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Economic growth has not delivered to the poor in South Africa. In 2012, “28.3% were at risk of hunger … and 26.0% experienced hunger”.[1] So more than half of our population are fully or partially food insecure. What economic growth has done is bring wealth to the few. It has deepened inequality and damaged social cohesion:

“South Africa stands as one of the most unequal countries in the world. The top decile of the population accounts for 58% of the country’s income, while the bottom decile accounts for only 0.5% and the bottom half less than 8%.”[2]

These figures are shocking. It is all the more horrific because economic growth is often put forward as the reason why we cannot take better care of the environment. But if growth is not delivering jobs and income to the poor, it is nonetheless taking away things that the poor used to access for free, like clean air, water, beauty, plant medicines and food. So they end up with less than what they used to have before we started growing.

A good example of this happening is the havoc wreaked by climate change. We are now beginning to see the outcome in the form of extreme weather. Global warming is leading to more frequent and more severe floods and droughts.  The predictions are that this will become worse.[3] It takes greenhouse gases time to disperse. Even if we cut carbon emissions to zero tomorrow – which we won’t – we would still be stuck with historic accumulations in the atmosphere, which would take about three to four decades to return to pre-twentieth century levels.    This means that for the rest of my life-time, at least, I will never see the climate of my childhood again.

For the poor it means increasing poverty. When you have very little, losing all of it in the winter floods which have become a feature of every Cape Town winter season means a catastrophe. Extended summer droughts and strong winds means that when a shack-fire starts it cannot be put out in time. Every year thousands of people are rendered homeless and bankrupt through extreme weather. For the ten percent of people who share half a percent of the national income, bank accounts are a luxury. What little money and assets they have are kept at home. So when the shack burns or disappears under water the poor literally lose everything. It is not as if they can go replace bank cards and draw on their assets.

What is more, if the past twenty years of growth has not delivered for the poor our room for action to make a difference in their lives is steadily shrinking because of climate change. After this last summer’s extreme weather, the bill to the taxpayer is now coming due. The cost of repairing flood damage to infrastructure in North West province is estimated at R 100 million. [4] The City of Tshwane needs to spend R 124 million. [5] Limpopo province says it will need R 317 million for repairs.[6]

These costs do not include health and social services costs, or the money people are going to have to pay to rebuild their houses and replace lost furniture. Or the 11 dead and hundreds injured. Essentially, climate change is draining resources away from development. All those millions will have to be taken from some other budget, whether health, education or housing. Climate change means we have less money left to support the poor. Instead they, too, are left to deal with the fact that the weather of their youth is gone forever.


So most of these Khoelife blogs talk about the quality of our soaps and oils. That is correct, you should be buying the stuff because it feels good on your skin. But the fact is that every single bar and lotion is made using energy efficiency savings and renewable energy. In renewable energy we also count human energy. We do everything by hand that can be done by hand, because it is important to us to create jobs and save the ecosystem. No other company offers you this value added.


Thinking globally and acting locally is not always easy. Still, when you buy Khoelife products, you are doing something positive to save the planet’s weather system. Every little bit matters.


Practice direct action for climate justice today!!! Order from

waxberry cooking







[1] . Shisana O, Labadarios D, Rehle T, Simbayi L, Zuma K, Dhansay A, Reddy P, Parker W, Hoosain E, Naidoo P, Hongoro C, Mchiza Z, Steyn NP, Dwane N, Makoae M, Maluleke T, Ramlagan S, Zungu N, Evans MG, Jacobs L, Faber M South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey   HSRC Press, Cape Town, 2013, pp. 145-146.

[2] . Sharma, Sudhansu Rising Inequality In South Africa: Srivers, Trends and Policy Responses, Consultancy Africa Intelligence, Johannesburg, 2012. Available at

[3] .United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability Available at:


[4] .


[5] .


[6] .



