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BODY LOTION: Why you don’t need to cut a tree to make money in Mwingi

At Kwa Kamari market in Masyungwa location we meet young men carrying little parcels of unprocessed kithana which is a semi-solid extract from indigenous trees in Tseikuru used to manufacture body lotions for Somali ladies.

Itula trees. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI

In singular it is called kithana. In plural it is ithana. The name is also used to refer to the first milk produced by a goat when it gives birth to a young one.

Our sources also say that the product is used to make a jelly that is applied on the skin by the customers.

When Mwingi Times called a trader dealing with the product, he said that his customers told him that ithana are processed to make body lotions that are applied on the skin of ladies. The lotion is locally called avocado.

One kilogram of kithana costs between Sh600 and Sh700 at Kwa Kamari market, Tseikuru ward. Kamba traders sell it to their Somali counterparts who also come to trade their goats, cows and donkeys which are popular with locals.

“It seems to me that kithana makes a valuable product since we are paid well. It is a product sold in grams not kilos.”, says Mutie, a local.

The main sources of the skin cooling and refreshing extract are Itula/Isyathyu, Ikuu and Kyonoani. But mostly, customers prefer Itula since it produces the best jelly when processed.

Isyathyu trunk which doesnt have to be cut to benefit the farmers who can use the tree extracts and sell to customers. Other trees used are Makuu and Kyonoani. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI

Unscrupulous traders have invaded the market where they mix their own tree extracts which give unpleasant smells as they seek to make a living.

Customers are calling for regulation of the “sector” which is part of Big Four Agenda.

A 50ml Vaseline Blueseal for Men goes for Sh60 at a supermarket in Tseikuru town. This shows the untapped potential sellers of kithana would get if they are supported by government to process their ithana and sell directly to customers.

For now, they will keep looking for more ithana and sell to their neighbours.


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  1. The tree is Commiphora species which also produces good timber for making hives.


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