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Artisanal Milling of Palm Oil in CameroonCenter for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Bogor, Indonesia
This study was carried out in three major palm-oil producing areas in Cameroon with the aim of investigating the artisanal milling and commercialization of red palm oil. Structured and semi-structured questionnaires were administered; focus group discussions and participatory observation were applied to obtain required information. Those involved were identified and the service providers ranged from mill owners or managers to smallholders and intermediaries, some of which were involved in two or three of the services. All told, 83% of those involved were men, and the women represented 17% of the service providers. Six different types of processing equipment were identified in the production areas and it was revealed that semi-automated press and combined motorized hydraulic digester and press system (digester screw press) were the most efficient. After harvesting of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs), the major operations were: chopping or cutting, stripping, selecting and sieving, loading to drums for boiling, off-loading to the digester or press for crushing and/or pressing, and clarifying of palm oil. Family labor, hired labor or both, contributed greatly to the success of the milling operations. Family labor was not paid, but motivations were given to family members, while hired labor was paid per activity. The average cost of labor per ton of FFB in the study area was 8,812 FCFA for both peak and low seasons. The average net return in the processing and marketing of 1 ton of FFB was 32,207 FCFA in peak season and 46,556 FCFA in low season. This income-generating activity was ranked as the first main source of income in the study area and has valuable contributions in household livelihood. The production of palm kernel oil and local soap was also recorded in the area, but this was mainly for home use and not for sale. Poor accessibility and unstable prices were the main constraints in the production process. While the men were dominant in processing, women were dominant in the commercialization of RPO. Artisanal palm-oil milling is a lucrative business in the area and will go a long way to alleviate poverty if the smallholders could come together and form a dynamic scheme.