Virgin coconut oil is quite simply a wonder product of nature. As well as being deliciously healthy to eat, virgin coconut oil is high in antioxidants and a fantastic moisturiser and conditioner for both skin and hair. We value virgin coconut highly and use it widely in Essential Care products including shampoos, Rose Moisturiser and balms like Ultra Rich and Lip Silk. Non-greasy and quickly absorbed, research shows that virgin coconut oil improves skin elasticity and helps prevent premature aging and wrinkling. It also improves scalp condition and damaged, lack-lustre hair. And its silky texture makes a beautiful base for our concealer.
But this is Fairtrade Fortnight, so you’re hopefully wondering where the coconut oil comes from and what it does to improve the lives of others. And our coconut oil story comes with a twist because it’s not actually certified by the Fairtrade Licensing Organisation / FLO (in fact there currently isn’t any virgin coconut oil which is both certified organic and FLO approved) which is one of those irritating technical reasons I referred to earlier as to why not more of our products have Fairtrade certification.
Our virgin coconut oil is of course certified organic though. And in terms of fair trading, it is the result of an economic development project, ‘Coconut Coast’, that has united 180 coconut farms in rural Kenya to alleviate poverty through sustainable employment and ownership opportunities...
In the days before Coconut Coast, the farmers struggled to find buyers for their coconuts. Much of their crop went to waste and in fact, farmers were reduced to cutting down their trees. Other than the environmental impact, this had a deeper social significance as the trees were passed down from one generation to the next as an inheritance. So for someone to cut down a coconut tree because it wasn’t profitable was tough; an abandonment of both history and inheritance.
Coast Coconut Farms provided a lifeline, with a stable, secure market and fair pricing. And it seems to be changing lives. This is the story of Mwananhawa, a mother of five: Previous to working at Coast Coconut Farms she described herself as having a "backwards life”. Her husband has not had work for some time and she used to sell roasted fish by the roadside. It hardly provided the means to support a family. Mwanahawa can now support her entire family with her income from Coast Coconut Farms, and has been able to send all of her children back to school. One day she wants to be able send her eldest child (currently 16) for a quality higher education. She says she is "happy”.
At Coconut Coast, coconut plant processing staff earn 8 times the average rural wage, and the coconut farmers are paid around 3 times the price per coconut that they previously received. Coconut Coast staff also benefit from comprehensive medical insurance and access to micro-loans which is all too rare in rural Kenya. And there are plans to introduce a profit sharing programme.
It is worth underlining the quality of the coconut oil that Coconut Coast produces. The oil is produced within an hour of opening a coconut, thus giving very fresh and very pure oil. They use a cold press extraction process which preserves the nutritional value and healing properties of the coconut oil, leaving it in virgin status. This is crucial - virgin coconut oil is a world apart from the conventionally processed oil which has been chemically refined, bleached and deodorised.
And there’s no waste - the coconut meat is used for oil, the milk is given to the local people, the husks and shells are used for fuel and charcoal, the lye from the charcoal is used to make soap and the left over cake after pressing is used for baking or cattle feed.
So even though there’s no official certification, you can rest assured that this ingredient is ‘fairly traded’ and sourced from growers that do respect fairness and ethics. We hope to make a visit to Coconut Coast at some point in the not too distant future to tell you more...