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A sustainable business in soap manufacture which provides much-needed employment and training
The sky's the limit

28 September 2023

Today we initiated a payment of £520 to Lilongwe Youth Organisation to release the Sky Reach Soap brand, enabling the soap to be exported to neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Mozambique. As a result, full use can now be made of the recently-mechanized production process, while the old, manual process equipment can be used for local production under the Kayso brand.

Our grant will pay for the following items:

  • Malawian Bureau of Standards (registration fee for this organization which tests products for safety of both users and producers): £152

  • Registration as a business and a tax-paying entity: £182

  • Safety boots (required by Malawian Bureau of Standards): £78

  • Cartons, 200 off for 1st batch of soap for export: £76

  • Labels, 200 off for above: £30

The Malawian Bureau of Standards has already assessed both the product and its production process, and has passed all aspects with the proviso that safety boots are worn.

Once the first batch of soap has been exported, further packaging expenses will come out of revenue.

Difficult journey to Reach the Sky

22 August 2023

A number of delays have affected the group, and as a result they are still in transition from manual to mechanized soap-production. Delaying factors included Cyclone Freddy, importing of components for machinery, sickness, power cuts, and the need for business registration in Malawi to permit export. Registration, which also covers safety (both to users and to producers), carries an additional cost in the form of fees and extra PPE (personal protective equipment). We are currently in discussion on whether we can help out with this extra expense, which comes to around £500.

Whilst the group considered 'Kayso' soap a great name for distribution throughout Kauma, the suburb of Lilongwe where they are based - Kayso stands for 'Kauma Youth Soap' - they sought a new name  for distribution  further afield. Hence they came up with 'Sky Reach Soap'.

Whilst locally the soap is sold without packaging, soap for distribution further afield needs to be packaged and branded. Another company has donated its used packaging to the group, but it bears the other company's branding. The cartons then need to be identified as Sky Reach Soap. The group wants to buy plain cartons which could be more easily identified for a much more satisfactory result.

Freddy was an exceptionally long-lived, powerful, and deadly storm that traversed the southern Indian Ocean for more than five weeks in February and March. It was the longest-lasting and most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded worldwide. Malawi was hardest hit. Many group members are still sleeping on a church floor.

Cleaner soap for export

15 February 2023



Soap samples the group sent to Zambia and Mozambique proved very popular, and a market has opened up in those countries. Because of this the group would like to increase output by purchasing advanced soap-producing equipment from South Africa, for mixing and cutting. Coupled with the change of formula to overcome major price rises (especially of palm oil), the machines will be used for production not only of soap but also of shampoo and toilet cleaners. The machines – an oil boiler, soap mixers, advanced moulds and cutters – together with installation and some additional materials, come to £1,950. The group has saved £450 and will put that towards the total, leaving a balance of £1,500. If they can get this support then they will train another group and give them the materials and equipment which they are using now – to maximise use of resources.


We have today initiated a payment of £1,500 to Lilongwe Youth Organisation for the above.



Currently they use charcoal to heat the oil, which goes against their purposes as they want to reduce this environmentally-damaging practice; however, the proposed boiler is designed to use briquettes made of waste paper, which can be collected from local primary schools. The briquettes are made by a local firm, but they will consider buying the required equipment and making their own briquettes, and even then selling them. The collection of waste paper for this purpose motivates the pupils not to drop litter. LYO may also use waste paper in the production of sanitary pads.


Other outcomes

The SOMAYEEP programme is not just about soap manufacture; so far it has also provided business management training for 32 young people, and 23 revolving loans for start-up businesses, which have included hairdressers, barbers, retail of maize, a restaurant and a bicycle taxi.

The Malawian Ministry of Youth paid a visit and asked them to train five other groups around Malawi, which they have done. Group members found that a highly motivating experience.

Give thanks in all circumstances

Lent 2023 appeal

Start-up barber gives the Executive Director of Lilongwe Youth Organisation a haircut
Passing it on

25 November 2022

We had good feedback concerning the party from Lilongwe Youth that travelled 180 miles North to Mzimba, Malawi, to train a group of women in soap manufacture. Their leader, Thokozani Chepuka, says, "Thank you for your support by putting me in touch with Yamie [aka Mike] from Lilongwe Youth Organisation. The initiative was a success and we heavily utilized the resources of Yamie and his trainees... The group was trained and we are yet to completely hand it over to the group because we are still supervising in its infancy stages."  Thokozani works with the international charity 'Corps Africa Malawi'. See him and his colleagues here.

