THE PALM OIL EXTRACTOR

Profile: Kuapa Kokoo
Product focus: Cocoa
Location: Kumasi, Ghana

Type: Smallholder – 74,000 farmers

Fairtrade certified since: 1996

Contact: Maybel Addy – admin@kuapakokoo.com

Challenge:
A majority of Kuapa Kokoo’s members own only small areas of land. As the cocoa harvest varies throughout the year — with main and light crops — these farmers cannot depend on a stable income. Over the past few years, Kuapa Kokoo has invested part of its Fairtrade Premium in several income-generating activities. One of these is the palm oil extractor. Although when harvested on large-scale plantations palm oil has a negative impact on the environment, when produced on a small scale — as done by the Kuapa Kokoo farmers — the outcome has only positive effects.

Solution:
Traditionally, women farmers pound palm nuts in big wooden mortars. In some areas, even children have to help out. The palm oil business is time-consuming, labour-intensive and the output is small. Kuapa Kokoo, therefore, decided to invest its Fairtrade Premium in palm oil machines, which facilitate oil extraction.

The machines crush the palm fruits and squash out the oil from the husks. Every village selects a machine operator who is trained on how to use the extractor correctly.

Due to the investment, the palm oil process is now not only less labour-intensive, Kuapa Kokoo farmers also produce sufficient palm oil to set up different income-generating activities. In Ghana palm is an important ingredient for several popular local dishes. In addition, the farmers make soap out of the oil. As the families are producing larger quantities of palm oil, buyers approach the farmers; while before, Kuapa Kokoo members had to invest time and money into the process of identifying potential traders.

Cost:
In Ghana, a palm oil extractor costs 3,000 GHC (or 1,750 USD).  In addition, the machine needs to be operated with an engine, which can be bought for another 1,500 GHC (or 800 USD). The machines are manufactured locally. In 2010-2011, Kuapa Kokoo invested in three new movable palm oil extractors, all covered by the Fairtrade Premium. Communities do not need to pay a fee but they are in charge of running costs. They also need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to take ownership of the project. If breached, Kuapa Kokoo can transfer the machine to another community.

Result:
As palm oil production is traditionally done by women, the introduction of the machines has empowered women farmers especially — and more particularly widows and single. Although no figures are available, farmers confirmed that their income has increased and that women were able to further support their families, even during the months when cocoa volumes are low.

For further information, please visit Emilie Persson’s website; she wrote a thesis on the topic: http://fairghana.com/Fair_Ghana%20eng/Masters_Thesis.html