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From carpets to flask cover, coconut can make them all

Saturday June 29 2019

Teddy Yawa who works with the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority displays some products made from the coconut tree.

Teddy Yawa who works with the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority displays some products made from the coconut tree. The trunk of the coconut can be used to make a variety of items. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG 

BRIAN OKINDA
By BRIAN OKINDA
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You have certainly used honey made by bees, but do you know you can make the product from coconut flowers’ sap?

And that is not the only ‘wow’ thing the coastal tree can give you. Away from the common plastic or metal utensils, the coconut tree can offer you a beautiful outer cover of the tea flask, cooking sticks and spoons.

These and other products extracted from the coconut tree were on display at the recently held Agritec Africa Exhibition in Nairobi. Seeds of Gold unveils them:

Coconut husk mats and carpets

The products were showcased by Barani Self Help Group, which is based in Majengo-Kanamai, Kilifi County.

Idris Mwangome, the leader of 15-member group, said they make from coconut fibres and husks carpets, doormats, tablemats, ropes and biodegradable geotextile nets, which can be used to provide shades for human and crops.

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To make doormats, or any of the other product, they first make ropes using the fibres and husks.

“We fix the ropes on loom frames specially designed for the purpose and interweave them to create the floor coverings. Sometimes we tailor-make the items based on specific designs that a customer gives us beforehand,” he explained.

For heavy doormats, more of the raw material is required and enough pressure applied during the weaving process, to make them bulkier.

The group then dyes them to get various colours and shears to remove excess materials.

“Sometimes we dye the material before the weaving process,” said Mwangome as he lifted a dense brown doormat, and turning it over to display a green, eye-catching design imprinted on it. The carpets go for Sh3,000.

Furniture, artefacts, utensils and vases

The very mature coconut tree has robust timber that can be used in house construction, according to Teddy Yawa from the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority.

“We call it coco-wood, which is coconut timber harvested when the tree is no longer productive. It is among the strongest timbers available, therefore, makes quality trusses for houses,” he said.

The trunk of the tree can similarly be used to make vacuum flasks, cooking sticks and spoons, flower pots and vases, lamps, lamp stands and ashtrays.

To make the flask cover, Yawa explained that the appropriate trunk is first selected based on the intended dimensions and the size of the interior glass thermos to be fitted therein.

The trunk is then cut into the required height and a hole made through the pieces to accommodate the inner part of the Thermos.

The coconut trunk is then shaped as desired, then smoothened, polished and the top and bottom lids placed.

“The coconut trunk can also be curved into a variety of other kitchenware like cooking sticks, spoons and sugar dishes, among others,” said Yawa.

Edible oils and coconut honey

Cosmus Mole, the chief executive of the Kilifi-based Coco Vita Ltd, a self-help group made up of 46 people, says they specialise in making edible coconut oils from fresh flesh of the nuts.

They collect the nuts from farmers, which are then grated to extract the desiccated coconut.

Idris Mwangome, the leader of Kilifi-based Barani Self Help Group, displays an assortment of mats and floor carpets they make from coconut husk and fibres.

Idris Mwangome, the leader of Kilifi-based Barani Self Help Group, displays an assortment of mats and floor carpets they make from coconut husk and fibres. The group also makes biodegradable geotextile nets using the materials. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG

The product is then squeezed in warm water to get coconut milk. This milk is then fermented for three to four days, after which it forms two layers, with the oil occupying the top layer.

“The top layer, which consists of the coconut oil, is collected and packed. It is 100 per cent virgin oil, rich in lauric acid and potency in antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties,” said Mole.

Their oils, which sell under the brand Uzima Extract Virgin Coconut Oil, can be used in cooking, taken orally as medicine (in prescribed doses), as hair moisturises and body lotions and scrubbing items such as those that are rusty.

The enterprise also makes coconut honey from blossoming coconut flowers. The flowers are harvested just before they start transforming into the fruit, according to Mole.

The flower is first nipped and its sap allowed to collect in a container. The liquid is then boiled to create a syrup and left to cool to make honey, which is then packaged.

“The process should be done promptly enough — possibly less than two hours after the sap is collected. The longer it stays without processing, the more likely the syrup will ferment into liquor,” he advised.

Non-edible oils and livestock feed

Copra, which is the dried meat extracted from the kernel of the coconut fruit, can also be squeezed to extract oil for use on hair and body.

The oil, according to Thomas Lugho, the director of Kilifi Social Enterprises, can also be used as an ingredient for making other products.

The oils are an excellent skin moisturiser and softener, and are also an organic solution for skin roughness and dryness since they are not greasy, are natural and raw as well as cholesterol-free.

“The remaining desiccated coconut from this process is used to make copra cake and coconut meal, which are a nutritious livestock feed,” Lugho said.

Copra is rich in carbohydrates, oils and protein and is a good additive for fattening livestock, but should be fed to the animals alongside adequate roughages and minerals.

It can be used in diets for pigs, poultry, and dairy and beef cattle, among others, he observed.

Creams, lotion, soap, shower gel and shampoo

Non-edible coconut oils can further be processed to make beauty products like body creams, lotions, soap, shower gel, jelly, conditioners, hair food and shampoo.

Hamisi Mwakumanya, who is the production manager at the Mombasa-based Pwani Classic, an enterprise dealing in coconut beauty products, said that they mix the oils with seaweed as well as aloe vera to make diverse beauty products.

“When making soap, for instance, we heat the coconut oils then add the other ingredients. The resultant blend usually has 75 per cent of coconut oil, and about 15 per cent aloe vera, as well as other ingredients needed to make the soap condensed. We use aloe vera because it is strong and helps to limit the influence of the coconut oils when used in larger amounts,” he said. The mixture is then warmed and later shaped in a mould and gradually allowed to cool.