Our coconut oil comes from Tanna Island, Vanuatu, where coconuts grow on family farms at the edge of the sea and the foot of a live volcano. They thrive in the rich soils, ocean breezes, abundant sunshine and tropical rainfall of this Pacific paradise, then crack to the ground when nature deems they’re ready.
Local farmers and their families gather the coconuts and husk them using sharp spikes of wood or metal called kakers, before sending them to our small factory at Lenakel, on Tanna’s west coast. There our factory staff grate the flesh, then dry and press it by hand, to create our extra virgin coconut oil. It takes time to produce, so we package our coconut oil with enormous care to ensure you enjoy an unadulterated taste of the Pacific.
Our coconut oil is 100% natural, 100% handmade, and created with a 100% renewable energy source – The DME ( Direct Micro Expelling ) process we follow uses coconut shell and husk as fuel so that nothing goes to waste. We are in the process of earning organic certification with Biogro NZ. Our coconut oil is currently ‘in-conversion’ to becoming certified organic with a path laid for our peanut growers to become certified also.
That’s good news for you and for the environment, and good news for the people of Tanna. Other forms of coconut oil production can see old coconuts taken far from their plantations to be processed with chemicals or high heat, without local employment. Our coconuts are processed on the island they were grown on, with local people given sustainable employment in our small factory. We teach skills and empower communities to determine their own future.
To learn more about our natural process, and some of the alternatives, head here.
We could talk all day about our coconut oil and the wonderful ways we use it, but just because it’s our firstborn, doesn’t mean we have favourites.
We also adore our luxurious coconut soap, which is made by hand using our coconut oil, then wrapped in brown paper to bring our island to your bathroom.
And as for our peanuts – which are cooked in coconut oil and roasted to perfect crunchiness – what’s not to love? They’re 100% natural and 100% addictive, and we seriously cannot produce enough of them.
All of our products are naturally organic in the best possible way – agrochemicals have never had a place on Tanna and, if we have anything to do with it, they never will. Because who needs chemicals when a live volcano provides lush and fertile soil, the climate is a perfect blend of sun, rain and breeze, and your products are imbued with the taste of a Pacific Paradise?
When you buy Tanna Farms Cold Pressed Naturally Organic Coconut Oil, you’re helping yourself, with a lovingly made oil we believe will transform your food and your skin – Check out our blog to see how it can add creaminess to your smoothies, flavour and moisten your muffins, create fantastic stir fries and provide a perfect (and perfectly natural) moisturiser, face scrub and makeup remover.
Your purchase is also helping isolated communities of Tanna Island, which earn much-needed money through their coconut plantations. Many of those plantations were abandoned to weeds after the market for Tanna Island copra dried up in the 1980s, and we pride ourselves on helping revitalise a vital industry. “It encourages the community not to just rely on their old coconut trees, but to start planting new ones,” says grower Loughman Charlie.
Tanna Farms business partner Ben Kaurua says the ‘Vanuatu – New Zealand’ partnership of Tanna Farms is taking his island’s coconut oil to the world. “We’re building a bridge from Tanna Island to Port Vila, New Zealand and Australia. And it’s changing lives.”
Since the devastation of Cyclone Pam, which smashed Tanna in March 2015, we have maintained our commitment and support to the island’s communities. We have also expanded our product range, to create a new income stream for farmers through peanut crops. We’ve supplied free seed, so landowners can plant Tanna’s fantastic red peanuts, and have committed to buying their dried peanuts when they’re harvested.
“We’re not about giving handouts,” says partner Jono Bushell. “We’re about teaching skills and empowering communities to create their own sustainable future.”
Welcome to Tanna Island, where a fire breathing volcano provides fertile soil, from the palm fringed Pacific coastline, to the island’s jungle clad interior.
Mt Yasur spreads its cloak of black earth across the entire island, so that coconut palms, peanut bushes, coffee trees and vegetable gardens are lush and fruitful, quite naturally. Agrochemicals have no place here – it’s as simple as that. You’ll not find monoculture here either, with coffee trees in the jungle, taro plants mingled with peanuts and various crops thriving where they sprout.
Tanna Farms promotes the use of complementary crops so that farmers can continue to grow their own food, and food for their local community, while making money off additional crops.
“We don’t want a situation where the people can make money, but not grow their own food,” says Jono. “This is about creating sustainable futures for the people of Tanna Island.”
Our story is as much about people as it is about coconuts.
First, there are our growers who gather their coconuts from naturally organic farms at the edge of their village, as part of traditional subsistence-based living. People like Loughman Charlie and Jonah Robert who are seeing real and positive change in their communities, thanks to Tanna Farms.
