Feb. 25 - Farmers in western Kenya are being encouraged to grow ocimum, a natural insect repellant which can be turned into jelly and candles to keep deadly malaria-carrying mosquitos at bay. Jim Drury reports.
A Kenyan farmer harvests ocimum, a natural mosquito repellant. He's part of a grassroots effort to conserve the indigenous Kakamega rainforest, provide new income sources for farmers...and help fight malaria. The crop grows all year round and takes four months to mature. After harvesting it's delivered to a processing plant to produce purified ocimum oil by technicians like Linet Chitambe. SOUNDBITE (English) LINET CHITAMBE, TECHNICIAN, SAYING: "We use the decantation method to separate the water from the oil because oil is lighter than water and therefore it settles on the water. Eventually we are left with pure ocimum oil that is used as a raw material in the manufacture of Naturub products." The resulting oil is used to make products like Naturub mosquito repellent candles and jelly. Before going on sale a batch is tested by researcher James Ligare of parent company ICIPE. SOUNDBITE (English) JAMES LIGARE, RESEARCHER, ICIPE, SAYING: "You light the candle for ten minutes in a room, then you blow it off. So the fumes will fill the room for over six hours. That is the time when the candle fumes will be repelling the mosquitoes before you go to bed and use your mosquito net. So the candle, if you buy the candle, lasts for over 48 hours." Around 100 farmers have so produced 700 kilograms of essential oil so far but the scheme could expand fast, providing environmentally-sustainable employment while tackling a serious health problem. Malaria is spread by the female Anopholes mosquito, endemic to western Kenya and more than 100 other countries. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal. The World Health Organization says that in 2010, malaria killed 660, 000 people globally, most of whom were African children.