Virgin Coconut Oil

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commissioned Live & Learn Environmental Education (Live & Learn) Maldives to organize and implement an outreach program for Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) preparation and to fully operationalize the VCO processing facility in the Northern Maldives. This is part of the “Production of Virgin Coconut Oil and Value Added Products for the Enhancement of Livelihoods and Food Security through Income Generating Opportunities in the Maldives” project, which was commenced in February 2006. The project funded by FAO and implemented by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MoFA) of the Maldives, was initially targeted at one island (Hanimaadhoo). However with keen interest from other islands, FAO and MoFA decided to include 3 additional islands namely Filladhoo, Vaikaradhoo and Nolhivaramfaru through an outreach program.

Live & Learn with the support from FAO and MoFA undertook the following activities:

  • Introduction of the project concept for the prospective project beneficiaries and identification of interested beneficiaries for training
  • Training conducted in VCO processing using fermentation process
  • Training conducted in production of baskets for souvenir packaging
  • Training conducted in entrepreneurship and marketing skills
  • Training conducted in leadership and empowerment skills
  • Training conducted in accounting and book keeping skills
  • Identification of a site in each of the outreach islands for the establishment of a small facility to accommodate equipment for producing VCO and arranging a suitable mechanism for maintenance, administration and management of the facility
  • Establishment of a payment mechanism for VCO producers
  • Establishment of market links

The production of VCO and its value added products is foreseen as a potential form of sustainable livelihood due to the availability of coconuts from the tropical islands of Maldives as well as the increasing recognition of VCO as one of the best natural oils available in the market. Furthermore, studies indicate that hand-made, high quality VCO are of great interest for the tourist resorts. Although there is great potential for this project, like many new projects introduced to the communities all around the world, the VCO project has also faced many challenges hindering the communities to commence the production of VCO and its value added products. However, even with the numerous challenges, the Filladhoo community has taken the lead and has commenced the production of VCO. They have started bottling the VCO in two sizes of bottles; 50ml and 120ml and to give it an additional authentic touch, they are packaging the bottles in hand-woven baskets made from Screw pine leaves. Live & Learn Environmental Education has been providing ongoing support and establishing links to resorts. Accordingly, Filladhoo community has already catered for two resorts. The pro-activeness of Filladhoo community is exemplary and without doubt with their hard work, there is hope that this project will be successful with the unique hand-made high quality VCO available in the market.

It is believed that the outreach program has assisted Maldives to meet two important Millennium Development Goals namely (i) Goal 3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women and (ii) Goal 7 Ensure Environmental Sustainability.