Rural communities in Pitas, Sabah North Borneo are still living in dire poverty. Coconut is a major agriculture crop apart from corn, groundnuts and chilli, however due to poor road conditions and accessibility, farmers end up selling the coconuts for a very low price (RM0.40), while middlemen take a huge cut. The very first meeting that was held in June 2016 was to discuss the possibilities of a potential partnership between Ronnie Onginjan - the man behind BONCO Virgin Coconut Oil and the communities from several villages in Pitas to maximize the total productivity and economic benefits of the coconut farm.
BEST Society (Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies Society) being the intermediary moderated the meeting to come up with a win-win negotiation for both Ronnie and the communities in Pitas. The aim was for farmers to supply de-husked and dry grated coconuts to Ronnie as he was running low on stock. We often hear people say ‘You’ve got to pick the low hanging fruit’ and Ronnie did not need to look far as both Kampung Lugu and Kampung Kobon had abundant supply of coconuts! Subsequently, Ronnie will take the lead to train the villagers on the processes involved in producing VCO.
In November 2016, appointed liaison representatives Mejol Sukuan and Joseph Murondok both from Kampung Lugu and Kampung Kobon respectively took the time off their daily routine and organized a trip partially sponsored by BEST Society to Pusat Memproses Kelapa Dara Kimihang, Kudat. Ronnie arranged for intensive sessions for the both of them to learn VCO processing methods. They had the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience from coconut de-shelling, grating, drying, oil extraction up to packaging and storage of finished products.