Making organic soap is better than being outraged

I have been outraged ever since I heard of  triclosan. Triclosan is an ingredient added to many anti-bacterial soaps, and a few years ago, the results of animal studies showed that it can be an endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the actions of the body’s natural hormones such as oestrogen. This can cause anything from premature menstruation (currently an epidemic amongst girls in the developed world and the middle class in developing countries) to breast and cervical cancer.   The thought of mothers buying the stuff for their children out of love is truly chilling, but hey, that’s capitalism. Not surprisingly, no human studies have been done on triclosan – except for, as Maria Rodale points out[1], the large scale long term human experiment carried out on millions of us with our own money by allowing these substances to be sold on the open market without the test of time – but eventually the US Food And Drug Administration went so far as to say:

“ FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”[2]

In other words, there are grounds to fear triclosan maybe be harmful to us but nothing to prove that it can help. In fact, simply by killing almost all the germs triclosan is pretty certain to stimulate the ones surviving to evolve resistance and become even stronger, something even the revolving-door-to-business-FDA admits. This is because of course the best way to protect your kids from germs is to feed them proper healthy food and ensure that their bodies are full of helpful bacteria that will help them build resistance to the nasty ones. Organic yoghurt and lots of dirt, in other words. But we are caught in this mode of thinking that there is a ‘solution’ to every ‘problem’ and that this consists of adding something instead of taking the trouble to live healthily. So you can still buy triclosan soap in any supermarket, and I hope you just went to check your cupboards to see if you have bought it.

Then there were the parabens. They are used as preservatives in the cosmetics industry, and are another of your endocrine disruptors. While you are searching your cupboards, have a look to see how many of your soaps and deodorants contain  methylparaben, propylparaben, or butylparaben!  A study was released in 2012 showing that 99 % of breast cancer samples examined showed traces of parabens in their fatty tissues.[3] Deodorants are probably the worst agents here since we use them to stop us from sweating and clog up our pores by shoving parabens straight into our lymph glands.  In response, our friends the USFDA made another of their inane statements:

“Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen. For example, a 1998 study (Routledge et al., in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology) found that the most potent paraben tested in the study, butylparaben, showed from 10,000- to 100,000-fold less activity than naturally occurring estradiol (a form of estrogen).”[4]

This is of course arrant nonsense, and although it is really worrying that a body concerned with regulating food safety can be so ignorant about how nature works, that is not so much my problem at the moment as the fact that the underlying thinking goes unchallenged. Naturally occurring oestrogens are everywhere, we are adapted to them and evolved with them in nature. But why are we adding to them? Disease is incremental. Just like all it takes is one virus to cause HIV/AIDS, all it takes is one drop of oestrogen too much to set off the wave of uncontrolled replication of cells known as cancer. It must surely be obvious that we have enough to do dealing with naturally occurring oestrogens (which by the way we need in the right doses to function normally and reproduce)  without adding to them. Nature is full of examples like that. A little water is good. Too much is a flood. A little heat is nice. Too much is global warming. How is it that the ‘scientists’ at the FDA don’t get this? Has too much agribusiness money addled their brains?

Plus, of course, the current scientific method of doing these studies one substance at a time denies that we live in an ecology. Let us add up the endocrine disrupting drops here and the drops there, the anti-bacterial soap, the organo phosphates in our vegetables, the BPA in our plastic (banned at last, you note, from baby bottles but not from products intended for adults), the paraben preserved deodorant and the rBST in the milk, and all those substances which have been ‘proved’ in double blind clinical trials to be low risk taken together might be very high risk indeed. I say ‘might’ because we have no scientific studies evaluating the combination of all those substances on human health. Oh ja nee, we do have one. We are it.  Or are we going to pretend that the waves of asthmas, eczemas, cancers and immune systems disruptions that are hitting us now are completely unrelated  to the bunch of chemicals we are shoving into ourselves with our own hard-earned money?.[5]

For me the last straw has been aqueous cream. As those of you who have children with eczema know, aqueous cream is often prescribed by doctors instead of soap for eczema. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read Jane Griffiths to the effect that:

“..this is made from petroleum by-products and contains the detergent sodium laurel sulphate, which is detrimental to our bodies… Research has shown that it actually exacerbates skin conditions such as eczema. Regular use of aqueous cream on healthy skin reduces its thickness  and dries the surface out.”[6]

This explained to me reports that we have continuously been getting about eczema being ‘cured’ by using Khoelife soaps. I know that the Extra Strength Buchu Oil is helpful in closing open sores and so is useful for weeping eczema. But I have consistently said that the ‘cure’ lies more in simply not causing the problem in the first place. Live healthily, exercise well, don’t feed your child preservatives, remember that eczema like all immune system disruption is stress related (in other words huge fights with your spouse in front of the kids is not going to help) and do not wash your child with chemical detergents falsely called soap. But the aqueous cream angle! Because it is, you know, recommended by doctors.

