Ethnobotany class visit to Vital Energy Coconut Development Unit

The SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany class at the College of Micronesia-FSM studies the plants people use and how those plants are used. The unit on material cultural studies the uses of plant products in material goods. One facet of material cultural usages are those uses that have commercial, economic value.

The coconut tree is literally the tree of life and a tremendous natural and economic resource. Federated States of Micronesia Public Law 18-68, the Coconut Tree Act of 2014, placed the former national Coconut Development Authority with Vital Energy. Vital FSM Petrocorp 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

Bus arrival at 15:54, Jayleen and Aimina first off the bus

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.

Students assemble for the tour

During this field trip the class learns about the development of the coconut oil industry in the FSM. Vital CDU purchases copra from the outer islands providing a critical source of income for outer islanders. The oil is then sold to retailers. Vital CDU is a wholesaler of oil.

Mr. Eddie Parce in front of raw inputs

The CDU can process a thousand coconuts a day.

The grinders grind the copra prior to drying.

The dryer at the back is apparently fueled by coconut burning the emptied coconut shells. The excess coconut shells produced can then be sold wholesale. The coconut shells can be used as is for barbecuing or further processed into charcoal by the purchaser. On the left in the image above is the oil expeller.

Copra cake

After expelling, 100 pounds of copra yields 60 pounds of oil and 30 pounds of copra cake. The rest is lost as sludge or as moisture loss. The copra cake is wholesaled to retailers who sell the cake as a pig food supplement. All parts of the coconut are used, nothing goes to waste.

Suzanne Joseph captures an image of the barrels of coconut oil

Francina Inoke also photographs more coconut oil that she has likely seen at one time

Kanoa and Jelori. 

The coconut oil industry holds economic potential for outer islanders. Copra is a renewable resource in the outer islands, and a sustainable source of income.

On the food and cosmetic grade coconut oil production line Mr. Parce explains the production differences. Alexander may be paying more attention to the photographer than to Mr. Parce. That said, Junida, AJ, Aimina, and Suzanne listen to the manager.

Copra grinding wheel

Mr. Parce explaining some of the products of the line

Fragranced soaps

Soap is produced by reacting coconut oil with caustic soda, also known as lye or sodium hydroxide. The specific ratio chosen will yield either a basic laundry soap or a creamy beauty soap.

Coconut bath soap with coffee scent

Coconut bath soap with ylang ylang scent

Coconut bath soap with oatmeal extract added

Coconut bath soap with tumeric ginger added - promotes healthy skin

Coconut bath soap with jasmine scent

Coconut bath soap with papaya extract added

Coconut bath soap with lemon and baking soda

Coconut bath soap with pandanus juice

Smaller soap cakes are also produced for the hotel and restaurant industry, these are available with custom printed labels when ordered in sufficient quantity.

Virgin coconut oil fragranced with ylang ylang, jasmine, herbal fruit essence

The field trip wrapped at 16:24

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 Vital Energy for allowing and facilitating the visit by the students. A special debt of thanks is due Mr. Eddie Parce for facilitating these educational visits. Thanks are also due to the workers at the unit who help make the class visit possible. Vital Energy 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.


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