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March 2012 - Coconut Oil vision becomes a reality in the Solomon Islands

Skimming across the glassy surface of the Coral Sea last week, Dr Dan Etherington confessed to me (over the outboard motor’s roar) that not all his Solomon Island canoe trips had been this smooth. A one hour trip on a flat sea can turn into an agonising day-long bashing when the sea begins to “smile”, as the locals euphemistically put it. This sort of adventure has been par for the course over the last two decades that my father, known in the islands as Dr Dan, has pioneered virgin coconut oil in the tropics. This visit to the wild and unspoiled Solomon Islands proved that the vision behind Dr Dan’s Kokonut Pacific enterprise, to Empower and Bring Hope, has now become reality for many communities.

Peter Kabela is a natural leader - an elder among his people he speaks several of the 80 indigenous languages of these diverse islands read more...

Aug 2010: Solomon Islands visitors

We have had the privilege of three Solomon Islanders staying with us recently. First to come were June Fakarii and John Dua. They were shocked by how cold Canberra was. June is a very competent young lady who graduated from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. She works as a Secretary / book keeper / statistician for Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands (KPSI) in Honiara. She keeps the records of all the producers and makes sure that they are paid promptly for their oil.

John is one of the foundational VCO producers from Malaita Province and is the current Chairman of the Producers Association. He was particularly interested in seeing the procedures required at our end for Organic Certification and learning how important OC is in developing the market for VCO. The annual OC inspections carried out in SI by NASAA are very thorough and arduous.

The last to come was Morgan Ragaruma, seen here with our Founder and Managing Director, Dr Dan Etherington. Morgan oversees the warehouse in Honiara where he weighs, tests and records every 60L barrel of VCO as it arrives. He pumps all the VCO of export standard into large holding tanks to settle for about a month. The settled oil is then pumped through a filter system into 1,000L IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers) ready for export.

Morgan and Ian Gray (Production Manager at our  Queanbeyan facility) enjoyed their time together and learned much from each other as they prepared some of the Solomons VCO for a bottling run in Queanbeyan.

Morgan is a proud father but is a little nervous now as his wife, Jennifer, is expecting twins. He was surprised by how many kangaroos came to see him and he enjoyed spouting off in Canberra.

The Niulife - Kokonut Pacific partnership with the people of the Solomons is a joy and is testimony to what can be achieved by trust and commitment to fair trade in difficult circumstances. KPSI is the only Certified Organic operation in the Solomons. We really appreciate the continuing support of our customers for  this 'not-only-for-profit' social enterprise.

 

Jan 2010: The Solomons DME system continues to grow

Map of Solomon islands units
Along with the natural expansion, of KPSI,  other donor organisations such as CSP are helping to expand the DME concept. Regular producers meeting are now held and a number of extension worker travel regularly to visit the producers and discuss their needs.

The producers grow their own nuts or buy them in from neighbouring farmers and this helps to spread the prosperity to others. The extension workers provide vital communication between the remote farmer and the knowledge base at HQ. They also help to organise meetings of interested parties, help with setting up of a framework that the producers can continue to use, take orders for spare parts and note the general morale and concerns of the producers. Helping farmers understand their financial position is vital where money is relatively new concept but is a vital requirement for school fees, transport and power.  The extension worker becomes a regular visitor and a part of the local community.

 Regular news letters are produced at HQ and distributed with the containers on their round trips to Honiara and back. This keeps producers in the loop and regular extension visits help headquarters to spot and assist struggling farmers as soon as possible. Internal markets are steadily growing and Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands is now recognised as major player in the development of income generating assistance to the Solomon Islands.


Dan’s Solomons safari 2009

Storm Brewing

It was 7am and one hour into our voyage before a weak sun peeped out from behind cloud-covered Choiseul. The sea was choppy around a longer swell with an easterly wind increasing in strength. The progress of our 22ft boat was slow and we were quickly soaked. With four other passengers I was facing the stern and being pounded by spray. At least the spray was warm. My life jacket was a godsend. It was a real rollercoaster, white-knuckle, ride with bone jarring crashes over the waves. Surely the gravest danger here is spinal injury or neck whiplash. I forgot the itchy sandfly bites on my legs and had a bruised butt. Frigate birds wheeled across the waves.

We originally intended to make our first landing at Kolumbungara but this became impossible because of the direction of the swell and the strong wind. The sea was "smiling" i.e. show its teeth! We were forced to make for Vella Lavella.

