ESSENTIAL OIL PROGRAM
Providing livelihood opportunities through essential oils
for small upland farmers
AIDFI’s program evolution began in the early 2000s where it had two main programs the development, manufacturing and installation of appropriate technologies and its agricultural program.
The programs evolved into what is now the main flagship program a perfected model of the hydraulic ram pump and the essential oil project as part of becoming a social enterprise. The search for a viable alternative for far flung communities started in 2003 when Auke Idzenga attended a conference on essential oils and got introduced to the idea of producing essential oil from lemongrass. Prior to which he already worked with his father-in-law in Brgy. Mambugsay, Cauayan, Negros Occidental in marketing lemongrass for ‘chicken inasal’ in Bacolod but the transport, cost and low value of lemongrass leaves proved to be more difficult than beneficial.
AIDFI combined its technical, organizational skills and marketing from years of experience to develop the essential oil project, the technical team designed, developed and built a unique essential oil steam distillery while the community development team started introducing the concept of decentralized essential oil distillation and organizing farmers in Brgy. Mambugsay, Cauayan, Negros Occidental in an association.
After months of testing the unique designed essential oil steam distillery in Bacolod it was finally ready to be installed. So, in 2004 the team constructed a decentralized small-scale factory in the mountains of Brgy. Mambugsay and trained members from the association on the cultivation, harvesting and processing of the lemongrass plants. It also set-up ferrocement ponds for irrigation on the farms of the members.
The pioneering pilot project is in collaboration between AIDFI and a farmers group the MambugsayEssential Oil Producers Association (MEOPA). It is a seriously run enterprise.
The associations operated the small-scale factory while AIDFI provided the marketing, technical and organizational support. A small laboratory was built at AIDFI for the final processing, packaging and delivery of the final product to different clients. Aside from the income that is derived for the farmers who earn the biggest part from it, some buyers also provided additional assistance to the communities like educational scholarships, school supplies distribution, Christmas packages etc.
In 2013, through a grant from the Japanese Embassy the 1st ideal factory was constructed in Brgy. Mambugsay, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. It significantly increased production efficiency and kept up with required industry standards. The factory features a drying rack for lemongrass leaves, chopping area, distillation area, laboratory for processing and storage room.
The venture in business terms it would be a crazy idea to set-up such a decentralized factory high in the mountains as such the case of sugarcane where it must be transported from the mountains on big trucks to centrals for the processing. But AIDFI has proven that it is possible.
In 2020, a second factory was set-up in Ananggue through funding from the Australian Embassy and Emmaus Group Bilthoven and Haarzuilens from the Netherlands. The factory is built similarly like the one in Mambugsay.
Currently, the communities produce 30 liters a month but at full scale capacity of the factories it can be increased significantly. Soon, AIDFI is looking at making the factories completely run-on solar power including shifting from the use of firewood to electric boiling.