We can carry on like this indefinitely. We can keep on producing new synthetic substances in labs and run mass testing on people until it becomes clear that they are dangerous, whereupon it gets withdrawn and some other synthetic chemical introduced in its place. Or, before there is a big aqueous cream scandal and another mealy mouthful from the FDA, we could just stick to what we know. Natural soap with no synthetics or chemicals, only oils and herbs which have been tested in use for thousands of years (as Demi Bown says ‘the longest clinical trial in history’ [7]) AND MADE WITH LOVE. This Dr Abrahams suggests prevention is better than cure. Order your soap and body butter from us and save yourself the doctor’s bills.  Khoelife soap may not be miraculous. It just doesn’t cause a problem. Simple, isn’t it?

Check out our Facebook page for this months’ markets! Or order from

[1] . Rodale, Maria Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World and Keep Us Safe Rodale Press, New York, 2010,  pp.36.

[5] . Rodale Organic Farming , pp. 29.

[ 6.] . Griffiths, Jane Jane’s Delicious Herbs: Growing and Using Herbs in South Africa , Sunbird Publishers, Johannesburg, n/d, pp. 182. Cf. also  Danby SG, Al-Enezi T, Sultan A, Chittock J, Kennedy K, Cork MJ. The Effect Of Aqueous Cream BP On The Skin Barrier In Volunteers With A Previous History Of Atopic Dermatitis.   British Journal of Dermatology 2011 Aug;165(2):329-34.

[7] .  Bown, Deni Ornamental Herbs For Your Garden Harper Collins, London, 1993,  pp. 121.

Jolly Carp Organic Market

All you parents who are going crazy thinking what to do with the kids during the winter school holidays, fear not! We have thought of you! Especially for families we are opening a new stall at the Jolly Carp Organic Market.
Petrina Roberts some of you may know as the force behind the campaign to stop Princessvlei being developed into a shopping mall. It is ridiculous, 17 000 hectares on the urban edge of the greater Cape Town area are being sought for rezoning. We already don’t have enough land to build houses on, people are setting up shacks in flood plains and spend half the winter under water. So the idea that what we really need is to cement up our remaining wetlands for the sake of more shopping malls is completely insane. We are proud to hook up with a woman of such formidable strength and power. And the Jolly Carp is the perfect place to sell our soaps. We subjected it to the acid test last weekend, meaning my nephew and twin nieces. There was a hairy moment when during the cupcake decorating workshop they all decided to eat the icing instead of molding it, but no worries, they ran off the sugar rush in the play park outside. There were also very healthy organic fruit and juices to soothe our parental consciences. Sister-in-law had a energy healing session which she was raving about, while Dawn Bosman chose the Yoga massage which she enjoyed equally. Auntie Yvette had a fun time with the kids while brother sat around and chatted. The food was great and affordable, ambience perfect – live band from Oceanview playing the smoothest of Cape jazz – and the kids paid it the highest compliment when they did not want to go home. So do yourselves a favour and see us there on Saturday.
It is at 38 Sasmeer Road, Retreat. You can find out more at:


Jolly Carp

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Well people, the new stall in the Village Market at Cape Quarter rocks! Dawn and I are having so much fun interacting with people and getting a sense of what it is that our products are used for and the social context, so to speak, in which our work must function. It has been an experience and a half.

D&Y's First Day !!!_edited-1

One of the things I have noticed from this experience are the numbers of people who are coming to us for eczema related problems. Now it is a fact that rates of eczema, allergies and asthma have been rising steadily in the last few decades: “Worldwide the risk of developing eczema is reported to be increasing among children and adolescents and currently affects approximately 5-20%.”

