Over the next few weeks, Project Diaspora will be covering the plight of Uganda’s aloe vera farmers who are trying to find international markets for their product. Part 3 of this series looks into what it will take to get this project under way. Subsequent articles will provide more details into the challenges of trying to assist these farmers.

I got an email today that gave me a sudden realization that I have not really put effort into really outlining the needs of the farmers. It’s one thing to see the perceived potential, it’s another thing entirely to outline the steps necessary to achieve that goal. So, while we wait for a response from Mr. Sessanga, let’s take a look at what it’s going to take to get this Project off the ground.

But before I do, let me state this. I am by no means disillusioned about the complexities of taking on such a complicated project. I am also fully aware that this is not a one-man project. This one needs the collective participation of the global village. Obviously, there are other lesser requirements, but these four serve as pillars of success. Achieving success at any one of these stages, gives the Project a legitimate shot at success.

I think the farmers having knowledge about the workings of the international aloe vera industry is crucial. Farmers need to know the condition of the markets, what their product is worth on the international open market, how to maximize their crop, best practices, what it takes to be organically certified, etc. It also helps for them to learn how to extract the aloe vera using rudimentary certified methods for local sale and use. Given aloe vera’s myriad uses, farmers can benefit from learning how to process aloe into the many varieties of products that can be used locally. i.e., soaps, drinks, lotions, etc. This also serves as a backup plan should access to international buyers prove futile.

International Certification:
In order to be a contender, the farmers will need to have both their product and the aloe vera extraction facilities certified before the product enters the global supply chain. This certification automatically puts them in front of thousands of industries that rely on organic aloe vera as a major ingredient; industries like pharmaceuticals, health & wellness, and beauty all use aloe vera as either a major ingredient or as one of the ingredients.

Aloe Vera Extraction Facility:
A billion dollars of aloe sitting on these farms is as good as wild vegetation, if the farmers do not have access to properly certified processing facilities (see above). There are many processes in use world-wide to extract aloe vera. Cold processing is wildly accepted as the best method to extract aloe vera because it does the least damage to aloe’s active ingredients, which tend to be heat sensitive. A processing facility could be installed in Uganda for as little $600,000, but logistical requirements would probably put this figure close to $1.2 to $1.5 million. Without a processing facility, it would be tough to get the aloe in front of an international audience, let alone, get it certified. No industry is going to fly unprocessed aloe leaves from Uganda.

Access to markets:
It’s one thing to be able to process the aloe vera, but organized cooperatives, like the one currently forming in Masindi District, could benefit by getting their aloe vera on the international markets. Partnering with an international buyer or buyers, or at the very least if the farmers could get on several company’s ‘Vendors of Choice’ list would be a monstrous step in the right direction. At least they could be considered as a possible supplier instead of not even being a visible alternative.

There are many ways that these farmers could be helped, but I think the primary objective right now is getting some exposure to this truly sad story. I think help is out there. I just hope that someone is listening to this plea for help.