

At the Nashulai Community Conservancy where they live just next to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok County, the youth decided to capitalize on elephant dung to make money.

They brainstormed and decided to make herbal soap from elephant dung just as they have grown up seeing cow dung being used to treat skin-related issues.

With the idea, Vivian Sumoi who is the group’s leader and a student at Mt Kenya University told K24 that they sourced for the elephant dung easily at the reserve.

Usually, they collect the dung every morning when the elephants are deep in the Mara and then the dung is posited at their manufacturing point at Nashulai.

What follows according to Bernard Rono who acts as the group’s technical director is the drying and grinding the dung before it is mixed with olive oil and a few other reagents to make it a liquid soap.

Once in a liquid state, it is solidified and cut into the desired shape then packaged.

Vivian said that her community has for ages used elephant dung as a skin ailment healer. For them, they only mixed it with water and rubbed it on the skin.

With their technology though, the end product is more improved as it has some olive oil and additives from different herbs.

A 500g pack of the elephant dung soap retails at Ksh500 and the major clients are lodges within Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

They are now appealing to the government to help them penetrate the international market.

In Kenya, elephant dung has also been used in the paper industry. At Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary which is a community-based elephant conservation area in Mombasa, the paper industry thrives on the dung collected from the sanctuary.