White Gold: East Africa Holds The Key To The Next Beauty Superfood

Photo credit: Frans Van Heerden

Cleopatra is renowned for her beauty. She bathed in camel’s milk, honey and roses daily for soft, supple skin. Her famed milk baths are a beauty ritual still practiced today.

Today, East Africa holds the key ingredient – camel’s milk – for beautiful skin. Camels are abundant in East Africa. Somalia boasts one of the largest populations of camels in the world. Kenya, its neighbor to the south, holds the fifth largest camel population in the world. Camels provide a direct livelihood to Kenyan camel farmers, causing new entrepreneurs to call it, “white gold.”

And as the Beyoncé lyrics asks and answers, “Who run the world? Girls!” That’s right. Female pastoralists in Kenya are the frontrunners of the camel industry. It only makes sense that women are on the frontline of beauty remedies.

Now that I’ve gotten out my women’s empowerment anthem, I’ll tell you what’s the big to-do about camel’s milk. Camel’s milk boasts amazing benefits for skin, hair and nails. This applies to both drinking and applying camel’s milk topically.

  • Camel’s milk is a natural probiotic. Probiotics keep a healthy gut flora. The gut and skin are interconnected. Therefore, when your gut is healthy, your skin is healthy.
  • Camel’s milk is antibacterial and antimicrobial. The alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, helps combat bacteria. Hence, it removes germs, dead skin cells, and aid in reducing acne.
  • Camel’s milk contains the fatty acid, lanolin. Lanolin helps lock in skin’s natural moisture and soothes inflammation. Best of all, lanolin doesn’t clog your pores.
  • Camel’s milk is rich in antioxidants. It has three times the amount of vitamin C than cow’s milk. That makes camel’s milk good for detoxification, stimulates collagen production for plump, youthful, soft and supple skin texture. Yes, I’ll say it, “It’s anti-aging.”
  • Camel’s milk also contains that wonderful protein, elastin, which maintains skin’s elasticity and firmness.
  • Camel’s milk has greater omega-3 fatty acids to moisturize and nourish hair follicles and strengthen nails.
  • Camel’s milk is environmentally friendly. Camels emit less greenhouse gas, methane, than cows because they don’t need large grazing areas like cows. Therefore, they contribute to a greener world.

Bottom line, camel’s milk is good in cosmetics for soft, clear, healthy skin. One caveat: camel’s milk is very expensive – to the tune of 50 times more expensive than cow’s milk. So, if you seek products containing camel’s milk, expect it to be pricier than similar products not containing camel’s milk. I guess that’s the price you pay for “white gold.”

The Unfortunate Casualty Of The World’s Love For Chocolate

Photo credit: Lisa Fotios

You take that first bite. Let it rest upon your tongue. Slowly, slowly it melts in your mouth. The rich palette of flavors opens like a colorful spring bouquet. A look of contentment radiates from your face. You savor each note until they all dissolve.

That’s what chocolate can do to your senses. But, satisfying the world’s sweet tooth comes at a high price. The cost? Ghana is losing its rainforest faster than any other country in the world.

Clearing for cocoa is the leading cause of deforestation in Ghana.

Africa produces seventy-five percent of the world’s cocoa. West Africa produces more cocoa in mass than any other region in the world.

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire combined produce sixty percent of the world’s cocoa. As a matter of fact, four of the top five cocoa-producing nations are on the continent of Africa.

Between 2017-2018, Ghana’s rainforest loss increased twenty-eight percent. Côte d’Ivoire’s loss increased twenty-six percent. During this period, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire suffered the largest rise in deforestation than any tropical country.

The loss of African rainforests negatively impacts the ecosystem. Rainforests provide homes for animals like – orangutans, mountain gorillas, jaguars, and tigers. Trees in the rainforests are hundreds to thousands of years old and may be irreplaceable. The rainforest stores the most carbon than any other forests.

Countries and companies are trying to reduce deforestation by 2020, but they’re not on track. Here’s the kicker. These multinational companies are raking in $100 billion. Africa only reaps two percent of that industry. I’ll do the math for you. That’s only $2 billion.

