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One innovation is planting of aloe plants in an arid land & using the plants to produce organic product lines e.g Shampoos, lotions, hair conditioners, shower gel and liquid hand wash. In Kenya, it creates employment for the Maasai women, empowers them economically and the women get trained in sustainable and regenerative farming practices. Also it has positive environmental impact by reversing the degraded arid land with plantation of gum, resin trees and aloe plant.
The so called “ASAL – Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” counties of Kenya, covering around the 80% of the national territory, are where AGAR operates. The inhabitants of these countries are mainly pastoral communities covering vast areas including the Borana, Samburu, Turkana, Somali, Rendille, Gabra, Pokot only to mention a few ethnic groups, yet together they comprise of only 10% of the population Kenya. Poverty index levels are amongst the highest in the country and so are unemployment. Yet, Kenya’s Arid and Semi-arid lands are endowed with a rich diversity of plant resources The region, which depends almost entirely on livestock production, is highly underdeveloped with poverty levels being among the highest in the country.
Several studies recognized the potential that exists in developing the off take of NTFPs (Non-Timber Forest Products) such as gum and resins, honey, aloe and agave/sisal, honey etc as the right step towards sustainable economic development of these arid and semi-arid lands of Northern Kenya. African Agency for Arid Resources Limited (Agar Ltd) was thus born, with the mission and vision that rotate around four key words: Conservation, sustainability, biodiversity and empowerment. People at AGAR are by trade conservationists, specializing in the collection, grading, processing and sale of Gum Arabic and resins, which are products of trees. Aside from taking advantage of the natural resources and the lands, Agar is committed to helping local communities and thus is considered a sustainable company.
Essenza now operates in 3 countries - Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda.
The co-founder stated in one of his videos, "When I arrived to Kenya, communities were being empowered to collect agricultural commodities but had no access to a market where they could be sold.” He wanted to help get rid of middlemen in value chain and allow farmers to get more directly products from their lands to the world with fair pricing.
The innovation supports sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by providing communities training and machinery for reforesting arid lands, creating incentives for continual care of trees and plants, and tapping trees in a regenerative way for resins that they can exude more gums the following season. The company uses innovation to combat poverty by connecting low income desert communities with global markets for products made from use of their natural resources and getting fair pricing to enhance their wealth while keeping ownership of their land. They promote sustainable economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for pastoralist communities to also be farming and collecting communities for the ingredients of AGAR products, diversifying their income and empowering the women who can specialize in this work. On the climate side they are creating resilience and innovating ways for people to adapt and thrive in arid lands that may grow as an effect of global warming, while also combating global warming through reforestation that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This business thus combats desertification and helps reverse land degradation by training communities to plant Aloe and trees that produce Frankincense and Myrrh on their arid lands, adding to biodiversity.
The company has been able to replicate process of working arid lands for products into 3 other countries. They are showing success by becoming global in production and sales. While their focus is in Africa, there are similar arid land areas in other continents that one could replicate this business in. They do offer consulting services providing quality expertise for need assessments, mappings, feasibility studies and sector’s review solely on NTFP value chains in arid lands, working closely with pastoralist communities and other stakeholders.
There is Social and Environmental Impact.
On the Social side:
- Promoting women's social inclusion in production processes.
- Diversifying livelihood through the capacitation of communities to harvest, collect, sort and storage of gums and resins.
- Strengthened the position of farmers / collectors in the domestic market, diversified export through joint work with the private sector & local authorities.
- Improved organizational structures for creation of policies, procedures, and quality standards.
- Trainings provided on sales, business management & accountability to make the communities more assertive with the proposed platforms for the transactions to be carried out & recorded for better fiscal return & increase organizational management.
On the Environmental side:
- Sustainable management of natural resources through the introduction of correct environmental practices, enhancing the adaptation strategies to climate change, reducing the impact of desertification & deforestation.
- Improved management of natural resources and adaptation to climate change of communities through the recovery of local biodiversity and the use of innovative agro - ecological techniques.
- Improved efficiency of alternative and sustainable agro-forestry sectors.
- Creation of indigenous aloe (Secundiflora, Turkanensis) & trees plantation (Acacia, Boswellia Neglecta) for a total of 100 acres in each county together with the provision of security systems and water infra-structures.
TOMASSO ISER MENINI, DIRECTOR
African Agency for Arid Resources (AGAR) Ltd, is a Kenya based company dealing with natural resources in the arid and semi-arid lands of East Africa specialized in the collection, grading and sale of 1st and 2nd grade Gum Arabic and Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils in regenerative ways. Agar limited has been involved in several projects and initiatives intended at empowering communities in arid lands to be more resilient, by providing trainings, equipment and above all market access in order to build and diversify income of traditionally pastoralist only people. Essenza (the Italian name for “ Essence”) by Agar is the brand name for Agar Limited’s line of essential oils made (almost) exclusively of raw materials picked and processed on the African continent. Through their products they raise awareness and advocate for conservation, bio-diversity and sustainability of the land. Agar is also actively involved in reforestation and land regeneration efforts working closely with local governments in Kenya, NGOs and other stakeholders including the United Nations.