Oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) originated thousands of years ago in the forests of Western Africa. Today, Guinea Bissau is still home to many wild palm trees, where communities continue to harvest the large bunches of red fruits and process them artisanally to obtain a dense, orange-colored oil with scents of tomato, fruit and spices. The delicious oil is highly nutritious, containing both carotenoids and Vitamin E.
Traditionally, men pick the fruits while women are in charge of the long and laborious processing procedure. Although the technique varies slightly according to region and ethnic group (for example Balanta or Manjaca), there are a number of steps that are essential to obtaining a high quality product. The harvested bunches are initially left for a few days, covered by banana leaves, until they soften and the fruits become easier to remove. The fruits are then dried in the sun for one or two days before being boiled in a cauldron of water. Next, the women begin the long and painstaking manual operation of separating the kernels from the fruit pulp. Hot and cold water is then added alternately to the pulp to facilitate the extraction of the oil, and the women start squeezing the pulp with their hands. As the oil rises to the surface, they collect it and separate it from the water. This process is repeated several times.
Palm oil and the fresh palm fruits are essential ingredients in traditional cuisine, cooked with meat, fish, vegetables or rice.
Cacheu Region, Guinea-Bissau
Leandro Pinto Junior
Agro-Pecuária de Jovens Quadros de Canchungo Cooperative (COAJOQ)
tel. +245 966754440