March 8 2012

A beautiful business in Niger

As a result of a training initiative by SOS Children’s Villages, Zeinabou, a widowed mother of two, can now provide for her family – something she struggled with in the past. Others like her have connected with the idea, now they inspire women across Africa.


Photo: SOS Archives
Sharing inspiration -soap production training in Niamey, Niger - Photo: SOS Archives
According to the soap making tutor Fati Amadou –a former participant in a family strengthening programme – an increasing number of women  now benefit from soap production including various women's associations and other international organisations. By generating income, soap has become a staple commodity which can easily be sold, provided quality is consistent. 'It is highly appreciated because of its quality', she says. Considered an experienced producer  and trainer, Fati now shares her know-how across Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal.


The production of solid and liquid soap arose out of a joint effort by 122 families benefiting from the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Programme in Niamey. The goal was to provide a much needed source of sustainable income. Trainees are mainly women, widows and other heads of families who lack employment opportunities. Processing takes place in the home. Though work hours are not specified, all work to ensure stocks supply meet with demand.  Gas masks and gloves are prpvided so that workers are not adversely affected by their work environment where a high concentration of certain ingredients could potentially be a casue of concern. Three days training is required to become proficient in soap production. It is common to produce up to 32 litres of liquid soap in a day. Weekly output of 130 items of solid soap with a wholesale value of €26 is generally achievable. 


Photo:SOS Archives
Hands on - business women have connected to produce a better future - Photo: SOS Archive
How soap is made


The correct ingredients must be assembled namely: liquid soap dough, concentrated flavour, acid, conserving and colouring agents, salt and water. The equipment required includes, buckets, a spatula, a tumbler, empty bottles, a funnel and washing utensils.

Having mixed the soap dough with salt, the spatula is used to stir while water is added until the salt crystals have completely dissolved. Then, the water is poured into the dough with acid, conservative and a little colouring. The mixture is stored for a minimum five hours before being divided into units for sale.

Solid soap requires a little more time as a mix of water and soda requires time to settle overnight. Caustic soda, concentrated flavour, sodium bicarbonate and various oils are then added before being poured into metallic or wooden moulds. It is left to dry, the soap is then removed from the moulds and ready to be sold. For most soap is a commodity that is skin deep, in Niamey it is more than that; soap brings dignity and inspires future generations of business women. 


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