Wild Palm Oil Guinea Bissau
Oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) originated thousands of years ago in the forests of Western Africa. Still today, Guinea-Bissau is home to many wild palm trees. Communities harvest the big bunches of red fruits from the wild trees and process them artisanally, obtaining a dense, orange-colored oil with scents of tomato, fruit and spice. The delicious oil is also nutritious, with a high content of carotenoids and vitamin E.
Men traditionally pick the fruits, while women are in charge of the long and laborious processing. Techniques vary slightly depending on the region and the ethnic group (such as Balanta or Manjaca) but certain steps are essential to obtaining a final oil of high quality. The bunches are left for a few days, covered by banana leaves, until they soften and the fruits become easier to remove. They are dried in the sun for one or two days before being boiled in a cauldron of water for a long time. The women then separate the kernels from the fruit pulp, a long and painstaking manual operation. Hot and cold water is 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.
Presidium supported by
FAO and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Development Cooperation as part of the project GTF/RAF/426/ITA "Promoting origin-linked quality products in four countries."
224 producers from 6 communities in the Cacheu region
Leandro Pinto Junior
Agro-Pecuária de Jovens Quadros de Canchungo Cooperative (COAJOQ)
tel. +245 5923590