Wild Palm Oil Guinea Bissau
Oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) originated thousands of years ago in the forests of Western Africa. Today, Guinea Bissau is still home to many wild palm trees, where communities continue to harvest the large bunches of red fruits and process them artisanally to obtain a dense, orange-colored oil with scents of tomato, fruit and spices. The delicious oil is highly nutritious, containing both carotenoids and Vitamin E.
Traditionally, men pick the fruits while women are in charge of the long and laborious processing procedure. Although the technique varies slightly according to region and ethnic group (for example Balanta or Manjaca), there are a number of steps that are essential to obtaining a high quality product. The harvested bunches are initially left for a few days, covered by banana leaves, until they soften and the fruits become easier to remove. The fruits are then dried in the sun for one or two days before being boiled in a cauldron of water. Next, the women begin the long and painstaking manual operation of separating the kernels from the fruit pulp. Hot and cold water is then added alternately to the pulp to facilitate the extraction of the oil, and the women start squeezing the pulp with their hands. As the oil rises to the surface, they collect it and separate it from the water. This process is repeated several times.
Palm oil and the fresh palm fruits are essential ingredients in traditional cuisine, cooked with meat, fish, vegetables or rice.
International demand for palm oil-which is easy to produce, versatile and profitable-grew during the Industrial Revolution. Far East countries began investing in the product from the end of the 19th century, and by 1966 Malaysia and Indonesia had surpassed Africa's total palm oil production. The two Asian countries are still the world's leading producers, controlling 90 percent of global production with an output of over 45 million tons. In the last 20 years, the surface area dedicated to palm oil cultivation has tripled, and millions of hectares have been deforested to make way for intensive monocultures.
The refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil used in many prepared foods in the west bears no resemblance to the thick, fragrant sauce used to cook fish and vegetables in Guinea-Bissau.
The Presidium was started in 2011 and began working with a cooperative in the north of the country, but the aim is to expand it to other parts of the country, promoting artisanal palm oil from Guinea-Bissau at an international and national level. The oil, made only from wild "dura" oil palms, is produced in perfect harmony with the environment, and helps protect the forests and the local culture.
224 producers from 6 communities in the Cacheu region
Leandro Pinto Junior
Agro-Pecuária de Jovens Quadros de Canchungo Cooperative (COAJOQ)
tel. +245 5923590