In Kenya Entrepreneur turns elephant dung to paper

Kenyan entrepreneur John Matano is turning elephant excrement into paper, and providing livelihoods by doing so.

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play Kenyan entrepreneur John Matano is turning elephant's excrement into paper, and providing livelihoods by doing so. (File photo)
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Kenyan entrepreneur John Matano is turning elephant excrement into paper, and providing livelihoods by doing so.

Matano's business Nampath Paper employs 42 people, and makes an annual profit of 2.3m Kenyan shillings (87,107 cedi), the BBC reports.

He is in a small but growing industry in Kenya, centred on the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, a community-owned 36 sq km (14 sq mile) conservation area for elephants, 28 miles (45km) south west of the coastal city of Mombasa.

Prior to the sanctuary, which was established in 1993, there were deadly conflicts between humans and elephants as the elephants from the nearby government-owned Shimba Hills National Reserve would go into farmlands and eat or destroy crops.

The sanctuary was established adjacent to the national reserve, with financial assistance and support from the United States Agency for International Development, and UK animal charity Born Free Foundation.

The idea was that the surrounding farmers would receive a share of the tourism revenues from the sanctuary to make up for any crops that are destroyed by elephants, the farmers were also encouraged to look at other income – like turning the dung into paper.

The dung which is full of grass and other plant fibre that has been broken down by the elephant's digestive system, is thoroughly washed, the boiled.

After that, the process is similar to that of making regular paper from wood pulp, Matano said.

"An average elephant eats 250kg of food each day. Out of that amount about 50kg of dung is produced, and 125 sheets of [A4] paper can be produced from each 50kg,” he told the BBC.

He says that both the price and quality is similar to standard paper, but with the added benefit of reducing deforestation.

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