Soap security: African home economics after the biofuel hype

Authors van der Horst, D.; Vermeylen, S.
Year of Publication 2013
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal The Solutions Journal
Volume 3
Issue 6
Open Access Yes


After failed efforts by biofuel investors (mostly from developed countries) to commercialise jatropha curcas production, Zambian farmers were left with unsold seeds from their existing jatropha trees. Action research with a farming community (started at their own request) shows that soap making from jatropha is 2-3 times more profitable than selling the seeds for biodiesel production. Farmers (especially women) were very keen on their home-made jatropha soap, and were using it in stead of industrially produced soap and detergent. Four out of five households reported that they regularly ran out of soap for several days per month. This exposed them to discomfort and increased risks of disease (especially gastro-enteritis). Home-made jatropha soap can help to bridge such gaps in disease exposure, it can reduce household expenditure on soap, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (by displacing detergent) and it can provide a value added product which could be sold or bartered when production exceeds family needs.