Making Palm Oil in Sierra Leone

03/28/14

In Sierra Leone, everyone cooks from scratch. And when I say from scratch, I mean, from scratch. Every ingredient has to be made by hand—including oil. 

So a common way to spend the afternoon in a village in Sierra Leone is picking and sorting palm nuts, then embarking on the long process of making them into oil. 

The whole thing takes about two hours, and it's an activity that many of your sponsored children regularly participate in. Here's what it looks like: 

Step One: Pick and sort through the palm nuts
Many families have a few palm trees, which produce the hard red nuts from which palm oil is made. The children, like five-year-old Musu of Mokpangumba (below), help with the task of picking the palm nuts off the stems and throwing them into a pot to start boiling.



Step Two: Get water
But before you can boil the palm nuts, you have to get water. This is another task that most children do every day. Since the water will be boiled, Musu walks down to the river to draw water, instead of getting it at the well. 



Step Three: Boil the palm nuts, then pound them 
Musu pounded for a little bit, but then his mother took over. Sierra Leoneans seem to always be pounding something—whether it's palm nuts or hot peppers or peanuts. It's like their version of a Cuisinart. 



Step Four: Take a break after all that pounding to chew on a raw palm nut, and drink some fresh coconut water
Musu's family relies on sponsors like you to help Musu get all the nutritious meals he needs every day. But they have no shortage of fresh fruits! Musu's brother cracked open a fresh coconut for him. Musu also showed me how you can actually eat the palm nuts raw. (I don't recommend it.) 



Step Five: Add water to the pounded palm nuts
Musu finishes chewing his palm nut while his mother does this task.



Step Six: Squeeze the oil and juice out of the pounded nuts 



Step Seven: Set the whole thing to boil. When the oil and water begins to separate, skim the oil off the top with a spoon. Store the oil in a recycled soda bottle and use to cook almost every dish!