When Sulie Abell realised that only skincare made with natural ingredients would not further aggravate her eczema-prone skin, she made another startling discovery — all of it was available in her village of Melugu in Simanggang, Sarawak. Her kampung is a beautiful place, she says, but plagued by poverty as some farmers were making as little as RM200 a month. “I was shocked,” she recalls. “They could barely survive. Healthcare and children’s education were being affected. I had to do something.”
Sluvi Natural was born out of her desire to help farmers in her village, by putting their high-quality produce into a product that was increasingly in-demand — skincare made from all-natural ingredients to soothe troubled skin. “I would have continued making skincare for myself had it not been for the farmers,” she says. “The idea behind this social enterprise is to empower small-village farmers and also champion the incredible quality of Sarawakian produce.”
Rice, aloe vera, ginger and kelulut honey form the bulk of what the farmers produce for Sluvi Natural, while Abell and her team focus on the production of face masks, scrubs and soaps that have proved to be exceptionally effective in dealing with eczema-ridden and allergy-prone skin. Apart from orders placed through its website, Sluvi Natural gets a good amount of corporate orders, for which Abell customises the products to create something unique.
Abell worked with five farming families when she started in 2018. Today, she there are seven. Their income has grown by 300%, she says excitedly. “I knew all about Mohamed Yunus and how his concept of micro-credit was able to help so many people in Bangladesh. So, I applied the same idea with the farmers in Melugu. My plan is to make them agropreneurs, so they don’t need to sell to just Sluvi, but any company that wants to buy their produce.
“Honestly, what’s most important to me is knowledge transfer. I want them to learn enough about farming to scale up and do better for themselves. They were initially very suspicious of me as they had been cheated before by people who took their produce and absconded with it. My aim is to create a transparent and effective supply chain that ensures their produce is fairly traded and they are empowered entrepreneurs in their own right.”
One of the top five winners of the Shell Malaysia LiveWIRE 2018 programme, which supports young entrepreneurs from Sabah and Sarawak, Abell hopes to see the number of farming families grow to at least 20, and for Sluvi’s product range to expand from five to 10 by the end of the year.
“My long-term goal is to create a better farming ecosystem,” she says eagerly. “Eco-tourism is also part of my eventual plan as it will bring more economic activity to Melugu. My dreams are beyond Sluvi, but it is a good starting point for what I really want to do: help the farmers in my kampung.”
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This article first appeared on Jul 18, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.