Virgin coconut oil

Organic agriculture is considered to have been traditionally practised by farmers in Tonga since the islands’ early settlement. Tonga and other developing nations in the Pacific are now bringing this practice back to the fore by becoming important suppliers of sustainabily produced agricultural goods.

Significantly, organic products gain a higher market price than chemically produced products, enabling impoverished farmers to earn a decent living — enough to provide schooling for their children and adequate nutrition for their family.

Oxfam New Zealand is working with local partner the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) to support rural communities in Vava’u, Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Eua, Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou through virgin coconut oil production. This programme is providing local people with employment, skills and an opportunity to earn an income to lift themselves out of poverty.

What looks like a building site here will become the economic lifeblood of this village, enabling the community to sell their virgin coconut oil in the capital and beyond.

Equipping communities

Growers on the island of Eua can now produce their own virgin coconut oil thanks to the equipment and building materials Oxfam has supplied them with.

This includes electric coconut graters, which are used to extract the flesh from the nut, and coconut driers, which were installed by villagers and work by roasting the grated coconut flesh on a metal plate over wood-burning fire.

Dried coconut is weighed before being placed into the new oil press machines, which use pressure to squeeze the valuable oil from the flesh into special oil collection containers. Oxfam has trained villagers to oversee the whole production process, from weighing, quality checks to record keeping, and organised experts from a similar scheme in Samoa, WIBDI, to travel to Tonga to share their expertise.

This equipment and expertise is vital in ensuring that farmers can produce quality virgin coconut oil to sell at the organic market in Nuku’alofa, across other islands in Tonga as well as potentially for export. Money the oil generates means that farmers will be able to pay to send their children to school, or for medication, or food for their families.

In images: See TNYC producing the virgin coconut oil

 

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