In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, these are smallholder cocoa farms. That means the farmer owns, maintains, and lives on the farm. Therefore, the person doing the heavy lifting is not getting a fair share of profits from the industry.

This rouses my ire. Some cocoa farmers have never even tasted chocolate. So these multinational companies are profiting off of a resource African farmers hardly consume. Yet the companies are not on track to reduce deforestation.

Not to mention, concerns have been raised regarding Côte d’Ivoire’s child labor infringements. It’s been reported that the children sometimes have a one hundred hour workweek, suffer physical abuse, and are not provided an education.

Now, think back to that piece of chocolate melting delicately on your tongue. Opening its rich palette of flavors like a colorful spring bouquet. Does it still taste as sweet as before? 

How Human Enjoyment Is Creating A New Generation Of Elephants

Photo credit: Tobin Rogers, Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant – the only harmless great thing.” ~John Donne

One of the masterpieces of elephants is their tusk. The long, curved ivory tusks give elephants their majestic appearance. Unfortunately, the beauty of their majesty makes elephants a target for poachers.

Poaching is not new. During the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992), elephants were poached for ivory to buy weapons and food for soldiers. During that time, no one could have imagined the fate that would befall the world’s largest land animal.

Post-war, some elephants have devolved into tuskless pachyderms. According to a Duke University and Kenya Wildlife Service study, surviving elephants of the poaching period have smaller than average (10-foot-long) tusks compared to elephants captured in southern Kenya between 2005-2013.

North Luangwa, Zambia; Ruaha National Park, Tanzania; and South Africa are experiencing the same tuskless elephant phenomenon.

Although poaching is the catalyst of this occurrence, scientists believe elephants have evolved for survival. They theorize that parent elephants, which saw their families slaughtered during the war, have passed the tuskless gene to their offspring to protect them from poachers. Basically, nature removed the ‘big tusk’ gene as a survival mechanism. 

Although this might sound like the elephants outsmarted the humans and a solution to poaching, it jeopardizes an elephant’s survival. Tusks are crucial to elephants for defense, offense, digging for water when it’s dry, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark from trees.

As humans, we must look at how our desire for ivory, and luxuries made from ivory, has lasting effects on elephants.

Elephant families were primarily calm. Experts have noticed aggressive behavior by female elephants towards humans and automobiles. Scientists speculate that it could be due to the lack of tusks. It may also be linked to the trauma of seeing their elephant families hunted and slaughtered.

Elephants with tusks are also considered suitable mates. If elephants continue to evolve tuskless, they will not be considered as mates. All of these factors could ultimately affect the ecosystem around them.

How Ugandans Are Saving The Environment One Banana Stem At A Time

Photo credit: Mahdis Mousavi

We’ve all heard the proverbial phrase — when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s what some enterprising Ugandans are doing. Well – they’re not using lemons. They’re using banana fibers to make paper bags, but you get my analogy.

Using banana fibers to make paper bags helps Uganda address three critical issues.

Ban on Plastic Bags

In June 2018, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni banned polythene, or plastic bags. The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) estimates that 39,600 tons of polluting waste is released into the environment in Uganda. According to the 2018 United Nations Environmental Programme report, SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: A Roadmap for Sustainability, this waste ends up in dumps, landfills, and the environment.

Polythene bags, commonly known as kaveera, cause flooding, create breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and kill soil. Non-biodegradable waste takes up to 400 years to decompose. (source)

Sadly, less than nine percent of nine billion tons of plastic worldwide is recycled.

Alleviate Banana Stem Waste

Banana plants are abundant in Uganda. Bananas fruit once. After banana harvest, farmers must cut the parent stems for new, “suckers”(smaller offshoots) to grow. The banana stems are discarded and left to rot.

Once the banana stems are collected, oftentimes free of charge because they’re considered waste product to the banana farmer, the process of making banana paper begins.