Of course it has been said that increasing environmental pollution has a lot to do with the steep rises in allergy-related diseases. As Maria Rodale points out in her amazing book Organic Manifesto, we are all being subjected to a great chemical experiment. Never before have humans been subjected to so many toxic substances for such a long period of time. The fact that each chemical individually has been declared ‘safe’ at low concentrations does not mean that they are safe for long term use stretching over decades, and mixed with each other. There has never been a study testing pesticides’ interaction with each other over a sustained period of time, even in low doses. The only way we are ever going to find out what happens is now, when my generation who have been exposed to these things for a lifetime begin to age and show wear and tear on our bodies. In the meantime, yes, rising rates of eczema and asthma should worry us. You want to bet they are completely unrelated? Because the stake is our children’s quality of life.

Be that as it may, there is some anecdotal evidence that switching to organic can help with severe eczema: “ a trying seven year experience of eczema on my feet was reduced to practically nil since making the effort last autumn to obtain organic fruit and vegetables a major part of my diet, and both eaten raw.”  To my customers I always say that preventing eczema starts with the soap. If you don’t irritate your skin in the first place then there will be no reason to cure it. Moving from fossil-fuel based soaps (another chemical experiment in progress) to organic soaps is a good way to start minimizing damage. That they are made with renewable energy is just an added bonus, you are saving the planet while getting healthier. No supermarket chain is going to offer you that kind of benefits.

The same effect occurs with your body lotion. Buchu oil works well as a serious moisturizer, and we have had requests for an unscented body butter for those who like a lighter touch. A lot of the feedback I have been getting from customers is that the Buchu Oil Extra Strength does wonders for weeping eczema – whether it is the active ingredients or simply the fact that they are no longer stressing their skin with synthetics I do not know – but this is what I am being told. So if you are a severe eczema sufferer I would recommend trying the switch to organic food and body care. You may find you save lots of money on medical bills simply Dawn's creative handsby not causing the problem in the first place.


Growing and changing…

It has been a time of much reading and thinking for me lately, I am going through something of a rebirth. Perhaps it is turning 50, or maybe it is a shift in my cosmic alignment. Am I just growing up? Anyway, 2013 for me has been a year of letting go of my past and learning to live in the present. Trust me, making soap is something you want to be present while doing 🙂
Some books that have rocked my world: Jeff Rubin’s “Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller”. It fascinates me to see that we were saying the same thing in 2009, namely that peak fossil fuels and climate change between them are going to change the economy as we know it, especially food and energy prices. Rubin predicts an end to a globalized agricultural system because rising oil prices are going to force us to eat local produce. Which would be an entirely good thing, I say. He also points out that this system which exploits the cheap labour of the South to export to the North is going to grind to a halt as rising freight costs outweigh comparative advantage. Again, living as I do in the Western Cape where our high quality textile industry was systematically destroyed by cheap Chinese imports, I cannot think this a bad thing either. I just wish our renewable energy ‘experts’ were to give this some thought. This whole debate about whether we should manufacture our own solar panels or not makes no sense unless we factor in the effect of peak fossil fuels. Duh.  But it is surprising how many “green energy’ people fail to factor in the full economic picture. We preach but we don’t always practice, it seems. That is why it was such a revelation to read Rubin. Like Jeremy Grantham, this is an investment banker who speaks from experience. I love it when the money people and the deep ecology feminists agree!!!
Vandana Shiva’s latest  “Making Peace With Mother Earth” was also a spiritual awakening. Like Wangari Mathai was so fond of doing, Vandana Shiva brings us back over and over again to governance issues. She makes the point that the most effective way to protect the environment in India has been to organize the indigenous peoples whose land is being threatened. It makes me think more around indigenous issues right here at home. If Shiva is right then the the empowerment of the Khoesan is at heart a ‘green issue.
Workwise, I have been busy, together with a bunch of other lovely people we just put together a civil society energy plan. It was great fun. You can read more about it at
Bringing all these strands together is the big news on the Khoelife front. My most amazing friend Dawn Bosman, a woman of grace, beauty charm and intelligence (Yup, the full package, people) has joined me to handle the sales and marketing! And we are opening our first stall!! Yes!!!

