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For the love of herbs

Laura Nelima Lubisia, an entrepreneur at heart, has the concept of value addition down to a T. The founder of Viakwetu finds innovative ways of developing new  products from herbs.  The engineering alumni from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture  and Technology (JKUAT), started exploring different herbs out of interest in cooking. This interest led her to discover the different health benefits that they offered.

On her father’s farm in Ndalu, Bungoma County, she set out to plant a variety of herbs. On the farm you will find Chia seeds, flax seeds, lemon grass, lemon verbena, hibiscus, rosemary, sage, peppermint, deal , stevia amongst others.

From these herbs, she converts them into dried spices, herbal teas, sweeteners, composite flours  and a variety of beauty products. She puts an emphasis on the fact that her products are all organic and not chemically treated. Her venture began in 2016 after graduation and she quit full time employment in 2018 to focus on her business.

On her farm you will find a variety of agricultural activities, ranging from fish farming, rabbit rearing, chicken farming, it is quite diverse. The essence of having all these activities is to generate organic manure for the soils to remain fertile. In addition, Nelima intercrops herbs with fruit plants, which she also offers as dried fruits. The avocados she grows on the farm are used to make organic pressed oils that are suitable for use on your skin and hair too.

Some of the other beauty products made from the herbs are herbal waters that she sells in small quantities to retailers and larger quantities to beauty companies  which they use to develop additional beauty products. She also manufactures skin butters and lip balms.

Nelima has a pick and drop location in Nairobi for consumers interested in her products. She says, “The farm has been highly productive this year. The harvests have been more plentiful  due to the steady rainfall we have experienced in the region.” This has allowed them to land a major deal with Quickmart supermarket, to deliver 200kgs of chia seeds a month.

Her biggest challenge at the moment  is to complete KEBS certification on all her products to release them into the market. In addition to increasing her output on a variety of products, she needs to acquire new machinery.

Nelima is among the 50 entrepreneurs set to benefit from the Proof of Concept funding under the Agribiz program,  funded by the European Union(EU) and DANIDA and facilitated by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC).

Viakwetu, joined the Agribiz program in August 2020. She credits KCIC with empowering her to reach her potential. “The program has given me confidence in running my enterprise through the networks I have been exposed to and the mentorship accorded to me through the competent business analysts,” she concludes.