The strong banana fibers are extracted from the banana stem. It’s cut, cooked, blended, turned into a pulp, put into a solution, drained on screens, then hung on racks to dry for a minimum of six hours to turn into hard paper. Once dried, the banana paper is smoothed in a roller to increase the strength of the paper. (source)

Banana bags are vegan, eco-friendly, sustainable, plant-based, cruelty-free, not easily torn, and biodegradable. Due to its uniqueness, the market is growing. (source)

Additionally, in rural areas, banana paper helps curb deforestation and poaching. It takes one year to grow banana tree paper. Conventional tree paper takes 30 years.

Help Ease Unemployment

Manufacturing banana paper helps unemployed Ugandans by creating jobs, therefore creating income. (source)

Vocational centers and independent workshops teach underprivileged people and unemployed youth how to make banana bags, jewelry, mats, vases, utensils, cloth, woven materials, books, and greeting cards for Canada and the United States.

Previously, a large portion of banana bags manufactured in Uganda was exported to Rwanda, which also has a total ban on polythene bags. Now that the banana bags are heavily used in Uganda, they can no longer export to Rwanda.

Catnip: A Sustainable, Botanical Mosquito Repellent To Protect Against Malaria

Photo credit: Pixabay

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), World Malaria Report 2018, there were 219 million malaria cases and 439,000 related deaths. Over 90 percent of cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable. Notably, children under the age of five years old are nearly two-thirds of the victims.

The culprits are infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are typically busy at night, devouring up to 75 bites per night.

As with any epidemic, or some may consider malaria an endemic, preventing the disease shows better results than treating the disease.

Sleeping under insecticide-treated nets worked for a period of time.  As with all predators, the mosquitoes adapted, changed their biting habits, and built a resistance to certain insecticides.

Mosquito repellents  containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are effective for up to 7-hours of protection, but they’re cost prohibitive to rural sub-Saharan populations.

Essential oils from plants indigenous to Kenya showed promise under trial conditions. They worked better than DEET and have the potential to stimulate the local economy.

One particular standout was essential oil of Nepeta Cataria (N. Cataria), a perennial plant widely known as catnip or catmint. The major constituent of catnip is Nepetalactone (NPL), which is found in the leaves and stem. It’s a better topical repellent than DEET. It also showed 8-hour protection against insects compared to DEET’s 7-hour protection.

According to Big Cat Rescue, when inhaled, catnip is known to make big cats like tigers, lions, leopards, lynx, jaguars, as well as small house cats act unusual. They become happy, euphoric, excited, hyper, playful, intoxicated, and sedated.

This got me thinking – are Anopheles mosquitoes crazy for catnip like cats? Once inhaled, does it have a sedative effect on the mosquitoes causing them to bite less frequently? Do they experience intoxicated drunkenness? Hmmm…I digress.

Needless to say, catnip is safer than DEET and the locals are more receptive to applying the essential oil mosquito repellent.

Growing, harvesting, and extracting the essential oil of N. Cataria plants are a viable source for Anopheles mosquito repellent. The essential oil can be used in lotions, soaps, perfumes, and indoor sprays.

One important fact, essential oil mosquito repellent used in conjunction with insecticide-treated nets reduce malaria by 80% more than just sleeping under the net.

Is Fragrance-Free Causing Me Harm?

My husband has sensitive skin. Products with questionable ingredients make their presence know after a couple of uses. The telltale sign of a cluster of tiny red pimples form on his skin.

Recently, I purchased a fragrance-free, toxic-free laundry detergent that is supposed to clean your clothes like new. I heard a lot about the product, so I decided to give it a try. After a couple of days, my husband developed a red streak of tiny pimples going down his leg. He asked if I used a new laundry detergent. I replied, “Yes, but it’s fragrance-free and non-toxic.” Usually scented detergents cause his skin to react.

That was the only change in products coming in contact with his skin. So, I resigned myself to re-wash all of his clothes in my regular unscented, non-toxic laundry detergent. Within days the red streak of tiny pimples disappeared.

I was curious how a fragrance-free, non-toxic product could cause a fragrance reaction. I had to do some sleuthing. Believe it or not, after a few clicks to a few of my favorite research-based websites, I got to the bottom of the problem. My husband was experiencing a chemical reaction.

