In 1992 a village soap maker in Mozambique appealed to a visiting consultancy team to come up with a method of producing oil directly from his community’s coconuts. None of the team forgot the plea since, if such a technology existed or could be developed, it could radically transform the lives of poverty-stricken coconut farmers around the world.
Later that year Dr Dan Etherington, an Agricultural Economist at the Australian National University in Canberra and the team leader, learnt that the people of a remote Tuvalu island in the centre of the south Pacific had long ago discovered how to cold press coconut oil from sun-dried coconut. However the copra trade and cheap imported vegetable oils had ‘killed’ this local technology.
Recognising its economic potential, Dan worked in collaboration with the CSIRO and colleagues to develop the fine-weather household technique into an all-weather cottage-industry technology. We call it Direct Micro Expelling® (DME®). The quality of the oil is stunning. With the encouragement and backing of some Christian friends, Dan set up Kokonut Pacific Pty Ltd to further refine the technology and take it back to the islands. Dr Dan’s coconut odyssey actually began much earlier. The journey has been difficult at times but "breaking chains" can also be exciting and rewarding.
The DME® process produces pure virgin oil at the farm household level within one hour of opening the coconuts.
In 1997 the company began to sell DME® equipment, training and consultancy services. There are now many DME® units in South Pacific and Caribbean countries and there is increasing interest from Asia. The DME® technology is helping protect fragile tropical environments by enhancing the incomes and living standards of people from their most sustainable local resource. Villagers are now producing this remarkably pure natural oil (FFA < 0.2%) in commercial quantities. Its chemical structure and purity ensures a long shelf life.
The Company’s goal is encapsulated in the motto: “Empowering and bringing hope”.
Kokonut Pacific works to improve the well-being of the rural population of tropical countries through the production of premium grade coconut oil and other coconut products.
This objective is to be achieved by revitalising the smallholder coconut industry through the use of modern technology and by working in partnership with local communities.
In most situations, people want to work and they have plenty of nuts. Now they have a way of turning those nuts into very pure, natural, virgin oil within one hour of opening a coconut. Kokonut Pacific is working hard with local firms, non-government organisations (NGOs) and Governments to make sure that the right support systems are in place. The capacity of remote communities to produce DME® extra virgin coconut oil is often far greater than the local market can absorb. For the dream of regular employment to be realised, other markets have to be found. Because most of the oil has to be exported, this requires organisation for quality control, storage, transport, bulking up and finding buyers. In many cases, these buyers are in other countries so the oil has to be carefully packed and shipped overseas.
We are working with our country partners and international accrediting agencies to gain full Organic Certification status for the oil. This was first achieved in Samoa. Now this status has also been granted to the operations in the Solomon Islands. OC status is a great encouragement to the producers and assures customers of the quality of the oil. In addition, from the start, we have adopted Full and Fair Trade, Fair Share, and “triple bottom line” principles (demonstrating care for people, the planet and profitability).
Will the DME® System and this pure form of coconut oil help reclaim the Tree of Life? Read on!