On The Road

This Natural Skincare Brand Sources Superfood Ingredients in Uganda

Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of LXMI, brought us along to see how the ingredients are harvested—and the amazing things the business is doing for the local Ugandan women.

By: Emily Ramshaw

It goes without saying that we are skincare junkies. We are undiscriminating and will try anything and everything that crosses our desks—which also means we know the good from the bad. So when we heard that Leila Janah’s new LXMI line boasts an ingredient that you can only find in her products—and that it does miraculous things in the moisture department (which is pretty much what we’re talking about when we talk about skincare)—well, we tried it. And we did our research (journalism!). And in doing so found out that Janah discovered Nilotica (the aforementioned miracle ingredient) by chance during a trip to Uganda, that it cured her travel-worn skin (can we please?), and that when she looked into its production, she realized that by harvesting the plant and producing in volume, she could employ Northern Ugandan women and provide much needed income (up to three times the local average). Miracle, indeed.

“I travel to Northern Uganda to source our rare Nilotica, the powerful superfood in our inaugural LXMI collection,” Janah says. “Getting there is pretty intense—this time I flew from Mumbai to Nairobi, and then on to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, finally taking a 6-hour 4x4 ride to the north on bumpy dirt roads. I love it there. Things move at a different pace and I have more time to take in stunning sunsets, sunrises, and the natural beauty of pristine land and big sky.” We obviously wanted to come along, but schedules (and budgets) being what they are, we got the next best thing, Janah’s diary of her most recent trip.

Click through the photos to read more about the real miracle: how Ugandan women have been able to lift themselves up by harvesting Nilotica.

“With our producers for LXMI in Northern Uganda. These women have lived through war, the murder of their husbands by Kony’s army, abductions of children they knew, HIV/AIDS from rape during the war, and a prolonged drought. Yet, they do not complain or ask for anything. All of these women say their lives changed through work and harvesting. Some use their profits to buy chickens and goats, breed them, and send entire families to school. They are so inspiring.”

“The women behind LXMI Pure Nilotica Melt in Northern Uganda.”

“With Christine Abalo, a 48-year-old Nilotica harvester in Lira, Uganda. She built her family a four-room house with her profits from the harvests, and took charge of her children’s education. She watched her grandfather beaten to death by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and struggled to overcome the trauma of war by working hard and providing for her family. Her story makes me realize that my struggles pale in comparison to those of the women in this region.”

“With Christina Akwero, 51 years old, and another harvester in Northern Uganda. She left her village because of a Karamojong insurgency (the Karamojong are a local tribe of cattle-herders who raid villages when their cattle don’t have adequate grazing land or food). Now, she collects Nilotica nuts with others in her new home and sells them to earn a living.”

“Our lovely, hardworking producers of Hibiscus Africana, grown organically in Jinja, a stunning area known for intense, category-four rapids along the White Nile.”

“One of our local producers, pressing and grinding the nuts.”

“A local producer with flawless skin. Her secret? Nilotica!”

“Susan Amolo, a producer, holding Nilotica Reserve nuts against her bold tribal patterned skirt.”

“Near the source of the Nile River at Murchison Falls, Uganda.”

“Caught glimpse of a rainbow near the source of the Nile in Murchison Falls, Uganda.”

“The beautiful Nile River at sunset.”

“Sitting with the locals in the town of Otuke while they sell Nilotica Oil out of recycled glass.”

“Our jar of Melt in front of my favorite big sky, on the road from Kampala to the north.”

“A typical Ugandan thatch-roof hut under a beautiful sky. The north has been much drier than usual, possibly due to climate change. You can see the dry area around the hut, usually a verdant kelly green.”

“Walking along a dirt road in Lira. That’s the moon behind me!”

“Riding a ‘boda boda’ or motorcycle taxi around Northern Uganda is a great way to catch the local scenery.”

“Uganda has a pristine landscape and such a pure environment!”

“A monkey and her baby on the side of the road during the drive north. I love spotting wildlife from the car and remembering that this region is the cradle of humanity, not far from the Great Rift Valley.”

“Two cranes on a tree in Nairobi National Park, where I stopped briefly to visit our Samasource offices after Uganda. This was the day after Valentine’s Day!”

“Our producers holding Nilotica Nuts. Here you can get a sense of local fashion and the beautiful jewelry the women wear!”

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