I needed to delve a little deeper to fully understand the science behind it all. Yes, I can be a science nerd at times and will happily get lost in research for hours.

My nerdiness paid off. It boiled down to masking fragrances. They are fragrance components in fragrance-free/unscented products. Their name explains their function. They are synthetic compounds used to cover-up the smell of other chemicals in a product. Say what? They use fragrances to mask fragrances? 

My pursuit of an answer led me down a rabbit hole. I found out that masking fragrances are not required to be listed on the product label. They are considered ‘trade secrets’. Hmmm, interesting. There could be hundreds of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in a product that aren’t listed on the ingredient label.

Further research stated that the terms ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘hypoallergenic’ don’t necessarily mean fragrance-free either. Fragrance-free products may also cause skin sensitivities/allergies due to fragrance ingredients as preservatives.

This left me wondering – are there any truly fragrance-free/unscented product ingredients? I venture to say, “No.” Chime in and let me know what you think. 

How to Make Marula Beer!


Wow! Been some time since our last post! The holiday are fast  approaching, so perhaps this is a good time for a holiday recipe. One that is good at any time!

For centuries back, Africans have been making “beer,” also known as Mukumbi to the Venda, from marula. Festivals in celebration of the marula harvest happen every year when the fruit starts falling from the trees.

The drink can be quite potent. In fact, the “beer” more closely resembles a wine, but what the heck… it is merely semantics. The drink must be enjoyed when it’s available, and that is only a few months of the year.

Now you can appreciate the adventure right at home!

Ok, this is like baking a cake. Well, only in the sense that you to plan first. You need a few things, and you need a recipe.

First things first: Find yourself a marula tree or two. The trees are very prolific in producing fruit, so a single tree should suffice… unless you are a member of a beer club. A large beer club. You can be guzzling the brew within a matter of a few days.

(Ever hear the tale of marula and drunk elephants? They don’t have to make beer… they simply eat the fruit. A lot of fruit. Videos of drunken animals – elephants, baboons, and giraffe – stumbling around after eating fermented marula fruit is a crowd favorite.)

Once you have collected the fruit from the ground under a marula tree or two or three (how big is your beer club?), you need to wash and rinse the fruit. That is just to get the dirt off… and other stuff, if elephants or baboons frequent the area.

• Marulas (lots) Oh, you don’t have a marula tree, and the local grocery doesn’t have any in stock? That can be a problem.** (Plums might work. But, who wants to make plum “beer”?)

• Two or three clean buckets (white is nice, but any color will do. You need one with a lid that seals – more if your beer club has lots of members.

• A knife (sharp preferred)

• Bandaids. (In case of an incident with the sharp knife. If you’ve had enough beer prior to the incident, you may not know you need a bandaid. Hmm… )

• 2 spatulas or 3 or however many you have. Flat things work just fine, including hands, clean if possible.

• 1 cup of sugar (optional) Nah, not optional. This stuff needs sugar.

• potatoshhmasherer (you can also use a plain ol’ potato masher, if you are sober during this procedure)

• A six-pack or two or more (depending on the size of your beer club) of your favorite hand-crafted brews. (If you are making marula beer, you probably are not drinking Bud Lite!)

Note: Malt is not required. Or hops. Definitely, no hops.

Open a beer. Take a swig. This is going to be messy.

With your sharp knife, cut each marula along the equator of the fruit. Remove knife. Twist and squeeze the pip, flesh and juice out of the skin and into a bucket – yikes, that sounds a bit gory! If you aren’t certain where or what the equator is, don’t worry about it. Just get the juice out of the marula.

Continue to do this with all the marula fruit. You can throw out the ones that have already started fermenting (your choice – really! If it’s already fermented, skip the rest of the steps and eat as is. But what fun is that?)

BTW, elephants can smell fermenting marula from a long, long way off. Keep your eyes open for unexpected large guests.

Whew! Hard work. Time for a brewski.

Once you have finished peeling the fruit, add cool water (enough to cover the fruit) and begin mashing the fruit with a potatoshhmasherer. You need to remove some of the flesh and the juice from the stone in the center.

