Can We Lift Thousands of People Out of Poverty Through Responsible Oil Palm Production? That's What we are Trying to Do.
A Different Palm Oil Narrative: Sustainable Oil Palm, Empowering Communities
Globally, palm oil production is associated with multinational corporations clearing large swathes of land, dubiously grabbing local people's land, and destroying animal habitats to create oil palm plantations.
Ours is a different experience. In Liberia and across most of West Africa, oil palm grows naturally in the wilds (dura variety), without anyone having to plant, due to the country's agro-ecological profile - high rainfall, moist soil, and tropical climate. In rural areas, palm trees are communally owned, and governed by local chiefs and elders. As such, palm oil cultivation in most rural communities do not cause social and environmental devastation associated with large-scale multinational oil palm production.
As palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable fat in Liberia, the majority of the country rely on about 220,000 smallholder households to produce palm oil for daily consumption as well as for semi-industrial purposes such as soap production.
Rural Processors Remain Trapped in Poverty
Sadly, most of Liberia's smallholder oil palm producing households (predominantly rural) remain in poverty. While there is no shortage of palm fruit supply, smallholders lack access to modern processing technologies and hence resort to an ancient technique of manually squeezing the palm oil out of the fruit.
As a result, over 35% of Liberia's palm fruit go un-harvested every year. During processing, smallholders suffer an additional 50% oil loss due to inefficient manual processing techniques.
Palm Kernels go to Waste, Too
After processing palm oil from the outer layer of the palm fruit, smallholders waste almost 100% of the palm kernels - the inner layer. Enclosed in hard coconut-like shells, palm kernels are even harder to de-shell and process into oil.
Most smallholder communities lack access to processing machinery and markets for their palm kernels. As a result, they largely throw away the palm kernels, further losing thousands of dollars in foregone income.
Smallholders communities and families stand to miss out significantly on economic development opportunities due to this technology gap.
We Bridge the Gap By Creating Access to Mini Oil Palm Mills
J-Palm Liberia works to empower smallholder oil palm processors in rural communities by providing access to modern, more efficient processing technologies. Our machines reduce processing time by 90% and extraction rates by 50-100%.
We manage and operate our mills in partnership with rural communities. Oil palm processors within a certain radius harvest palm fruit from communally-owned trees, and use our machines to process palm oil at no up-front cost. In return for using our machines, they pay us 15% of the oils produced.
Additionally, we provide an option to purchase palm oil from smallholders at going market rates, providing quick access to cash when needed.
We Have Also Created a Market for Previously Wasted Palm Kernels
In addition to creating access to more efficient palm oil processing mills, J-Palm Liberia has also expanded the market for palm kernels. We purchase hitherto wasted palm kernels from smallholders, and process the kernels into palm kernel oil.
We use the kernel oil to create a range of beauty and clean energy products, including Kernel Fresh, our brand of health an beauty products made of Palm Kernel Oil. We are also working to create SuperCoal, which are smokeless and more energy-efficient charcoal briquettes made from palm kernel shells. We plan to position SuperCoal as a viable alternative to wood charcoal, so as to reduce deforestation resulting from wood charcoal production.
We are Helping to Lift Liberians Out of Poverty
We started this journey in 2013 with one overarching goal: to develop a sustainable model to create premium quality consumer goods for Liberians while simultaneously creating income-earning and employment opportunities for Liberians. Thus far, we have build a robust network of over 500 smallholder suppliers across 5 counties in Liberia, and have created over 50 jobs. On average, the smallholders with whom we work have seen their incomes grow by up to 260 percent!
We are incredibly proud and humbled to be able to create products that not only add value to our customers' lives, but also enhance the lives of hundreds of our suppliers and employees.