This Burundian entrepreneur wants to replace mosquito nets with catnip oil

Catnip oil is the mosquito repellent ingredient in her Karire line of soaps and lotions.
Burundi entrepreneur catnip oil msoquito
Burkina Faso, the village of Ponsom Tenga located 20 kilometers from Ouagadougou, Children pose in front of a football goal made from a mosquito net.

Ginette Karirekinyana is a Burundi-born entrepreneur frustrated by Africa’s struggle to conquer malaria. The global effort of the past 20 years has done some good but is not progressively growing due to its focus on mosquito nets.

As mosquitoes become more resistant to insecticides, the value mosquito nets bring isn’t increasing but rather “flat-lining” says Malaria No More chief executive Martin Edlund.

A solution to this stunted growth would be to focus on countries where malaria is most common, and organize a targeted homegrown response that addresses issues which aren’t in the statistics, such as how the inconvenience outweighs the value of wrapping a donated bed net around a cramped room.

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Karirekinyana’s effort to assuage this was leaving her teaching job in Quebec and joining a research team to extract is a cost effective essential oil nepetalactone, commonly known as catnip. In their published research, they found that in a sample of 60 participants in Burundi, 55 said they were not bitten when using a lotion containing the catnip oil. Ten complained about the odor but were able to find ways to use it satisfactorily.

Karirekinyana has gone forward to mask the smell with other organic ingredients in her Karire line of cosmetics, and even using catnip oil in teas, soaps, and lotions which are more cost-friendly than perfumes and candles. “Everyone uses soap or cream and lotions,” she said, adding that Karire products may expand to mosquito repellent household detergents.

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Although Karire products are making waves in urban centers, they have not yet been able to spread to rural areas where the damage is most felt. Karire is striving for a solution that fits practically in people’s lives, without necessarily having to discard bed nets altogether, but having a convenient and fitting substitute if need be.

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