That calls for another beer.

When you are confident you have mashed the fruit enough, squeeze the fruit a few at a time just to collect as much of the liquid as you can. (If you like squeezing, you can carry on with your honey. Or, whomever.)

Have one more brew. You are almost done.

Once all this is finished, the traditional beer-making process is now complete. You can add a cup of sugar to +/- 2 liters of liquid to assist with fermentation. This also sweetens the beer slightly. If not certain, try some without sugar and some with sugar. Use different buckets. This is where colored buckets come in handy.

Now, you have the product of your extensive efforts. Time to seal the beer. Put the lid on the bucket and wait at least 2 days, 4 at most. Open the lid daily to release the pressure and reclose. Alternately, you can leave the lid on. The resulting explosion could result in a 911 call from the neighbors, but hey… what a great story that would make!

After 4 days, there should be a thick head of foam that smells a bit like vinegar. You might notice it crawling around on the floor. That usually indicates you filled the bucket too full.

Oh, boy… vinegar! Who can resist vinegar!

Remove the foam using a spatula, spatulas, sieve, shovel, shop vac, etc. Toss that stuff out – on the garden, the neighbor’s lawn, someplace. The liquid below the foam should not smell vinegary. It should taste fresh, yeasty and bubbly, with an almost pineapple flavor.

Bottle or jar the remaining product. Yep. That’s the “beer.” Store in a cool place for a few days, after which you have a lovely golden elixir that tastes a bit like ginger beer with a pineapple/marula overtone.

This calls for a celebration! While you wait for this gustatory delight, have a beer with friends and enjoy the day.

Ain’t life great?

** Lots of marula trees in Africa. You need to make plans to visit one of Africa’s marula festivals! Here is probably the best one: http://limpopomarulafest.co.za/

Roughly adapted from and apologies to: thenittygrittynomads.com    These guys went where the marula grows!

Sustainability: More Than A Media Buzzword

Photo credit: Johann Siemens

Sustainability is the latest buzzword in the media. We hear about sustainable living, corporate sustainability, and sustainable farming. But what does it really mean? Is it using LED lights? Taking your shopping bags to the grocery store? Using less water when you shower? Riding your bike instead of driving?

Yes. It’s all of the above plus more. Let’s start by defining sustainability. Simply put, sustainability is creating what we need in the present without causing deleterious effects on future generations meeting their needs. (source)

There are three pillars of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

“A sustainable approach is a systems-based approach that seeks to understand the interactions which exist among the three pillars (environment, social, and economic) in an effort to better understand the consequences of our actions.”

Environmental Sustainability

Creating a world with less damage to the environment that sustains communities. We’ve all heard the phrase: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Those three words are aimed to remind us to lessen our consumption, which alleviates pressure, stress, and the carbon load on the environment for future generations. It entails seeking renewable resources to eliminate depleting non-renewable resources. It preserves the natural well-being of the physical world.

Social Sustainability

How do people in a society or communities live with each other? That’s the basic principle of social sustainability. Within this principle are three concepts. Development sustainability deals with meeting basic needs, equality, and quality of life for everyone. Bridge sustainability focuses on changing behaviors to meet those goals. And maintenance sustainability deals with social acceptance of the social goals.

Economic Sustainability

When businesses strategically use resources and/or assets to achieve balance or profitability over time. Economic sustainability encompasses social and environmental sustainability. This must be achieved through the business’s entire supply chain.

The next time you hear the word sustainability, think of the three pillars. Don’t get me wrong, choosing more energy efficient bulbs, ditching plastic bags, being water-conscious, and reducing carbon emissions are very important. But also look at the physical and operational practices that are involved in producing goods. Make sure the vitality of the environmental, human and economic aspects are preserved.


Celebrate World Fair Trade Day on May 12!

World Fair Trade Day is an inclusive worldwide festival of events celebrating fair trade’s contribution to the fight against poverty, exploitation, and climate change. This year for World Fair Trade Day, we are celebrating our commitment to living fair, one product at a time.

