In most societies, the family comprises the smallest economic
unit. In developing countries, however, a family does not usually consist simply
of husband, wife and their children. More often, a family includes other
relatives (grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, etc.) or even close friends
living in the same household. In islamic countries, a family might include a
second or more wives and their children. In traditionally oriented societies,
the extended family is still very important for the social identity of the
Viewed from the point of oil processing, a family is defined
here as a group of people living together in one household, ranging in numbers
from one (exceptionally) up to 30, sharing common social and economic interests
and usually having their meals together. Oil processing at this level of social
aggregation primarily aims at subsistence needs, but also contributes to cash
In many areas of developing countries, oil fruits and oil seeds
are available as a rawmaterial, and processes to prepare vegetable oil are known
to the population. The modest needs for vegetable oil for the family pot are
supplied by the women, following traditional methods of processing.
Next to the production of oil for the family, women also make
products for sale on the local market to earn the money required to pay for
their contributions to other family needs, such as the ingredients for the daily
family pot. These are generally made up by some vegetables and spices and, when
the money is available, by some (dried) fish or meat, all prepared into a sauce.
This sauce is eaten as a relish, that accompanies the staple, which is based on
a starchy food as a grain or a root crop.
When men produce an oilcrop that must be processed before
marketing, the processing is generally not carried out at the family level. When
sizable quantities are involved, the processing is carried out by specialized
groups at the village level. This will be dealt with in the next chapter.
Below, a description is given of some traditional methods at
family level to process oil palm fruit and oil seeds for food and cash