Most coconut oil on the market is actually extracted from copra, which is the dried flesh of the coconut – a mass-produced oil requiring huge amounts of energy and producing inherently damaged oil. The crude oil produced this way requires further refining, bleaching and deodorising (RBD). This requires chemicals and large amounts of heat to produce a commercially acceptable product. This process strips away much of the wonderful fragrance and natural benefits found in coconut oil, meaning that coconut oil produced from copra and virgin coconut oil are two very different products.
Not-for-profit women’s foundation
Earthoil supports a virgin coconut oil project in Samoa, which is run by a not-for-profit women’s foundation – a unique venture aimed at rebuilding the economic independence of individual villages. The foundation currently works with a number of family groups, with virgin coconut oil (VCO) production sites set up. By locating the production of virgin coconut oil within the villages, the returns to the villages, and to the individual family groups, are greatly increased by comparison with the more highly industrialised process based on copra.
Organically certified farms
There are currently 728 organically certified farms, the majority of them growing coconuts. 20,000 kg of coconut oil is produced a year and organic certification has been obtained. Funding has recently been received to set up two additional production sites. More VCO production sites will be set up as the market increases. The coconut project is producing a livelihood for families to enable them to remain at home and earn a regular income whilst also employing other villagers and sustaining family cash needs without relying on remittances or other outside support. Each site is capable of producing up to 500 kg of oil a month without much effort, with two sites currently producing over one tonne a month, but production is also dictated by family and village events.
Collection and oil production
The nuts are collected before being cracked open and the white flesh extracted by hand. This flaked flesh is then carefully dried before being passed through a hand-operated hydraulic press to produce a virgin coconut oil. The production process is extremely rapid – especially when compared to the traditional copra process. In fact, virgin coconut oil is produced within one hour of cracking the coconut. His process locks in the aroma ‘volatiles’, thus giving the oil its unique coconut aroma and flavour.
Earthoil is also involved in coconut oil projects in Tonga and India. Organic agriculture was traditionally practiced by early settlers on Tonga. This practice is now being reintroduced and the Tongan farmers are now becoming important suppliers of sustainably produced agricultural produce. In Tonga, a foundation set up in 1991 began working with the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) a few years ago, supported by training in organic certification and setting up virgin coconut oil production sites. The farmers have been assisted with quality procedures and building coconut driers. They achieved organic certification in 2000. The programme has given local people skills and employment, and enabled them to lift themselves out of poverty. In India, a co-operative of around 3600 farmers was founded in Kerala in 2005. The farmers grow a host of tropical products on their small plots, with coconut being the main crop. These mixed crop plantations play an important role in preserving local biodiversity and also safeguard the food security of the farming members. The co-operative has FLO organic certification and a Fair Trade fund has been established. The fair trade premium is being used as insurance in case of crop failure, as well as solar electric fences for protection against elephants, the construction of a new school kitchen to ensure that children from poor families get one free hot meal a day, and also for scholarships for children.
Uses and benefits of coconut oil
Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is stable – and has a long shelf life, which makes it ideal for use in cosmetics. Coconut oil is readily absorbed into the skin, as generations of users can confirm. It has high levels of antioxidants which, when the oil is used as an ingredient in cosmetic formulations, may help protect against free radical formation, and consequent damage to the skin. Earthoil specialises in smallholding producer projects in remote areas and can help you to access these communities and be part of their development. Earthoil welcomes visitors to its projects and to meet the communities. Contact us for details.
Contact Earthoil for more information
Earthoil specialises in smallholding producer projects in remote areas and can help you to access these communities and be part of their development.
Earthoil welcomes visitors to its projects and to meet the communities. Contact us for details.