The effort that the Meru Herbs company have put intro ensuring the livelihood and income guarantees of their farmers is astounding and admirable. Arguably, it provides a near-ideal example of a company that prioritizes its employees and the environment and understands how to properly leverage that for profit. However, the lack of content on their website makes it difficult for someone who is not intimately familiar with the company to confirm their guarantees. For example, besides stating that educational programs are provided to farmers, little information is provided on how these are implemented and what effects they’ve had on the farmers’ livelihoods. But given that many of these programs are new additions likely in their beta phases, it’s easy to understand why little information would be currently available.
Additionally, the team breakdowns show a respectable effort at gender equity as well as local involvement - despite this being an Italian-founded company, local experts make up 75% of the Entrepreneur Team leading Meru Herbs.
This natural, organic, caffeine-free product is made with 55% carcadè (hibiscus) and 45% sugar. Though high in natural sweeteners, the product is free of preservatives, un-processed, and delicious! Carcadè is the Arabic word for Hibiscus, an herbal plant considered medicinal because of its numerous health benefits. Hibiscus is often used in holistic medicine to treat fevers, stomach aches, bacterial infections, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Though the scientific research is lacking, some research has shown the potential of hibiscus to help with weight loss and a cancer treatment because of its high percentage of anthocyanins. Vegetables and fruits high in anthocyanins have been said to exhibit “antioxidant activity and liver protection”, therefore lending to the anticancer properties of hibiscus.
According to the Meru Herbs page on Hibiscus, Hibiscus juices, jam, tea, or jelly is made using the edible calyx of the flower - the red, fleshy, cup-shaped center of the flower enclosing the seed pod. Though Meru Herbs provides little information on how their individual products are produced, the claim that their product is “home-made” allows us to assume this is a typical jam recipe. To make caracade jam, the calyx, what look like dried-up buds or petals, are peeled away from the seed pod, washed, boiled, and stirred until the water has mostly evaporated and what’s left is a thick substance resembling jam. Then, after cooling, sugar is added to the mixture.
The Meru Herbs Carcadè Jam consists of almost equal parts Hibiscus flower and sugar are mixed in together. Hibiscus on its own often has a tarty, sour flavor, hence the hefty addition of sweeteners. The website does not specify what kind of sugar is used and how refined it is, which would determine its nutrient properties. But based on the company’s objectives to establish organic farming methods, it may be assumed that organic, lesser-refined sugar may be used, unless the company opted for cheaper more refined alternatives.
Meru Farms is committed to providing sustainable incomes for employees and farmers, eradicating poverty, and educating the community on organic farming objectives. These objectives fulfill their tri-fold mission of empowering women, alleviating poverty and improving the overall standard of living for the working-class population of Kenya. The company’s dedication to their cause is most obvious in their development as a company, having started as a Water Project establishing in 1985 by the Catholic Diocese of Meru, with funding from the Italian government. What had originally started as small-scale project to provide clean and dependable water sources to local farmers further developed into the Meru Herbs company in 1991.This company expanded its mission to include the aim of alleviating the financial constraints on farmers in the production of their products. It also served as a source of constant income for the operational and maintenance costs of the Water Project.
The name Meru is derived from the location of the farmlands, in the Meru region of Kenya, along a stretch of the Kithino river off the eastern slopes of Mount Kenya. Farmers are located near this tributary, and are ensured a Fair Trade wage and sustainable livelihoods as part of the Meru Herbs company vision. These farmers are not only paid fair wages but are also involved in educational activities to understand farming best practices, irrigation methods, sustainable methods for production, processing and packing, and product marketing.