Spreading success

5 July 2022

Mike, director of Lilongwe Youth, writes: "First of all I want to thank your office and all the donors that donated their money to enable SOMAYEEP to happen. This project has changed a lot lives of many youth in Malawi as some are going back to school, some supporting themselves and their relatives.


"One of the greatest achievement now is that the group is now doing consultancy by providing trainings to many groups that would like to produce soap in Malawi. Now it is difficult for soap producers to make profit in Malawi due to devaluation and price fluctuation as the price of caustic soda and palm oil have gone very high. However the SOMAYEEP group have found another formula that we are using and making our soap to make more profits. This is increasing demand for other soap producers to hire us to train them."


As a result of an enquiry via our Facebook page, a SOMAYEEP group travelled almost 300km to train 30 women in Mzimba. See photos.


Need for expansion

Mike continues, "Due to increased demand our soap is needed a lot in Zambia and Mozambique as we sent some samples and they liked it. Because of this the group would like to purchase advanced soap producing equipment that is available in Malawi to be used for stirring and mixing soap. You know, currently we are using our hands to produce soap which makes it a tiresome job. These advanced machines will not only be used for production of soap but also for production of shampoo, toilet cleaning soap and car washing soap. These equipment are cutters, advanced moulds, soap mixers. The cost of these equipment is £1,950. However the group has managed to save £450 and is looking for £1,500 to manage to purchase these equipment. We are sharing these with you to request your office if there can be the possibility of supporting this group that was born with the support from your funds. If the group can get this support then it will train another group and give them the materials and equipment which they are using now which will be a very big success.

"I will later send photos of the equipment that we want to purchase."

Mike is currently applying for further funds from us, and we will keep you updated.

Now in Production

25 November 2021

Mr Yamikani (AKA Mike) Chunga, Director of our partner the Lilongwe Youth Organisation (LYO), today reports that the soap factory is up and running. He writes, "Many thanks for the support and pass this appreciation to everyone who made this dream come alive. The project has taken shape. all the materials procured, trainings conducted, soap making has started and the name of the soap is KAYSO meaning Kauma Youth Soap. The soap has been launched and the community has welcomed and received the brand with whole heart. The soap is selling like hot cake."

Target Reached

27 October 2021

Having reached our target and sent £1,820 by international transfer, the Lilongwe Youth Organisation today received 2,199,150 Malawian Kwacha, representing a better exchange rate than we had expected. Thus, despite the strengthening Kwacha and 9% p.a. inflation, the LYO have received somewhat more than they requested. We now prayerfully await the results.

Soaptember Logo, Banner Style, Cropped.jpg

19 August 2021

We are raising funds for a project at Lilongwe Youth Organisation (LYO), Malawi, where some of our carpentry tools were sent (see here). As part of LYO’s programme to tackle a problem of youth on the streets, they are planning to start a soap-making business, providing training and employment in a variety of disciplines. Offering hope to street children who are seeking a way out of the cycle of poverty and abuse, this is a project conceived by the youngsters themselves and owned by the community in which they live. It will be run as a self-sustaining business by the young people under the oversight of LYO. We aim to provide the starting capital of £1,734 (subject to exchange rates).

In the Kauma district of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, many of the youth are unemployed, uneducated, or both. Coupled with many opportunities of a destructive kind, this situation is resulting in poverty, moral decay, environmental degradation, drug and substance abuse, begging, crimes, prostitution and victimisation. On 6/6/21, with the backing of the local community and chiefs from 17 villages, LYO held a meeting with the youth to determine a way to make progress and, after considering a number of possibilities, the youth themselves chose the idea of establishing a soap-making business.


In Malawi, soap is used for laundry and washing up as well as for personal hygiene. There are no soap factories within 300 miles of Lilongwe, so transport savings (added to occupancy savings – i.e. low or no rent) will enable the soap to be offered at a lower price. So SOMAYEEP (Soap Making for Youth Economic Empowerment Project) is born!


The SOMAYEEP Programme
Last year LYO completed its community and technical college building, which was provided by the people of Japan and opened by their ambassador. The college offers a number of courses, including carpentry and joinery, for which they will be using one of the carpentry kits we provided through Tools for Self Reliance. (For more see here.)


