Elis R. Ahmad, 36 years old, is a housewife who is also an honorary worker at Early Childhood Education Center Merpati, in Muara Kopi hamlet, Saritani Village, Wonosari District, Boalemo Regency, Gorontalo. Elis handles administrative needs as well as teaches early childhood children in her area.
The people of Muara Kopi, which are dominated by the Gorontalo and Javanese tribes, generally work as farmers, either field farmers or rice field farmers. The topography of Muara Kopi hamlet is in the form of a relatively flat expanse with a few hilly locations. Apart from rice and corn, there are also many coconut trees, so the women in the village are used to making village coconut oil.
Terasmitra conducted training on Making Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and Coconut Oil from 9 to 11 July 2021 in Saritani Village. This training was part of the Employment and Livelihood project, a joint United Nations (UN) initiative. The project was funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN-MTPF) and aimed to provide equal opportunities for vulnerable groups in improving their income and quality of life.
Elis was one of the trainees. “To be honest, so far in our village there has never been any training activity, whether organized by the village government, local government, or from other organizations. So this training is the first to be held in this place,” said Elis. She was grateful for getting additional knowledge and skills from this training.
During the pandemic, residents' activities were slightly disrupted due to restrictions on health protocols, including children's school activities. After attending the training, Elis tried to put the knowledge she had learned into practice. According to Elis, the women are quite excited to make VCO. After previously knowing how to make village coconut oil, it became easier for them to understand the process of making VCO which is almost the same as making village coconut oil, the only difference is in the process after it becomes coconut milk. "Women here are quite enthusiastic because they know that coconut can not only be made of copra and coconut oil, but can also be processed into VCO which is beneficial for health," Elis added.
“The processing industry will contribute significantly for the local economy that has been depending on raw material sale. We hope that this skill improvement and entrepreneurship training will be beneficial for business owners or people who want to start a business to process local resources, such as coconut, in Gorontalo,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s National Project Officer in Jakarta.
Currently, Elis and her mothers have started a VCO business in Muara Kopi. After the training, Elis and the women in the village have produced 3 times. During their third production, they managed to produce 600 ml of VCO. The produced VCO has been sent to another village and 12 bottles have been sold for a total price of Rp200,000.
However, there are still some obstacles in developing a VCO business. While the materials needed are available, the lack of internet network hinders its online marketing. Until now, marketing is still entrusted to neighbouring villages. Nevertheless, Elis and the women of Muara Kopi are enthusiastic to start this business. In addition to raw materials that can be obtained easily in their area, the benefits of VCO for health also encourage them to develop this business.