Jonah grew up in a village beside the sea and next to his family’s coconut plantation. His family grew or fished the food they needed, and sold copra – dried coconut kernel – for other simple expenses. But when the Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board moved its main operation up to Santo, too far to send the copra, the plantation was left to run wild with weeds, and its coconuts used only to feed pigs. “Now we are making money again by selling our coconuts. We are glad we are making some revenue from our plantations,” he says.
Then there’s the Tanna Farms family, who transport our coconuts across the ash laden valleys at the base of Mount Yasur, work in the factory at Lenekal on Tanna Island, or bottle our oil at our small packaging plant at Port Vila on Vanuatu’s main island, Efate.
People like our lovely Coconut Mill supervisor Julie Tevi, who can now afford to send her children to school, something many children on Tanna miss out on.
Our people also include a couple of Kiwi families – the Bushells and the Kennards – who forged a link between New Zealand and Tanna Island through their contract labour company Vinepower.
Jono Bushell came to Vanuatu in 2005, on a mission to recruit Ni-Vanuatu for work in New Zealand’s wine and horticultural industries. Under the New Zealand Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employment Scheme (RSE), Pacific Island nationals can work in New Zealand during peak seasons, to ease labour shortages in vines and orchards. In turn, the RSE workers bring much needed earnings, as well as new skills, to developing Pacific islands.
“We have guys like Winjoe Yahpie and the Kakiki brothers, Jerry and Namaka, who have headed to New Zealand every winter for seven years,” says Jono, whose New Zealand contracting business Vinepower , works predominantly with communities on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island. “The money they earn always goes back to the wider community, mostly paying for education for relatives. It’s not a ‘this is my money’ mentality; it’s very community-based.”
He soon fell for the culture and people of Vanuatu, and particularly of Tanna. This undeveloped Pacific paradise was just a three hour flight from New Zealand, but it seemed a whole world away.
However, for all the happiness he found in the communal gardens and village communities, there was also hardship, with many children going without education and healthcare because families simply couldn’t afford it. Jono became concerned that the men had no work when they returned home, and that others on the island could not earn from the RSE scheme.
He and Vinepower business partner Jason Kennard began to think of ways to create community-based employment on the island and in 2013, they joined forces with Seth Kaurua and Germaine Koniamek, both of whom had been RSE workers in the past, to establish Tanna Farms.
The company’s coconut oil mill in Lenekal and plantation at Middle Bush (both on Tanna Island) were established by RSE workers, providing steady employment between pruning seasons. Now, Ni-Vanuatu who have not joined the RSE are working at Middle Bush, getting training they can use when applying for winter vineyard work in New Zealand.
Those who don’t have the opportunity to travel to New Zealand can find employment working in the coconut mill, driving truck-loads of coconuts across the island, or cooking for the men in the plantations, meaning the flow-on effects are huge.
“By revitalising the coconut plantations, Tanna Farms is providing farmers with a new income source while upskilling people and increasing their work opportunities.”
Jono’s family lives with him in Vanuatu six months of the year, and he commutes the rest of the time, likely to be found on a coconut plantation, at the Tanna Farms coconut oil mill or the packaging plant in Port Vila.
“It’s very rewarding to see the positive changes the RSE scheme and Tanna Farms brings to the lives of the people of Vanuatu,” he says. “Houses are being built, water supplies are being installed and children are being educated — all major steps in enriching the lives of our staff and their communities.”
Seth and Germaine
If you’re looking for Tanna Farms co-owner Seth Kaurua, you’ll likely have to transit Tanna Island, finding the plantation he’s visiting to check on peanuts, or the farmer he’s coordinating coconut drop offs with. Born and bred on Tanna, Seth is vital to the smooth running of our operation, with his rich understanding of the island and people he loves.
If you’re looking for Germaine Koniamek, Seth’s wife and a fellow shareholder, you may need to climb a ladder to her roof. For it’s there that she dries Tanna Farms’ peanuts so they’re ready for shelling and roasting. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll find her at the coconut oil mill at Lenakel, cooking a batch of manioc chips in coconut oil, so they’re crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and absolutely delicious all over.
Over on Vanuatu’s mainland Efate, you can find Seth and Germaine’s son Ben Kaurua, who runs the company’s bottling operation at Teouma Garden.
Ben has a Bachelor of Commerce in Management, Public Administration and Tourism from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and his insights into the development of tourism, economy and community in Vanuatu is important to our vision for the future.
Ben says the impact of the RSE scheme on Tanna Island, followed by the revival of the coconut industry through Tanna Farms, has been hugely important. “Now the inclusion of peanuts from small farm holders has been viewed as the linking bridge for exporting Tanna produce to the outside world market,” he says. “Having on board a local shareholder in this firm cemented this linking relationship and is viewed to be the dawn of a promising economic perspective for Tanna’s agricultural economy in years to come.”