Building the Economy

Seeing the need for income and the very basic economy that existed we started with the things the people already knew and were doing: fishing and coconuts.  We built ice chests for the Village Boat and “Lady K” and started carrying ice from Labasa.  Because of weather and season Fishing does not provide a very steady income.  There are copra dryers in the area and some people cut copra.  Seeing the, the hard work involved and the meager return we began to investigate other ways of using the coconuts.  Our first thought was to acquire funding for a small coconut bio-fuel plant.  Funding for the project was never found but along the way we discovered Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO).  VCO starts with fresh coconut and is processed entirely differently from Copra Oil and the equipment required is not nearly as expensive.  VCO is a relatively new and growing market.  We started to develop our VCO facility in 2006.  The first press was a complete failure, the second one had to be highly modified to make it reliable and get it to extract oil at a rate in line with industry standards (15 coconuts to the liter of oil).  By the time we got all of that done Cyclone Tomas passed through and wiped out all of the coconuts.  There was very few coconuts available until mid year 2012.  We have now perfected the press and are working on a new dryer.  VCO production is at 20 liters per work day.  We work coconuts 3 or 4 days a week and process 350 – 400 coconuts per day.  This provides work for 5 women and we also purchase the coconuts from locals.  We are paying $0.10 for a coconut in the husk.  This is about twice what they can get for the coconut if they cut and dry it for copra.  We are planning to contract with the government or another funding agency to put a facility with our equipment and process into other locations.  The new RAWD dryer (just arrived) should double the production.

Meanwhile, we continue to support the fishing fleet by carrying ice from Labasa to enable us to purchase fish and transport it to Labasa.  ALSO Island is about the only employer in Udu; our VCO backpackers and continues to expand.  We are seeing more activity in that activity and construction of some new “Buries” will provide some much needed work for people.

It is a challenging endeavor to run a business 40 miles from the nearest business center and with people have  who little or no experience with having a job or doing business.  The rewards are seeing people develop a skills, work ethics and be able to take care of themselves and their families.  Some pick it up and develop but, even for them the Culture and peer pressure makes it difficult.



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