Cardiff student’s coconut oil sales help Fijian islanders

17 February 2017

Bula Batiki logo

A Cardiff graduate who set up a non-profit enterprise selling coconut oil harvested on a remote Pacific island is fund raising to boost production.

Callum Drummond and friend Ellis Williams, both 23, aim to drive up sales of 'Bula Batiki Coconut Oil' and plough the money back into education and healthcare on the Fijian island of Batiki.

Their plan to make extra virgin coconut oil won last year’s Cardiff University Sparks Enterprise Award – giving them £2,000 to kick start the venture.

Callum, who studied psychology, graduated last summer. By then he’d already forged long-standing friendships with families on the island.

He and friend Ellis, from Llandyssil in Powys, first visited Batiki in 2012 as volunteers with the charity Think Pacific, teaching and coaching sport in the island’s primary school.

Callum Drummond and Ellis Williams on Batiki Beach
Innovation in a nutshell: (L-R) Ellis Williams and Callum Drummond on a Batiki beach

'Innovation in a nutshell'

“The islanders were amazing. They treated us like family.” said Callum, from Churchdown in Gloucestershire.

“I knew in 2012 that I had to go back and see them again. We returned for Christmas in December 2014, and really experienced the subsistence hardships they face.

Callum Drummond with Batiki family

“We wanted to find a way of helping the families who had been so kind to us. The family I stayed with asked me ‘Do you use coconut oil back in the UK,’ and that was really the ‘lightbulb moment.’ It’s innovation in a nutshell. We saw that the villagers could produce coconut oil on the island, and we realised coconut oil was becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

“We then started trying to create a business plan to produce pure virgin coconut oil on Batiki, ship it to the UK, jar it, and then reinvest the profits back into the community in order to develop housing, healthcare and education..."

“Our primary aim is to establish a sustainable source of income. Producing coconut oil allows the villagers to earn more than double their previous income from selling copra (dried coconut).”

Callum Drummond, Psychology graduate and Co-Founder of Bula Batiki Coconut Oil

Since starting Bula Batiki Coconut Oil in May last year, the friends have sold 800 jars of the oil around the world – including China, Australia and the US – with all profits going to Batiki projects.

Ellis and Callum have now launched a month-long Kickstarter fund-raiser to increase oil production. In return for pledging money to support the project, people can select rewards including a set number of coconut oil jars, branded t-shirts, and even a potential trip to Fiji. All funds go to Batiki education and healthcare.

Callum said, “Everything we raise goes back into community projects. We have provided six months’ sustainable income to the island and have funded the first ever Batiki Island youth and sports tournament.

Aerial shot of Batiki Island

“We are not pressurising Batiki islanders to change their way of life, as we don’t want to change their culture. Families only participate if they want to get involved. The chiefs in the four villages on the island really understand what we’re trying to do, and they’re really backing the project. It can help triple families’ incomes.”

Coconut oil can be used for frying, baking, and roasting. It can also be used in hair and skin care and as a natural moisturiser.

Each jar of Bula Batiki Coconut Oil carries a tag noting the island family which harvested the oil.

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