Handmade Soap Keeps Malaria-Carrying Mosquitos Away in Uganda

In Uganda, where malaria is an enduring problem, a young woman came up with a formula for soap that repels mosquitos.

View Team

Joan Nalubega suffered from malaria when she was a child. Later, when she was a scholar at the Social Innovation Academy in Mpigi, a town in central Uganda, she had an idea: an affordable soap that repels malaria-carrying mosquitos.

“There was little protection and prevention from malaria growing up,” she says. “Making the repellent soap for me meant that my community is protected and productive.”

She calls the soap Uganics.

expand image

To make the soap, Nalubega uses herbs and spices that are natural mosquito repellents: cinnamon, lavender, peppermint and citronella. She carefully weighs the ingredients and mixes them with oils such as coconut, olive, vegetable and sunflower.

She pours the mixture into a mold and leaves it overnight to dry. Once solid, the soap is cut into 60-gram bars. Sometimes, too much of the mixture is poured onto the mold and the block must be leveled before it can be cut.

expand image

Nalubega employs 26 people to help make between 500 and 1,000 bars of the Uganics soap each week. Through a partnership with the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, she sells the soap to tourists for 15,000 Ugandan shillings (about $4) a bar. The profits from the sales allow her to sell a bar of Uganics for anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 shillings (53 cents and 80 cents) to families in rural Mpigi.

expand image

A single use of the Uganics soap protects a user for up to six hours, according to the product description.

“I think more local initiatives to combat malaria should be adapted as it’s still a challenge in Mpigi and Uganda,” Nalubega says.

expand image

Rosemary Nalubwama, who lives in the Mpigi area, is happy with her Uganics soap, which she is able to purchase for the cheaper price. She says her grandchildren haven’t gotten malaria since her family started using the soap in 2018.

“I don’t spend as much on medicines and hospital checkups,” says Nalubwama, who washes her own and her grandchildren’s clothes with the soap.

Patricia Lindrio, GPJ, translated some interviews from Luganda.