As we got close to the coast we headed into wind towards the eastern end of the island where, my guide shouts to me, "We have 'cousins'". We make landfall in a beautiful little bay at 9AM in bright sunshine but with a 25+ knot easterly wind blowing. We are indeed soaked. On a scale of 1 to 10 in difficulty, our helmsman ranks this 3 hour jaunt as 6 and we are only half way! We now have to wait out the weather.

We make good use of the time in washing ourselves and our clothes under a stand-pipe as a young mother bathes her baby in a pail.

At 1615 the decision is made to take advantage of the high tide and make for Gizo. We pack up and are underway at 1630. It should take 2 hours.

We hug the south east coast of Vella Lavella riding the swell. 'Hug' means that we are between 50 and 100 metres off the coconut-lined shore.

We pass a resort and safe anchorage at Liapari Island at 1815 and head due east for Gizo - the passengers looking towards the lowering sun. The sea is still quite rough but we are heading into the wind so the spray is not too much of a problem. The sun sets and we are invited to face forwards for the last part of the voyage searching for the navigation channel markers and pointing to those which we see! The gloom gets ever darker but now we see the flickering lights of the town. We reach the wharf at 1900 hrs!! Not the best plan without any lit beacons.

So now you know: Choiseul to Gizo can take 13 hours in bad weather! top

full story...

Raising pigs from residue coconut meal, Malaita

Extension Training visit Feb-March 2009

In early 2007 Chris Maina embarked on an installation and extension worker training tour spending four weeks travelling the island of Malaita from end to end. New units were launched and existing ones upgraded and much training and assistance was given to all. New software was introduced for processing the extension worker visits at HQ. New trial equipment for testing was also placed in service with various producers for in field testing.
Expanding the local market is of vital importance to avoid the unreliable fluctuations of the export market. As producers gain and understanding they produce more oil of export quality and this is a also a better product for the local market. Wider use is being made of the by product and here we se pigs being raised on the meal.
A new unit was completed at Hauhui final training given Suraio. Tawaiseu in the south has a vital village and exuberant team. The need for regular extension worker visits was again reinforced and there are now a three trained extension workers and a construction crew that regularly visit the far reaches of the Solmons encouraging producers.

The trip was well worth while and the usual travelling across the open Pacific Ocean in open boats, sleeping on village floors with mosquitoes and using the open air amenities kept Chris alert.


Kenya and Mozambique

Kenya

In Aug-Sept 2007 Dan travelled to Africa to tour Kenya and Mozambique installations. None of these units utilised an on the ground trainer and Dan was able to institute some guidance that doubled the production rate in one case . There are 6 units on the African continent, three in Kenya, one in Tanzania, one in Mozambique and one in South Africa.

Unfortunately Dan was struck down with Malaria just at the end of the Africa tour as he was about to head to the UK and spent a month in Nairobi hospital. Fortunately Dan grew up in Kenya and help was at hand leading to a full recovery and many more unexpected adventures.

 

photo: Coast Coconut Farms on the Kenya Coast


Aceh Indonesia

Following the  tsunami in Aceh the Indonesian team went to Aceh and installed a unit at Pide that has now become a place of hope for the local youth and one of the most successful installations in Indonesia. Just 2 months after it gave traumatized youth  something to do – somewhere warm to sleep even attracted local government attention and gave the youth back their self esteem – as well as oil, soap, fuel and other local needs. There are now 6 units in Indonesia, one in Aceh, one in the mountains of Bali, one on the island of Flores, one on the island of Selayar and two on Sulawesi.


India

Inauguration day for the 32 presses

In 2006 Following three years of negotiations  twenty two sites were installed in Kerela and one Tamil Nadu. Each site consisted of four regular sized DME units. Six of these sites, comprising of 32 press units, belong to the SUBICSHA organisation.  SUBICSHA empowers women to start group community businesses all based on the coconut. Already, it has spawned a large number of beneficiaries providing jobs directly to 4,000 women and indirectly to 3,000 women. Five years later, SUBICSHA has developed 40 separate products from coconut. Chris did a four week installation trip in early 2006 and Chris and Dan returned for the inauguration and final training in late 2006.

 

Photo: Crowd gather for opening day at Perambra headquarters

 


 Under-14 Indoor Soccer team

Kokonut Pacific sponsors Solomon Islands soccer team

 Kokonut Pacific is sponsoring the Solomon Islands Under-14 Indoor Soccer team. The tournament is being held in Canberra 8-13 2006 January in the National Titles. They are seeded One and the hot favorites to win their age group as under 14’s . If you are in Canberra, come and support these youngsters!

 


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