To put his ideas into practice, entrepreneur Gordon de Silva from Sri Lanka set up a company – with great success. And he is not the only one to benefit. In 2006 he employed a workforce of 50; today, this has grown to 300. His medium-sized company produces, processes and markets Fair Trade products made from coconuts. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is supporting small and medium-sized companies like de Silva’s in developing marketing strategies and handling finance and management issues.
When I started my career I knew little about the potential of organically produced products. I did some research and within a few months I realised producing virgin coconut oil under organic conditions in Sri Lanka was a distinct possibility. Sri Lankan coconut growers were organic by default and I wanted to sell this.
Soil fertility development is part of the organic certification process. To improve the fertility we initially tried to encourage our growers to keep their own compost. But many growers didn’t have the knowledge and the resources. With the support of GIZ we installed a compost facility that currently processes around 450 tons of compost which we give to all our registered growers at a non-profit subsidised price.
Our production process commences with the husking of the coconuts and their delivery to the factory, followed by the shelling of the coconuts and the washing, drying, filtering, expelling and bottling process, under the highest degree of hygienic conditions and free of any microbiological infections. We have a microbiological lab with three full-time quality control officers ensuring that what we ship is 100 per cent quality.
As part of our fair trade certification, we are committed to disbursing our earnings. Growers, workers on their estates, huskers, truckers and our workers in the factory all benefit. Since its foundation in 2007 the company has disbursed 400,000 euros to education, health and social projects.
In order to meet the seemingly ever growing demand for virgin coconut oil, we have expanded. We have registered over 14,000 acres of organic coconut estates belonging to 725 individual growers with land ranging from 5 acres to 150 acres. Besides cosmetic oil we are now supplying our buyers with a greater proportion of food grade oil.