Opuntia stricta is a New World cactus belonging to the large group of “prickly pear” species. It is used as a barrier fence and in some parts of the world as livestock fodder and even eaten as a fruit by people. A number of opuntia species were introduced into Kenya in the 1950’s including in Mukogodo near the village of Doldol. The cactus was not a problem until the late 1990’s when rapid deterioration of the rangelands created a perfect opportunity for invasion. Now it stricta is invading at 2 km per year.
However, the local women working with the Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project and ACC have found another use for the invader. They are making syrup from the fruit to consume in a variety of ways: from a “mixer” in fancy cocktails served at tourist lodges (Drunken Monkey and Twala Sunset) to a healthy “chai” (tea). These products are currently being market tested.
This type of prickly pear fruit is high in vital minerals and vitamins, high in anti-oxidants and high in “good” sugars. The Department of Nutritional Studies at the University of Nairobi, working with ACC also suggested other uses such as adding to porridge to improve its quality, blending with other juices particularly Aloe vera, making fodder for livestock from both the pads and waste seeds and even extracting oil from the seeds that are refuse from the syrup making.
The opuntia project brings value to the local community in two ways. It provides a rare source of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet when it is consumed as tea or in porridge. It also has the potential to produce a new source of income when the syrup is marketed commercially in Kenya. With this in mind, ACC plans to do a marketing survey and build a small processing plant.
Community Tourism Community tourism has become a significant component of the tourist industry. Tourists increasingly seek out relatively undisturbed natural areas.. Read more