Why pure coconut oil from the Fijian island of Batiki is benefiting the entire community
For many, Fiji brings to mind sun-drenched holidays, the warm, gentle ways of the locals and perhaps even delicious cocktails, poolside. But for the villagers on the remote island of Batiki, improving the community’s income is their primary focus. As part of our continuing ‘Postcards from the Pacific’ series, we meet expat Callum Drummond and learn how we can all support Batiki Island.
Fiji steals Callum’s heart
Several years ago, young Brit and keen rugby player, Callum Drummond visited Batiki Island as part of a teaching and sports coaching project. From the moment he arrived for his month-long stay, Callum immediately felt at home. He loved the Fijian village lifestyle and was warmly embraced by everyone, establishing personal connections unlike those he had ever experienced.
Callum’s visit came to an end, but he would return regularly over the next few years during uni holidays and stay in the village of Yavu with a family who have become like his very own. Fiji and Batiki have certainly captured Callum’s heart and earlier this year, he moved there permanently.
The challenges of being so remote
Batiki is an island of volcanic origin located on the Lomaiviti Archipelago. The population totals about 300 residents in the four villages of Mua, Yavu, Naigani and Manuku. There is a primary school with around 60 students as well as a nursing station. Days are spent farming, fishing, weaving mats and producing coconut oil whilst the evenings are for telling stories and laughing with friends and relatives.
The main challenge on the island is the ability to earn an income. Being so remote (three hours by boat from Viti Levu – Fiji’s largest island) makes it difficult and costly to access the mainland to sell goods, thereby making it nigh on impossible for Batiki residents to build a viable business. Fortunately, with Bula Batiki coconut oil, Callum has found a way to help.
The 50 families on the island are producing coconut oil in the hope of improving their income
A commercial opportunity
“The idea for Bula Batiki was born in 2014 when I made coconut oil on the island with my Fijian family. Upon my return to the UK, I gave the oil to my parents as gifts but soon realised that it made more sense to be selling this amazing, high quality oil beyond Fiji and sending money back to benefit my Batiki family.”
The idea developed quickly with the whole community producing oil and Callum set out to raise some start-up money to support the budding business. Backing from Cardiff University, where Callum was studying psychology at the time, allowed production to begin. The first batch of Bula Batiki was produced and shipped to the UK in June 2016.
A gorgeous Batiki Island sunset. Islanders hope to build a successful business while still leading traditional lives
Coconut Oil- the benefits
The benefits of the oil are becoming broadly known, but for those of you not yet on the coconut oil bandwagon, it’s fabulous as moisturiser for the skin, for silky, soft hair (yes fellas, for facial hair too) to cook with or to add flavour to a curry. Additionally, it’s renowned for digestive and immune support and even dental care. Oil pulling is an ancient tradition that involves swilling the oil around your mouth on an empty stomach to remove toxins from the body and bacteria from the mouth.
And what makes Bula Batiki Raw Fijian Coconut Oil so special? Bula Batiki is produced on an island free from pollution or fumes. The oil is hand-made by the villagers and each jar comes tagged with the name of the family that created it. All of the coconut oil is produced in Fiji’s first village-level certified organic facility, an incredible achievement for such a small island.
As a side note, Batiki was part of Soil School in 2017. The program was a great success with the core group of villagers learning about and then developing organic farming techniques that had not been used on the island for generations.
Hopes and goals for Batiki and other Pacific Island communities
Naturally, the primary aim of selling the coconut oil is to provide an income so Batiki residents have better access to education, be it for school or university fees or to purchase educational materials. Covering healthcare travel costs and funding additional housing developments are other great gains from the extra income.
For now, Callum, who says he is definitely Fijian at heart, will continue to work closely with the people he so loves. His longer-term hope is that Batiki will serve as an example to other remote Pacific Island communities in demonstrating how to create a successful business while maintaining a traditional culture and lifestyle.
Callum (on left in red) with his Batiki Island family
Read more and buy your coconut oil at bulabatiki.co.uk
Interested retailers can contact: email@example.com