It was simple and required very little training in its use. Copra productionhad always been seen as a man’s job, and DME technology was seen as pro-viding a pathway to involve women and youth in the viable production ofcoconut oil. The DME technology seemed ideal in that the final product – thecoconut oil – would be produced in the rural areas and the technology couldencourage rural people to remain in the villages where they lived because itprovided them with much-needed work. It would be as if the process of vil-lage oil production in Samoa could come full circle, to again be produced bywomen in the village setting and exported to earn them an income. In 1995 WIBDI contacted Dr Etherington in Australia and sought his per-mission to use the technology for a rural village project. The WIBDIExecutive Director, Adimaimalaga Tafuna’i, then travelled to Fiji and Box 1:The Direct Micro Expelling ProcessThe DME system involves four basic steps:•collecting and husking the coconuts;•finely grating the fresh mature coconut kernel with small motorized(usually electric) graters. It is important to note that diesel poweredgenerators to run these graters can be fuelled by the virgin oil producedby the DME process;•drying the grated coconut to a specific moisture content in about onehour on an innovative, all-weather, solar-thermal dryer fuelled by thediscarded coconut husks and shells;•pressing out the oil with a specially designed robust hand-operatedpress, known as a SAM press, that uses interchangeable cylinders.52CHAINS OF FORTUNE: LINKING WOMEN PRODUCERS AND WORKERS WITH GLOBAL MARKETSChains final 29/7/04 2:31 pm Page 52
Figure 1: Direct Micro Expelling of Coconut Oil53VIRGIN COCONUT OIL IN SAMOAChains final 29/7/04 2:31 pm Page 53
participated in a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation(UNIDO) training programme on the use of the technology which had alreadybeen introduced into a few villages in Fiji where the projects were being man-aged by village communities. The Fijian projects were not seen to be successful, because of reluctanceby village leaders to take responsibility for the activities at community level –especially the financial aspect of the operations.Finding an appropriate organizational structureFrom this experience, the WIBDI Executive Director envisioned an opportu-nity for Samoan family groups to benefit from the DME technology, giventhat many rural families have access to the coconut plantations of tradition-ally owned lands, with acres of coconut trees not fully utilized. A sub-sector analysis of the coconut industry in Samoa was then con-ducted to see if producing virgin coconut oil would be viable. The results ofthe study were made even more encouraging by the fact that copra prices atthe time were very much in decline. The analysis indicated that a ton of coprafrom approximately 5,000 nuts, would bring in about ST$1135 (US$454). Ifthe 5,000 nuts were instead processed with the DME technology into coconutoil, the returns would be approximately ST$4400 (US$1,760), using theprice of the locally produced coconut oil as the price base.