Fifteen years ago, my community in Kakamega, Kenya, had been encouraged to plant Palm oil trees as a way of increasing and diversifying cash crop holdings per family.
We embraced the new idea positively and families planted palm oil trees with passion. We were advised that the palm oil takes five years to start bearing fruits/ berries. We waited patiently for the five years and true, the berries started coming up.
After the five years, we were upbeat as we knew that our economic status was going to positively improve.
To get the oil from the palm oil berries an extractor was required; the community had been informed that once the palm oil was ripe, an extracting machine would be provided. After inquiries it emerged that the machine could not be provided due to the low volumes of the berries.
The community was disillusioned and some started contemplating to uprooting the palm oil trees which they had waited for patiently for the preceding five years.
I looked at the situation and purposed to come up with a solution for the families to make them not uproot their trees, they had waited for five years and above, and they were looking forward to the time they would start getting cash out of their investments. If the trees were uprooted, it would have been the women and children who would have suffered more. I did not want this to happen as women were already disadvantaged in the community due to their low level of education, employment and asset ownership.
I researched further and found out that the palm oil has immense benefits for our health, hence the need to preserve the trees for wealth creation and health benefits.
The benefits of the palm oil to the body are:-
- Contains energy boosting properties
- Anti oxidant rich. It contains beta carotene which helps to prevent cancer and boosts the immune system.
- May prevent cancer as the tocopherol in the oil eliminates the cancer cells completely.
- An anti thrombotic as it helps in preventing the clotting of blood in blood vessels and veins.
- Balanced cholesterol, and when used in moderation, it can be used to balance out the cholesterol levels in the body.
- Rich in vitamin K
- Contains omega 3 fatty acids
- Has vitamin E for youthful appearance
- Supports pregnancy
- Contains vitamin D for healthy joints and bone density
Palm oil is beneficial as a trade activity and is also used in manufacturing soap, lubricants and edible oils.
I realized that there was a gap and need for urgent intervention in order to save the community from the situation. I therefore decided to start buying the berries from the community to avoid the uprooting of the trees and also to provide them with financial benefits in the process of exchange.
Due to financial constraints, I could not afford the purchase of a modern oil extractor. I started processing the palm oil the manual and traditional way using large wooden mortars with wooden pestle which is a very tedious and labor intensive activity, time consuming and slow, expensive, inefficient as a lot of oil is trapped in the mixture as an emulsion and standing by the open fire during the operating period poses a health hazard. The good side of this is that I have been able to offer employment to the community, mainly women in the processing.
The community is now happy as they are able to dispose of their berries and get money in exchange, there are employment opportunities, their standard of living has improved and they are able to meet their obligations like paying school fees for their children.
I and the community, look forward to purchasing an extraction machine and moving away from the traditional way of extracting the oil in the future.