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Gifts Boost Palm Oil Production, Changes Lives

According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of the Republic of Ghana, small-scale palm oil production was a leading foreign exchange earner for Ghana in the 1880s which accounted for 75 percent of the country's export revenue.

By 1960, the government of Ghana began a serious effort to promote the palm oil industry. Today, many rural villages are still producing palm oil, some through use of machinery acquired through microloans.

Before processing equipment became available, producing palm oil was primarily done by hand.  A person would be limited to buying palm fruit on credit and producing small amounts of palm oil. Often the amount produced was not sufficient to meet a family's needs. 

Akosua from Kokoben, is one palm oil producer that made the shift from producing palm oil by hand to a less labor-intensive approach.  She benefited from a microloan to produce palm oil using processing equipment. This was after she joined Self-Help International's microcredit program through the Mechanizing Women's Palm Oil Processing, Advance #120002, which was supported by UMC #GivingTuesday donations in 2014.

Self-Help International devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately lead to self-reliance.

A barrel of oil would take one woman eight hours to produce. But, with Self-Help's microloans, women were able to purchase basic processing equipment, producing the same amount of palm oil in two short hours. Mechanization has a positive environmental impact—it reduces water and firewood usage by 70 percent.

Akosua says, "The assistance I received from Self-Help was a blessing from God. I ask God's blessings upon the staff and supporters of Self-Help as well."

Prior to receiving the microloan, Akosua used to spend her time raising her eight children and using traditional methods to process palm oil. She only produced four to five 25-liter jugs of palm oil a month, an amount insufficient to return enough to pay for her children's school fees.

After applying for a microloan and purchasing a screw press, a machine that separates liquids from solids, she doubled her production of palm oil to 50 liter jugs per month. She also charged a small fee to other women who wanted to use her equipment. She used that portion to repay her loan. She then took out a new loan and a portion of her profits to purchase an electric-powered palm fruit digester, which helps to extract the palm oil.

Today, Akosua's husband works for her.  He does the work of harvesting the palm fruits and pounding the fibers, as well as operating the motorized digester.  Akosua says she feels empowered and reports that she and her husband rarely fight about money to pay for school fees.  She hopes to one day purchase her own parcel of land in her own name.

Adapted, Judith Santiago, Editorial and Content Coordinator for Global Ministries.

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