Babassu coconut breakers construct their first processing unit in the north of Piauí

The fleshy mesocarp and oil extracted from babassu coconut are used by a number of women from the Brazilian northeast to produce cakes, porridges and a multitude of other products.  The method used to extract these raw materials is called processing. In the community of Riacho de Santa Maria, located in the Território dos Cocais in Campo Largo in the north of Piauí, women coconut breakers who support their families from this process have constructed their first processing unit, thanks to support from CESE.

Their project was supported by the Small Projects Support Programme, because of their participation in the “Strengthening Cerrado organizations to tackle racism” programme, a CESE initiative, run in partnership with the Ibirapitanga Institute.  The unit was one of the community benefits provided by the Association of Female Babassu Coconut Workers (Associação de Mulheres Trabalhadoras do Coco Babaçu: AMTCOB) from the Lower Parnaíba micro-region in Piauí, through the project “Strengthening the Production of Babassu Processing and the Leadership of Female Coconut Breakers”.

With the unit now erected, the women have their own space for this stage of babassu treatment and five of them are able to work at the same time during the day, in the most appropriate manner.  Currently, they plan to establish a working timetable involving the entire community, divided up by date and time. In principle, the activities within the unit will prioritize treating the oil, while the mesocarp will be addressed in future plans.

The initiative also provides training for the women about how to process the coconut itself – with theoretical and practical classes; management and commercialization processes so that they can monitor and advise on the functioning of the processing unit, as well as improving the families’ quality of life and prioritizing increased self-esteem.  In principle, the training has been planned for young people and women – the themes of gender and generation were also discussed at the meetings.

Sandra Cardoso, the association’s advisor, explained that constructing a processing unit has long been a desire in the community.  “The people from CESE were sensitive and understood our need, including both the construction of the unit and the training sessions.  It all went well. Now, we just need to produce!”, she declared.

Another positive point Sandra highlighted was the participation and excitement of young people, who embraced the initiative.  She explained that in the daily production, responsibility for the work falls to the women, while the young people participate providing support.  Since the training addressed practical and theoretical aspects of how to process the babassu coconut, the energetic participation of this group was very important.

“We have to continue promoting training, principally for young people.  They don’t generally participate in these processes much, but this time they were excited by it.  We have to continue creating more arenas like these to encourage them to continue to engage,” she concluded.