The young people will spend 2-3 days observing soap manufacture at other premises as part of their training. As with the courses that LYO offers, there will be a full week of occupational safety training provided by LYO staff.


All materials required in soap manufacture are locally available.


In the first year 100 young people will be involved; during that time they will gain experience both in the manufacturing and in running the business. Part of that is maintaining the strict safety culture. Not only will factory-workers be needed, but also security guards, and marketing & sales people, so a variety of skills will be employed. That first 100 will then move out and establish businesses elsewhere, while a new intake of 100 takes over at the college.


The group has agreed to set aside 5% of its profits for revolving loans to other young people who come up with good business plans. These loans have a fixed term, normally 6 months, but allow money to be drawn down and repaid as needed. They are not granted to individuals but to groups of typically three or four, with joint responsibility for repayment. Starting capital is typically $100-$200. Once the loan is repaid it becomes available for another group.


All business plans and loans are vetted, and the candidates interviewed, by a committee comprising local business leaders and LYO staff. This committee will also provide business training for the youth.


The project is being overseen by Mr Yamikani (AKA Mike) Chunga, Executive Director of LYO, who has lived in the community for over 20 years. A major strength of the project is that it’s owned and planned by the community and will be operated by the youth who conceived it, under the oversight of experienced business and community leaders - and that it directly answers a clear and obvious need. These factors give rise to a high level of commitment throughout.


This project will benefit not only the youth but also their families, whom the youth will be able to support; also, the local community will enjoy a reduction of the disruption the youth has been causing. Furthermore, many of the youth have promised to attend evening classes once they start earning an income. They are determined to make it work and to become responsible citizens.



Natalya’s Fund is raising the money required for the project, which includes equipment, the initial supply of materials, and training for the first intake, which comes to just short of £1,800. The full list of requirements can be downloaded here.


Safety & Health
LYO offers the following courses:

  • Carpentry and Joinery

  • Electrical Installation and Electronics

  • Fabrication and Welding

  • Hospitality and Food Production

  • Textile and Fashion Designing


The organisation regards safety as the most important skill and the first thing to learn, whatever the course that is being run; hence the first week of a course is taken up by training in occupational safety & health.


The main risk in soap manufacture is in handling the caustic soda, one of the ingredients. Caustic soda splashes would be harmful to the eyes and to the skin, and the dust to the airways. Also, when mixed with the palm oil, the other main ingredient, heat is generated, raising the temperature to around 85C.


LYO has taken steps to reduce risk, including the following:
•    As with training courses, there will be one week’s relevant occupational safety training.
•    The shift leader will allow no-one into the work area without the required PPE, which includes safety boots and gloves.
•    The local MP has already seen to the provision of face shields, for protection against various hazards, including Covid 19.
•    There are first-aid boxes on site.
•    The Malawian government has allocated a standby vehicle to LYO for transport to hospital in case of accident.

Pouring the mixture into the moulding trays to solidify

The mixture of caustic soda and palm oil is poured into moulding trays, where saponification takes place, i.e. the conversion of the mixture into soap, which takes several hours

Soap in moulding trays

The soap solidifies in a process called 'saponification' over a period of hours in these moulding trays

Outdoor scene during soap production

In suitable weather some production activities can be performed outdoors

Packaged Soap

Soap in packages ready for sale

Soap for Kauma, Lilongwe, Malawi

An initial batch of Kayso soap ready to be sold

Local MP addresses workers and community

A local MP was invited to address the product launching ceremony. He encouraged the workers and promoted the product.

Celebrating start of soap production

Staff and youth at LYO celebrate their dream come true - their own business up and running

Lilongwe Youth Vocational Training Centre

The building which houses the soap factory

LYO Training

Training in progress at the centre

The Soaptember Challenge

We can easily take soap for granted. It is a wonderful product, that cleanses us and has probably saved many lives during this pandemic. Thankfully, throughout these troubled times, there rarely seems to have been a shortage of soap in the UK. So we are suggesting that, during the month of September [2021], as a token of our gratitude, we donate a small sum for each time we would use soap if we were in Malawi, i.e. for personal hygiene, washing-up and laundry. Our suggestions are as follows:

1p / hand-wash

10p / shower or bath

10p / dishwasher cycle

5p / washing-up session

10p / washing-machine cycle

5p / hand-laundry session


You may like to keep a tally, though many people will be happy just to give a donation on the basis of an estimate. We don't mind either way, but we do not wish to see people’s calculations!

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