Awa Sire Toure trains women in Ziguinchor how to make coconut oil. The women are part of a disabled group who had come together to create an organization of support. Benjamin and I were there, in the Casamance region of Senegal, to teach the women how to make soap. We found out that they produced the coconut oil that we were using in the handcrafted soap. The coconut oil is virgin and smells amazing. It is almost too precious to use in soap but it is a sustainable resource that they have available here.

Awa joined the disabled group and started going to meetings. She soon grew tired of all of the sitting around and speeches. One thing we quickly noticed about Awa is that she is determined and works very hard. She told the group that she knew how to make coconut oil and offered to show them how so that they could sell it and earn money as a group. She learned to make coconut oil from her grandmother.

After a workshop one day Benjamin asked if they could show us how they make it. Without even thinking about it, they grabbed some coconuts and the very simple equipment needed and got to work! It is a very simple, but laborious process.

The women shelled the coconuts, hacking at them with a small machete-like knife and grated down the flesh using fine graters. They generously passed around the coconut water for us to try. It was refreshing.

grating coconuts in senegal

Then they put Benjamin to work grating the coconuts. They were quit pleased when he jumped in to help.


After the coconuts were grated down, the pulp was put into a bucket and water was added. Awa squeezed the coconut pulp and water mixture with her hands.



The pulp and water mixture was then put through a strainer. The pulp was put back into the bucket, water was added and the process was repeated three times in total.


The coconut milk was then put through a fine mesh strainer into a new clean bucket to remove any pulp.


They put the lid on the bucket and let it set overnight.


The next day Awa scooped out the curds that had formed and put them into a pan.

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She turned the fire on and after cooking it for a bit while stirring the oil separated out.

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Voila! We now have coconut oil. It smells so good and feels wonderful.

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Benjamin and I are in Senegal to teach a group of women all about soapmaking. If you’d like to support this project, please sign up for a monthly donation at! As a THANK YOU, you will receive Soap Collaborative every month. 🙂  Thank you!

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Happy Soaping!

Amanda Gail

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