Planting the fetau tree

Photo: Jane Ussher

The fetau tree not only offers protection from cyclones, tsunami and rising tides, but harvesting its oil could offer a new income stream for local communities.

As part of its response to the tsunami that devastated the south coast of Samoa in September 2009, Oxfam and its partner, Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI), are supporting a programme to plant fetau trees along the damaged coast of Samoa.

Roots of resilience

Fetau trees act as a natural barrier against erosion, storm surges, cyclones and tsunami, helping reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities to any future disasters and protect them against the impacts of climate change.

As well as offering protection from the sea, this versatile tree is also helping to provide a new way of earning a living for local communities through harvesting its oil.

Oil exploration

The tsunami that swept across Samoa in September 2009 may have washed away lives and villages, but just like the amazing fetau tree, the hope and resilience of the Samoan people remains strong.

Fetau oil is a traditional remedy with a long history of use in the South Pacific. It is a key ingredient in some cosmetics.
Fetau nuts fall naturally from the tree. They are then gathered and laid out on racks to dry for two months. During the drying process, the nut kernels release a strong, rich oil, which is extracted by cold-pressing and filtration. The oil can fetch NZ$400 per litre.

Fetau tree oil has many desirable qualities beneficial to the skin. It is highly absorbent with a light walnut fragrance that is a significant healing agent with skin healing, anti-neuralgic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

WIBDI has been working closely with cosmetic retailers on tapping into the growing European and US market for fetau oil. 


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