Palm Project

By: Palm Project  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Soap Factory

New Zealand Children’s Health & Education Trust along with our Vanuatu partner; Palm Project propose to develop a water system for the island of Uliveo also known as the Maskelynes, which accommodates approximately 1600 residents. This would be a tangible, measurable activity that would improve the health status of the whole community.

  1. The only other water available to this island, apart from the old concrete tanks which are contaminated with mosquito larve, are the small bore wells located throughout the villages. These wells are contaminated for two major reasons, the private long drop toilets and the roaming livestock. This island is barely above sea level so the bore wells are brackish and as the tide recedes the water is sucked out, as the tide comes in it sucks the human and animal faeces into the wells. The diseases associated with human and animal faeces contamination are numerous and deadly.  We have been working at Palm Project soap factory for three years, We have worked on the island of Uliveo since 2004 and the status of the water on this island has always been the same and there is no assistance for this problem from the government. We have experienced the lack of community resources to supply safe drinking water in the face of drought. There is no possible way to continue promoting sustainable economic development without first rectifying this problem.

The challenge is, to take 12 x 6000litre water tanks from Pacific Poly Tanks in Port Vila and transport them to Uliveo Island, South East Malakula by local supply boat. Install two onsite at Palm Project where there are 3 substantial buildings with new clean corrugated iron roofs. Along with these is the church in the village which also has a substantial four sided new corrugated iron roof. Three tanks would be place at both Pellongk and Lutus villages complete with plumbing and all tanks will have uv filter systems. This would ensure that all villages on the island of Uliveo would have safe drinking water. As the world weather patterns become more unpredictable the need to store safe drinking water is becoming vital for survival. 

  1. This is not uncommon for these islands and NZCHET medical team have treated many people for this illness before. This contaminated water supply has been responsible for many of the health issues facing the people of Uliveo including, sever amoebic dysentery- eccoli,Schistosomiasis – liver flu, severe fevers, skin infections, dysentery that leads to dehydration and kidney failure and the immediate concern of typhoid and cholera. The illnesses related to contaminated water are numerous and continued use of contaminated water leads to great health concerns and possible loss of life.

The installation of a desalination plant and washing pavilion would backup the water tanks, in an effort to supply the island with safe drinking water all year around. The washing pavilion would provide a hygienic place for women to do their washing and a clean environment to wash their children. When the children of the island are washed with contaminated bore well water their cuts or abrasions become infected. Respiratory and eye infections are common in all children on the island and with no doctor present these illnesses can lead to serious health problems.

NZCHET propose to build a shower and washing pavilion along with prototype composting toilet. As there are many forms of composting toilets, the design of these composting toilets will be able to be copied by all resident using local sustainable products.

This activity will be designed and implemented by James Brodie an architect from New Zealand and the young builders from the Uliveo Workshop, enabling discussion and redesign to accommodate the locally available building products making these toilets sustainable and accessible to all.

  1. The desalination plant will be powered by solar panels and provide constant safe drinking water that is not contaminated. This activity will provide options, desalinated water and the ability to collect and store water in the rainy season. This will provide the people of the remote islands of South East Malakula with a reliable, constant source of safe drinking water, no matter what climactic changes occur.                                             

Palm Project is an established community enterprise and all activities are community based. As in the past, the community will supply labour and assist with all components of this activity, thus insuring that the participants are the beneficiaries.  

John Rossiter from Solapro, Tim Bloy from Waterpro and James Brodie architect are all New Zealand experts in their chosen fields. Their commitment to this activity has already started as they meet by phone and internet to create a solar desalination system that will ensure a constant reliable source of safe clean non brackish drinking water all year around.

This is a major ground breaking activity that is tangible and its success can be measured. Success of this activity will be measured in terms of the improvement in the health status of the whole island. Sally Peet RN, Trustee and medical advisor of NZCHET has been working in this village since 2005. Last season she treated 2500 patients from Uliveo and surrounding islands. She has stated to NZCHET that the contaminated water is the major cause of many of the illnesses she treated. It is appropriate for NZCHET and Palm Project to return the support we have had from the island in the past years, since the establishment of Palm Project. To date there is no water on the island that is safe for human consumption, except the one 6000ltr tank at Palm Project and this tank is certainly not able to assist the whole island. This activity will also assist Palm Project in its commercial endeavours by assuring that a constant source of clean water is available for the production of soap.

The third activity for is the expansion of Palm Project soap factory. Palm Project soap factory will be updated and expanded to accommodate the amount of stock they have to produce to satisfy their growing markets.

They need larger soap maturing cupboards, more soap cutters and soap cutting station. All areas need to be made as hygienic as possible to eliminate the dust and keep the soap clean so that we can sell to overseas markets. Palm Project soap is on the international market now and it has just been accepted by NZ Trade Aid for their catalogues. Palm Project soap has been on display at two festivals in New Caledonia and is sold at the National Museum of Vanuatu in Port Vila.

Many cruising boat come to Uliveo now to visit the soap factory and it is a regular stop for tourists. Palm Project and the community offer custom performances, with dance, cooking and mat weaving demonstrations, meals and tours of the soap factory to purchase products. All this brings revenue to the community allowing them to educate and service themselves independently.

  1. Palm Project soap division buys the coconut oil it uses to make its soap directly from the coconut oil makers. For the local coconut oil producers this means, they make the coconut oil in the morning and receive payment in the afternoon. The women told me that this has helped them to feed and sustain their children and see to their health needs.                                                                                          

While I was there in 2010 I travelled to many villages to buy coconut oil and the women all said the same thing to me, ‘the money they receive from selling their coconut oil has helped their families and communities’. The more soap Palm Project can sell the more coconut oil they can purchase and the more villages will be assisted.

This sustainable community enterprise has been commended by the Malampa Province Government. In particular Rolini Ballias who is a founding member of Palm Project and manager. In their speech they complimented her and said she was an inspiration to all young Ni-Vanuatu people.  Even though she is only 24 her maturity and abilities have not gone unnoticed by her people. She is an avid book keeper and while I was there in 2010 we were able to do the first financial reporting for Palm Project. The figures showed that Palm Project is well on its way to being completely self sufficient and self determining. With Rolini at the helm of all Palm Project activities NZCHET are assured of success. Rolini is respected by her people and they trust her and approach her for help and advice which she gives willingly. NZCHET are proud and lucky to have Rolini to work with, her efforts have made Palm Project the community enterprise it is today. The Palm Project management team which includes men and women have achieved much in the last three years. With the help of NZCHET, their determination, and the support of the whole community we will see continued success in activities initiated and supported by the community.

Keywords: Soap Factory

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Other news and updates from Palm Project


Palm Project - published news items

In 2008 and with the support of NZCHET and funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme, local Rural Training College building graduates constructed the Palm Project soap factory under the guidance of a New Zealand designer. In 2011, NZCHET received funding for its latest project, which addresses health issues and dehydration on Uliveo Island that have resulted from a lack of access to clean water.


Palm Project - timeline

Ivon Durloo a volunteer techi from NZ started with the builders who first built the Soap factory and they installed the solar panels, batteries, inverter, lights, kitchen sink and plumbing for running water. Coconut oil making has traditionally been a job that only the women partake in and this has meant that the money goes directly toward the wellbeing of the families.