Agalega is one of two outer islands of Mauritius, located approximately 1,000 km north of Mauritius, with a population of roughly 300.
As mentioned in the Cocoponic project description, Agalega is comprised of approximately 2600 hectares, 800 hectares of which are dedicated to coconut plantations. Coconut production will remain one of the main economic activities, as the administrative authority intends to expand the coconut plantations to include a total of 1500 hectares. This will enable the island to become self-sufficient with respect to bio fuel within 5 to 7 years.
Development on the island has been limited; literacy is low, while unemployment is high– particularly among women and high-school dropouts. The island has been identified as a pocket of poverty by the central government, however there is no plan for infrastructural development (i.e., tourism). Based on these factors, it is clear there is need for employment or self-employment opportunities.
Goals & Objectives:
Since coconut production will remain a major economic activity on the island, developing an approach to sustainably use this resource and maximize economic gain is a priority. Apart from coconut oil production and coconut by-products, other parts of the plant (i.e., husk, leaves, flower stalk, leaf midrib and tree trunk) are usually discarded. These unused parts may be used to make items such as tourist souvenirs or interior decorations to be used in the mainland.
The main objective of the proposed action is to provide employment and self-employment opportunities, with the aim of improving the family income to fight poverty in Agalega. The action will aid the capacity-building of unskilled, illiterate and unemployed women, including school-school dropouts, in the making and selling of artisanal and decorative items for the tourist market in Mauritius.
Other objectives are to make optimum use of the available resource. By using the present production line drop-outs as well as other parts of the plant which are usually discarded. An income can be generated instead of those resources being wasted.
The Coco Nu La Vie project targeted 20-30 unemployed, unskilled and illiterate women and high-school dropouts living below the poverty line. The goal was to develop skills in handling and perfecting innovative, non-consumptive items derived from coconuts. Developing skills for handling coconut materials does not require high level of literacy – these skills are developed with practice and time. Experienced trainers, who are trained to deal with these types of trainees, will facilitate the process of capacity development. This training will result in the production of around 40-50 souvenir and other decorative items, which will be sold in Mauritius to generate income.
The 30 training sessions included the following:
- Handling of tools and equipment
- Processing of raw materials
- Making of tourist and other decorative items in batches A-H. (Refer to Annex I)
- Finishing and packing and marketing of items.
- Basic accounting, banking and marketing procedures
Trainees will be supported to cluster and open a home or community production unit involving other members of the family in the production process. The action will be implemented with the support of ‘Fam dans Iles – Agalega’ an existing grassroots NGO, who is currently working with women in the outer islands.
Two workshops were opened. One workshop in Agalega was utilized for the cutting and processing of raw materials, including production line drop-out materials, in the making of coconut oil by the Outer Island Development Corporation (OIDC). These semi-finished materials were then shipped to Mauritius and fabricated into finished items in the second workshop, made in Mauritius for this purpose. This approach will avoid shipping materials unnecessarily, particularly as shipment costs are high.