Career & Education

Value added!

Eighteen-y-o Imani Smith produces soaps, from plant-based products

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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The 4H Club Girl of the Year 2019 Imani Smith has used her creative background and experience in agriculture to establish a budding business venture in value-added plant-based products.

Called Majestic Moringa, the venture produces natural soaps from moringa, aloe vera, jackfruit, and other plants found in her backyard in Yallahs, St Thomas. Smith also produces a line of cakes, muffins, juices and tonics from the plants.

Smith told the Jamaica Observer that throughout her childhood years, she watched her parents and grandparents produce various crops to provide for the family. But the student of natural and environmental chemistry at The University of the West Indies has taken the family business one step further — with an interest in the sciences and a natural talent to create, she focused on value-added products, starting with edibles.

Her interest blossomed when she joined her school's 4H Club in the seventh grade at Morant Bay High School. There, she learned about food processing, and the use of plants and other natural materials to produce other products, particularly body products.

“A friend of mine whose mother is one of the 4H Club leaders influenced me to join the 4H Club. She told me about the many activities that the club offered, so I started to attend weekly meetings. The meetings piqued my interest, which led me to start competing and taking part in the different areas,” said Smith.

While researching the use of plants and their respective benefits, her parents and peers encouraged her to showcase the results of her research through agro-processing.

“Seeing that I am an agriculturalist, as well as an aspiring horticulturalist and chemist I wanted to incorporate those three qualities of mine with my business mindset. So I thought of a number of ways in which I could combine them. I put forward numerous ideas to my family members and teachers and asked for their opinions. Then I came up with the idea of making soap, and everyone loved it,” the 18-year-old explained.

She added: “I make soaps from moringa seeds and leaves, jack fruit seeds and a number of herbs and plants because the health benefits that they provide. I also make pastry products from moringa leaves such as my famous moringa muffins, which my friends and teachers know me for. It also provides health and nutritional benefits.”

Smith also makes juices and tonics using the leaves from the moringa plant.

“When I brought across the idea of moringa juice and muffins to my classmates they shunned it at first. But after making batches which I gave out as samples, the feedback was great. I am just amazed at how some simple plants that we see every day possess so much of the nutrients that we need to stay alive and healthy, and yet we take no advantage of them. I would like to change that and provide for Jamaicans and the wider world healthy and beneficial organic plant-based products,” the young woman said.

Smith snagged the 4H Club Girl of the Year title earlier this year, based on what the judges described as impressive research and innovative products. She walked away with $1 million for her efforts. Half of the sum will go towards her business venture, with the other half going towards tuition.

Currently the primary market for Majestic Moringa comprises schoolmates and members of the community, but Smith intends to expand the one-year-old business to widen its reach and provide employment.

Smith is a Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador.

“Being recognised as a Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador means a lot to me. It signifies that I have a role to play in getting important information about farming to the farmers in my community and other areas about good farming practices and techniques,” said Smith.


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