Social work and social enterprise in Kenya

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Retired social worker Bernice is currently volunteering out in Kenya, supporting a formative project tackling issues of sexual abuse in the community. Partnering with local community leaders leads to a range of activities and we are delighted to read this account of Bernice joining in with the women’s cooperative producing virgin coconut oil.

Note: This co-operative project is also one we wish to offer volunteer support to, to help improve the product packaging and the overall business plan – virgin coconut oil is very much on trend for all the benefits it can bring. We would actually love to help export it and sell it in our developed markets, and send the profits back to Watamu…. so if you are interested or have skills to lend in this area then let us know.

So read on if you have an interest in how it is made, and how you might join this community to help their social enterprise.



“I visited the group on 22nd June. Met Supa there and was introduced to the women. There are over 20 women in the group. From talking to the women I learned that most of them have other jobs and roles in the community. Most are single parents or widowed. Many of them perform the voluntary role of acting as Community Health Workers, with caseloads of 25 families which can mean that they monitor around 100 children doing 3 to 4 hours per week. They get travel expenses and money for food and water.

supporting social enterprise in Kenya 1The group make coconut oil which they sell. They are supported by the Watamu Marine Association which supports the community groups in the area. The money made from the coconut oil less 10% to the association who help sell the oil on, goes back in to the group. Each of the women gets her share and the rest is ploughed back in to making more oil.

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The women were very welcoming and showed me how they make the coconut oil and gave me permission to take photographs.

Supa appears to have a key leadership role within the group and uses the group to get children’s rights and child protection messages in to the community.

The women then take these messages in to the broader community. There’s a real sense of strength, purpose and support in the group which I have often seen in my own experience of running women’s groups in disadvantaged areas.


I guess the difference here is that there is a sense of a real hand to mouth existence. The idea is that these women use the money from the oil to set up other businesses. The money enables them to get loans through the association. One of the women I met runs a fish business, another does massages using the coconut oil. Their priority is making enough money to keep their children fed and schooled.

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supporting social enterprise in Kenya 4The coconut is shredded as above. After the coconut water is been poured out and saved. If the women have a large order, the machine below is used to speed up the process.

The machine is powered by electricity.

The coconut is collected in the bowls, then placed in something similar to a muslin bag and squeezed in to 3 litres of hot water.

It’s a bit like doing a hand wash, squeeze and wring!!!


It is then poured through a sieve in to a big container, covered by something akin to a net curtain and left for three days to ferment.

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Any bits of coconut left in the shells is scraped out and used for cooking. The shells are made in to things that can be sold e.g. serving spoons, ear rings. The leaves and branches from the tree are used as kindling. Every part of the coconut is used. Nothing is wasted.

supporting social enterprise in Kenya 12supporting social enterprise in Kenya 9Attending this group and being invited to watch them making the oil was a great experience and gave me a bit more insight in to the lives of women in this part of Kenya.

A very humbling and enlightening experience.

At least I managed to provide some entertainment in my attempts to shred the coconut! Harder than it looks. Definitely a knack to it.”



Use the link to see more information on the social worker project dealing with issues of sexual abuse or if you are interested in offering commercial support to the various enterprises in Watamu then see this link to our commercial project.