Dawn cooking soap in the winter sun

Dawn cooking soap in the winter sun

You will find us in the Village Market @ Cape Quarter ( ) every Wednesday and Sunday from 10.00 – 15.00, starting this weekend 16 June. So celebrating Youth Month by changing and growing seems most appropriate.
But don’t worry, nobody is depriving you of soap! Those of you who are unlucky enough to not live in Cape Town can still order by e-mailing us at

Seeing the connections

I had a fantastic conversation today with a young friend of mine. It was the kind of call every grizzled gender-based violence activist loves to get. He said: “you know, I have really had enough of this violence against women and I and some of my people want to connect with communities where we can do some work.” I was happy to help, of course, beginning with some good advice. I said: “you’ve got to see the connections.” I gave a presentation a few years back to the women’s movement, who all thought I was crazy but over time it has started to sink in, like water dripping on a stone. I spoke of the Earth as the biggest victim of gender-based violence of them all. It is the same patriarchy, the ‘life is about using people’ mentality which allows men to abuse women and abuse the Earth. We cannot divorce ourselves from our ecosystem. Spraying pesticides or fracking are acts as violent as rape, and harm women and children as much, in the long run. I have spent a lot of time talking about green issues in the women’s movement and gender issues in the environmental movement. For me the two are inseparable, because we are going to need the same change in values and philosophy to get things right. What goes around comes around. You cannot do harm to others without it eventually coming back to you.  It’s that simple, really. Once we all get that, we will begin to change.

My friend understood it  immediately. He spoke about wanting to heal the wounded souls of his fellow men. Which, mind you, I always think is a good thing. I think if women tried to do that work, men’s souls would end up a lot more wounded than when we started…


Seriously, though, research has shown that the one of the main factors influencing male behavioural change  is, surprise, surprise, other men. Young men look to older men for role models on what it means to be manly, so modelling a kinder, more responsible and more loving manhood is really important. Young people look at what you do, not what you say, they are highly developed male cow manure detectors. So it is incredibly important not just to give workshops but to live those values as best you can.

Bringing it down to the practical, you can start healing your wounded soul with some nice, organic soap. I am doing a spicy but sweet special this week, for all the men who are doing their best to hold it together with pride and dignity. And of course for those women who like to celebrate their male spirits.    Having found some lovely organic essential oils at my mall, of all places, I  jazzed up my basic soap with some ylang ylang, cedarwood, chamomile (for those strong people with tender skins), grapefruit and spearmint. One of these is an anti-depressant, another is an aphrodisiac ( I won’t say which…), and the rest are mildly anti-septic and deep cleansing.  Sweet, spicy and energizing, it is just the soap to get you going out there to fight the good fight with a spring in your step.

It is R 30/100g bar. Order from 


If it ain’t broke you won’t have to fix it.

It is midsummer heading for autumn here, and ideal weather for soap making. It is so hot that one hardly even needs the solar cooker, in fact, on very hot days the soap practically makes itself. This is the traditional time for soap making. The Khoesan were a nomadic people, every year leaving this country side for six months to give the grazing time to rejuvenate. So this would have been the time women made soap and oil for the journey, drying also fruits and gathering nuts for road food.

I have been experimenting with a liquid baby soap, and today received the thumbs up from the mother of my nephew and nieces, who have been subjecting the soap to the most stringent tests. My nephew prefers the hard soap, and left to himself he will sit in the bath and lather the soap until it is finished. I give him his own special gift bars every few weeks that he can lather until he is satisfied. But the two little girls seem to prefer the liquid soap, or at least so their mother says. It is great to have a family so willing to offer themselves in the cause of research!

Seriously, though, I don’t know if you noticed but rates of allergies, eczema and other stress related skin symptoms are becoming more and more common amongst children. Baby eczema especially is on the rise, and I suspect it has something to do with all the allergens we are exposed to nowadays. Petroleum -based soaps in particular are very harsh no matter what is done to soften them up with additives, and that will always impose a lot of stress on the skin. So, although my buchu oil is well spoken of especially when it comes to weeping eczema, for me eczema care needs to start with the soap. If you don’t irritate it you won’t need expensive creams to set it right. And that these soaps are produced without emitting carbon means fewer problems for your baby to solve when we are no longer around.

