Vital Coconut Development Unit ethnobotany class visit

The ethnobotany class studies the plants people use and how those plants are used. The unit on material cultural uses of plant products includes economic botany, economically valuable plants and their uses. The coconut tree is literally the tree of life and a tremendous natural resource. Federated States of Micronesia Public Law 18-68, the Coconut Tree Act of 2014, placed the former national Coconut Development Authority with Vital. Vital has been executing a mandate from the President of the FSM and the FM Congress with an eye toward rapidly developing the coconut sector in the FSM into a long-term sustainable economic activity. Source: Vital Transition of CDA: Phase I

Under this mandate Vital has set a number of goals. Vital plans to develop and upgrade domestic processing capacity of coconut.Vital will be able to process copra produced in the FSM into crude coconut oil for fuel, and coconut meal for animal feed. In a separate process Vital also continues to produce coconut oil for cooking, soap, and the production of body oil.

The partially dried copra is received and the fed into a grinder.

The output from the grinder is then fed into a dryer to remove remaining water from the copra.

Sketski and Jeanie observing.

From the dryer the ground, dried copra enters an oil expeller. The oil winds up in the rectangular tank on the left, the remaining copra cake in a flat tray at image bottom.

The oil is then placed in 55 gallon drums to settle.

Then the oil is filtered through a filter (behind Jayson) to produce diesel grade oil which is then stored in the large containers. Currently Vital CDU is stock piling the coconut oil. Plans to supply the island power supplier with coconut diesel for generators have not yet been implemented.

Virgin coconut oil is produced via a different process in another area for use as cooking oil and in soaps and body oils.

Loryann Martin listens to Eddie Parce explain the equipment in this area.

Mr. Parce next to the dryer unit for this area.

Sylvia listens.

Mr. Parce explaining where the copra exits the dryer.

The expeller unit, temporarily down for repair.

Sharon Jonathan looking over the containers of body oil grade coconut oil.

With the addition of lye, sodium hydroxide, the coconut oil can be made into soap. Vital CDU is a wholesale supplier of soap and will do custom labelling for customers. Soaps come in a variety of fragrances.

The students were excited to see the different soaps. Erika Billen and Trisden Elias examine the soaps.

Junia and Aiesha-Lane have their hands on body oil.

The body oils are fragranced oils.

A selection of body and food grade oils from Vital CDU.

Soap moulds. The students remarked at their being warm, a result of the reaction of the lye with the coconut oil.

Myreesha Daniel studies the soap moulds.

The field trip is always short due to the relatively long travel time and the limits of the 85 minute class time. The author would like to thank Eddie Parce, Peni Drodrolagi, and Vital for allowing and facilitating the visit by the students of the College of Micronesiad-FSM. Vital is an important engine in the FSM economy, a generator of income and jobs, and also plays a role in education through visits such as that of the ethnobotany class.


  1. Where can I order soaps and coconut oil?

    1. Contact information is at the bottom of the page at:


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