3.3 Oil palm fruit processing as a women's activity in Togo
Early in 1986, the Togolese organization CONGAT requested KIT to
introduce its improved system for oil palm fruit processing in Togo. The project
was financed by the Dutch NGO: ICCO. In the framework of this programme, a unit
for processing Tenera oil palm fruit was established at Agou Yiboe. The
objective of the programme was to demonstrate the feasibility of this fully
hand-operated system to improve the living conditions of women in the south of
Organization and management
The CFAE (Centre de Formation Agricole et Economique) at
Agou-Yiboe, Togo, guides a group consisting of about 18 young women. In addition
to the staff of the CFAE, the group is guided by a Canadian lady volunteer. A
unit for processing tenera oil palm fruit has been established at the CFAE to
provide the women with productive employment. Bunches of tenera oil palm fruit
are made available as the rawmaterial to be processed by the CFAE from their own
plantation. The price quoted to the group is the same as the CFAE gets from a
nearby palm oil mill.
The group is headed by a- chairwoman, who is assisted by a core
group of women. Originally, the group met for training sessions on the subject
of hygiene, child care and needlework. Later on they started with agricultural
work on their own account, raising crops such as maize. As the income earned by
the women from agriculture was disappointing, the processing unit has been set
CONGAT has made the equipment available and the CFAE the working
capital; equipment and working capital have to be reimbursed by the group. The
staff of the CFAE assists in the management of the funds.
Process and equipment
The unit has been set up to process 500 kg of tenera oil palm
fruit bunches per day, twice a week during 6 months of the year. The unit
consists of an open shed and is equipped with the following equipment:
- a large cooking kettle for the steaming of bunches
- a concrete pounding mortar - 4 reheating kettles
hand-operated spindle press UNATA 420 1
- a clarification kettle
pots for oil drying.
The processing of oil palm fruit is carried out in the following
way: about 500 kg of bunches are bought from the CFAE on the day before the
actual processing is to be carried out. They are loaded into the steaming kettle
and steamed for about four hours in the afternoon, under the supervision of two
The next day starts at 7 a.m., with threshing and pounding. The
fruit is still warm, but not too hot to touch. As soon as a reheating drum has
been filled, the fruit is reheated. This step can be the most crucial, since, if
not carried out correctly, the oil recovery will be disappointingly low. Since
the mass of pounded tenera fruit is quite solid and difficult to penetrate by
steam, at least three hours are required for proper reheating. After finishing
threshing and pounding, carried out by 8 women in about three hours, there is a
pause for about one and a half to two hours as one has to wait for the reheating
to be completed. Around noon, or a little later, pressing starts after which
fibres and nuts are separated and the fibre is collected in an empty reheating
drum and reheated again. The press fluid is collected in the clarification drum.
The leak-oil, obtained during reheating, is put in an oil drying pot. When the
pressing is finished, the oil collected in the clarification drum is skimmed
off. The mass to be clarified is boiled, in the traditional manner, to obtain as
much oil as possible. Finally, all oil is dried by heating and poured into clean
drums for storage.
Results and experience
It appeared that about 10 women were required to process 500 kg
of bunches into about 90 kg (or 961) palm oil in an 8 hour working day. The oil
is sold on the open market. In fact more women assisted in the processing of
this quantity. However, some did really work hard, while others were only
looking for light jobs. To organize the processing and establish a good
co-operation within the group, leadership is required.
Technically, no special problems arose. However, the
understanding of the process gave some difficulties. A refresher session
appeared to be necessary.
The operation itself is an example of a unit acting as an
enterprise. In principle, such a set-up requires quite good management
abilities, such as procurement of rawmaterial, sale of products as well as the
operation of the unit. To simplify financial management, a service mill might be
much more interesting. As only the money for the maintenance and amortization of
the equipment and the labour has to be catered for, such an arrangement might be
more easily realized.
What remains crucial in the case of a service mill is the
leadership to maintain a good working spirit and discipline. The group could
contract the processing of a certain quantity of bunches of palmfruit, against a
payment in cash or in kind.
The bunches were made available to the group at F CFA 20 per kg.
The oil could be sold at F CFA 200 per 1. Since there are seasonal price
fluctuations, it would seem to be more beneficial to store the oil for later
sale. However, this would require much more working capital. With a reasonable
profit to be made by selling the oil directly, such a venture is not advisable.
It complicates financial management unnecessarily. Total required investment in
equipment is about F CFA 800 000.
As an alternative to the KIT process, using a hand press, at
least partly motorized alternatives are a possibility. There is the TCC pounding
machine to replace the handpounding and the CALTECH or COLIN type press
(SPEICHIM M-10) to replace both pounding by hand and pressing. As described
under 2.2.1, 8 women can process about 600 kg of palmfruit per day using the TCC
system. This would mean that about 900 kg bunches would have to be cooked and
threshed. For the threshing alone, 4 women extra would be required. The
motorized version of the CALTECH can process 200 kg steamed fruit per hour. For
this only four persons would be required. However threshing would require
For an economic discussion, the threshing problem is better
omitted. Chapter 4 will therefore compare the economic performance of the KIT
system (8 women and about 400 kg palmfruit per day, giving 112 kg or 1201
palmoil) with alternatives such as the TCC system (8 women and about 600 kg
palmfruit per day, giving 148 kg or 159 I palmoil) and the CALTECH (4 persons
and about 800 kg palmfruit per day, giving 211 kg or 227 1