The baby soaps are unscented in the hard version, and have just a whiff of chamomile and buchu in the liquid version. Chamomile is soothing and anti-allergenic, while the buchu helps to heal where the itches have been scratched open. Baby skins really don’t need any help to make them soft and smooth, but these soaps are equally useful for adults who are prone to allergies. I make them in the full size but also in a sample size if you want to try just a little to see if it works. Order from

My favourite fairy tale !

One evening a young girl forgot the bamboes (milking bucket) in the kookskerm (cooking hut). Two frogs jumped up the edge, but in their eagerness to drink the creamy milk, they both lost their footing and fell in. The one frog, who had always fancied himself rather clever, started crying. “We are going to die, we are going to die!” he said. “The edges of the bamboes are too high, the milk too slippery, my life is going to end right here, drowned in a sea of milk. I am not going to end like this in trial and suffering” he said” commended his soul to the Great Creator, stopped swimming and drowned.
The second frog had always been called rather slow, even by her mother. She said” well, if I am going to die, at least I am going to go down fighting. I am too stupid to know I am going to die. I will just keep on swimming here and praying and surely, if our Great Creator does not help me, at least I will know I tried.” So the stupid frog just kept on swimming and swimming, round and round in the bamboes. In the morning the milkmaid came and gave a great scream. IN the bamboes floated a dead frog and a very live, fat and happy frog, sitting smiling on a sea of butter.
The moral of course being that sometimes it is helpful to be too stupid to give up…

Keep swimming!

so now you know why I make frog soap

Going back to my roots

It is a wet and rainy spring in Cape Town. The news is depressing, I have not seen the sun for days.
They say that this kind of weather is all part of climate change, and that we must learn to expect more extremes. Colder winters and hotter drier summers seems to be what is in store for us. Ja nee…
So it is a good time to go back to my culture and tradition, reminding myself that we have survived many things and that we will survive even this.
Spring in the Cape means that the waxberry (Morella serrata) is fruiting. This is a sturdy large shrub or small tree, a lovely symbol of survival in that it does well under the conditions that seem to characterize my plot. It stands under water in winter and resists drought in summer, growing a bit skew because of the gale-force south easter, but providing its bountiful harvest twice a year without fail. I grew one on my bath water outflow for years, just to show it could be done, but after about five years it seems those rich conditions were too much for it, it bore well but died off quickly. Now I refrain from spoiling the others, letting them tough it out and watering only when I remember, which cannot be more than every couple of months in the heat. Instead the bath waters the fig tree that really cannot seem to get too much of either water or manure.

A full grown waxberry tree

I am sure when summer comes it is going to be miserably hot and sunny, so I am making a special batch of waxberry soap. Waxberry has been used for centuries by the KhoeSan to make soap, although traditionally it is the dune wax berry which is used, it yields a fine, white wax. Only the dune waxberry won’t grow in my clayey soil, I tried, but it pined for the wild sea shores of its native habitat. The black waxberry grows beautifully here, though, it will produce a dark gray soap. I think I will scent it with rose and jasmine, and of course buchu, just to really celebrate the indigenous roots of this soap. From black waxberry I make a soap which makes your skin darker and your hair curlier, no, people, I really do not try and sell this soap commercially. Not even during Biko month.

The dark berries yield a black soap

But guess what, for that very reason black waxberry is really useful in protecting your skin from the sun. It is perfect for a dry hot summer working in the garden or chilling on the beach. If your hair is dry and over-relaxed, also, it is just the thing to restore shine and bounce to it. The fact that waxberry soap is carbon neutral (in fact carbon-storing), fully organic and not commercialized except in the tiny quantities I harvest and make is perhaps just a bonus. The fact is, this is good soap, mild and gentle and caring for your skin and hair. So, although this is a special batch for my personal use, I will sell some to you on my usual first-come-first-served basis. Try some and take yourself back in time for a while, to  the days when the climate was not our enemy and  our lives were an economy of abundance.

R 30/100 g bar – order from

Indigenous Jasmine

tough but infinitely generous, waxberry soap symbolizes centuries of tradition

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