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Fiji: Coconut oil firm's Northern Ireland founder hopes to help islanders

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Thursday, 02 March 2017

Fiji: Coconut oil firm's Northern Ireland founder hopes to help islanders

A coconut oil company co-founded by a Northern Ireland man is aiming to help people on a Fijian island become more self-sufficient. Coconut oil has become one of the latest health food crazes to hit the UK, despite a relatively high calorie content. Now Tim McKee from Hillsborough has joined with two friends to set up social enterprise Bula Batiki. And they are using a campaign on crowd-funding website Kickstarter to attract the funds to increase the production of coconut oil in Batiki. Through the company they hope to be able to help residents of the remote South Pacific island Batiki to make a better income by marketing their coconut oil in the UK and Ireland. ... Already the product has secured several stockists, including Meant to Bee complementary therapy clinic on Lisburn Road in Belfast, Eatwell Health & Wholefoods, which is also on Lisburn Road, Azora Health and Beauty in Hillsborough and Clare McKinney Make-up and Beauty in Lisburn. The idea behind it is that producing the coconut oil themselves will allow the villagers to more than double the money they earn selling copra, the dried coconut kernels which are used to make the oil. All oil sold by the business will be made by hand from coconuts grown in Batiki. "Unlike more global coconut oil brands, we are actively working to ensure the process does not become industrialised," said Tim. "Our goal is not to create a high-volume brand, but rather help the villagers of Batiki to develop an industry which can support them with ingredients which are already available to them." Around 300 people live in the coastal villages on the island. Batiki has no airport or roads, and goods are bought to the island on small cargo vessels and boats. There is a small primary school and a nurse, but no hospital or doctor on the island. Its economy is mainly driven by farming and fishing. The trio have already picked three areas they want to help improve on the island. Bula Batiki hopes to benefit Batiki residents by increasing the island's income and making facilities like schools more affordable for the families there. They want to support the island's children's scholarship scheme, which will fund scholarships for the top three students each year to go to university. It's planned that the charity will be able to contribute so that in five to seven years time, they will be able to fund the top three students on the island every year to go on to university, which costs approximately 7,500 Fijian dollars (£2,500) a year.

Source: www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk