JUBA, Sudan, June 9, (Gurtong) – Decorated with a simple label, a small
yellow pot of ‘Lulu Life’ sits in Eunice Elisama’s hand, brought
to Juba to see if it -- probably Sudan’s only export product processed
in the South -- can sell in the boom town.
Sudan’s Salva Kiir visits Rumbek, tells army no more war
By Skye Wheeler
Lulu is what Sudanese call shea butter, and here it takes the form
of a rich body cream with restorative properties, loaded with vitamins
and natural anti-oxidants. Mostly produced in western Africa – although
the South’s Lulu is actually of a better quality – it’s
prized on the international market although because of its scarcity, is
less well known than its competitors like cocoa butter.
The Lulu fruit oil has been used for generations by Southerners as a
traditional emollient especially for children explains Elisama. But since
2000 – and across the peace agreement – she and her Lulu colleagues
have been bringing it to the local regional market using improved technology
and the hard work of the some 600 Southern women in seven counties processing
the lulu nut for cash income.
As well as exploring the capital’s market, heaving with internationals
and newly moneyed politicians in four wheel drives, Elisama and Kristin
Belknap have registered ‘Lulu Works’ in the South while in
Juba, with both the commerce and agriculture ministries.
For now, the bulk of the 30 to 40 tons of the wholly natural oil produced
every year stays in the South, where it is sold at affordable prices to
those local to Lulu Works centers.
There’s more cash in Southern markets now with the peace and more
goods flowing into them says Belknap, an American with a long-standing
commitment to the South.
Eunice Elisama holds a pot of 'Lulu Life'; a highly
restorative body skin cream packed with vitamins. Elisama works for Lulu
Works which have been making shea butter products for the local and regional
markets since 2000 and are now looking to break into the Juba market. Theirs
are likely to be the only processed good emerging from war-torn South Sudan.
Things are different from the days when sometimes
Lulu soap was the only kind around, or when the women had to watch the
value of their edible Lulu oil crash when the WFP oil landed.
But peace time also means getting serious about making the business of producing
the luscious cream self-sufficient and away from its dependency on grants. Elisama
and Belknap know that this will mean attracting the international market with
a product that not only contains a natural beauty potion but looks fancy too.
Today, only thirty per cent of what is made gets to Kenya by being back-loaded
on trucks bringing in the basic household goods the South relies on its neighbors
for (during the war years Lulu flew on humanitarian planes coming back from
bringing relief items and NGO workers to the war-ravaged SPLA areas).
But there, another group of Southern women formulate the Lulu with natural
perfumes and package the product for a marked-up product mostly for tourists.
Both Belknap and Elisama know that this mark-up will be the making of Lulu Works,
will lift it from a business still dependent on funding to a self-sufficient
But some things they