Fair Trade
Image credit: Global Village Gifts

You can also live fair by attending one of the many World Fair Trade Day celebrations! A few are highlighted below. See our World Fair Trade Day Calendar for more and/or check in with your local fair trade store!

Drum Circle for World Fair Trade Day |  May 9  | New Smyrna Beach, FL

A Magnificent Mile of Fair Trade  |  May 11  |   Chicago, IL

Fair Trade Shabbat Dinner  |  May 11  |  Philadelphia, PA

Buy Food. Feel Good. Expo  |  May 11-13  |   Toronto, ON

Fair Trade Hudson World Fair Trade Day Celebration  |  May 12  |  Hudson, QC

One World Goods Fair Trade Day Celebration  |  May 12  |  Rochester, NY

NYC Fair Trade Volunteer Day at FABSCRAP  |  May 12  |  New York, NY

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrations  |  May 12  |  OH, MD, PA, DE, NH, MI, & CA

Amazon Fair Trade Crafts at the Delaware Beach  |  May 12  |  South Bethany, DE

Fair Trade Columbus Sip and Shop  |  May 12  |  Columbus, OH

Pachamama Market World Fair Trade Day Celebration  |  May 12  | Troy, OH

Global Gifts Store Celebrations   |  May 12  |  IN & OH

Amani ya Juu World Fair Trade Day Celebration  |  May 12  |  Chattanooga, TN

Global Village Gifts World Fair Trade Day Celebration  |  May 12  | Logan, UT

Peace Exchange World Fair Trade Day Celebration  | May 12  |  Pasadena, CA

For more information, go to: www.fairtradefederation.org

or write to: info@fairtradefederation.org

5 Tips for Glowing Skin

As I watched the movie, Black Panther, I marveled (no pun intended) at the beauty of the women’s skin. Lupita Nyong’o’s, Danai Gurira’s, and Florence Kasumba’s skin were flawless like they had been hand-dipped in rich chocolate. I thought − no amount of Hollywood smoke and mirrors can produce skin so radiant.

Photo credit: Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios

The secret to flawless skin lies within your skincare routine. I’m talking about a routine that goes beyond basic cleansing. Below are five easy things you can do right now to achieve a royal glow.

Dry Brush Your Skin Daily

Dry brushing before you shower or bathe helps unclog pores. It cleans pores allowing your skin to breathe to aid in acne and blackhead elimination. It excretes toxins from the body. It increases blood circulation delivering oxygen and nutrients to your skin. Dry brushing exfoliates dead, dry skin to revitalize, soften and smoothen skin to give it a glow.

Exfoliate with Body Scrubs Weekly

Body scrubs gently remove the outer layer of your skin. Thus, eliminating dead skin cells, dirt and oil. This facilitates in unclogging your pores and exposing healthier looking skin.

Body scrubs are typically blended with sugars, coffee grounds, sea salts, moisturizing oils and butters, and essential oils.

Moisturize Daily with Body Butters or Oils

Body butters generally consist of naturally derived Nilotica Shea, Mafura, Mango, and Cocoa butters. These butters are vitamin-, mineral-, and fatty acid-rich. Because body butters are predominantly oils and butters, they create a protective barrier over skin retaining skin’s moisture for a long period of time.

Oils replenish the oils your body loses during showering and bathing. Oil is natural to your skin. It lubricates, heals, protects and moisturizes your skin. Use oils like Baobab, Marula, and Moringa that are vitamin-rich, hydrating, and skin protecting. No petroleum-based or mineral oils, please.

Enjoy a Weekly Spa Bath

Harness the power of bath salts made from Dead Sea salt, Epsom salt, Himalayan Pink salt, Mediterranean salt, seaweed, goat’s milk, and essential oils. Bathing is a way to release toxins from your body, receive the nutrient rich minerals in sea salts, and softens skin.

Daily Sunscreen

Daily sunscreen is a must to protect from the sun’s rays. Choose a broad-spectrum, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen product. Don’t be misled by marketing gimmicks and buy a sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor). Anything over SPF 45 does not offer you additional protection.

Incorporating these skin treatments into your skincare routine will leave your skin glowing like a queen. #Wakandaforever