Fomel Industry & National Industrialization Centre (FINIC) has over the years been developing technologies to support business people who have invested in Oil Palm Plantation. Small, medium or large farms can be found across the country in their thousands. Majority of the villages in Sierra Leone have a proud owner of an oil palm farm. A good number of those farms across the country have been abandoned as the owners struggle to cope with drudgery ridden traditional technologies to transform their palm fruits into the palm oil and palm kernel oil. The most difficult to extract is the palm kernel oil (the Creole name for it is (Natile/Nut oil) given that the nuts containing the kernels must first be cracked, separated from the shells, dried further to increase the oil yield and then the oil is extracted either by using the press method or the solvent one. The press method employs an oil expeller that crushes and at the same time, squeezes the kernels to expel the oil. The solvent method uses a hammer mill to crush the kernels into near powder form and get the stuff boiled. In the boiling process, the oil will float and then skimmed. Usually, the mortar and pestle are used in crushing the kernels after roasting them for brittleness and greater oil yield. The intensity of the labour exerted from cracking to crushing before the oil is extracted, is the reason for the abandonment of the nuts.
According to FINIC Managing Director, Foday Melvin Kamara he said that the value chain of the oil palm is broken. Each year, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tons, of nuts are left to rot in farm houses. This he says translates into throwing away millions of dollars each year, and that each hectare of oil palm of the improved Tenera variety, can yield 4 to 4.5 tons of palm oil per year. Translating that into drums, it will be about 20 to 22 drums of oil. The same hectare can yield 400 litres (2 drums) of palm kernel oil per year. “This should heighten your imagination of the destructive nature, the lack of appropriate and efficient technologies can inflict on the oil palm sector.” There have been remarkable success stories particularly in the oil palm, cassava and rice industries. In 2007, FINIC designed and constructed its first palm Fruits Digesters which were installed in Moyamba and Kono districts. 11 years have gone by, they are still operational till today. 11 years on, FINIC has refused to get stuck in the past as the digester design had an up grading to give it decades of life span.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Monday June 17, 2019.