An ACIAR funded research project has worked to extend the life cycle of the coconut palm. This joint Australia- Fiji-Samoa project is helping transform non-productive senile palms into quality building materials, suitable for flooring, bench tops and furniture.
This opportunity provides a new income for farmers and frees up land for more productive agricultural uses.
The ACIAR forestry research project manager Tony Bartlett is optimistic about the prospects, “there are a lot of senile coconut plantations in the Pacific and the science that has come out of this project demonstrates that a valuable product can be produced from these palms.”
The project has identified many reasons behind previous challenges with processing cocowood, such as the wood twisting during the drying process, and has instigated improved methods for drying the cocowood. The Crawford Fund has sponsored training sessions for these processes and a practical user manual has been produced as part of this project.
The project has revealed other uses for senile cocopalms, acknowledging that the nutrient-rich core of the palm’s trunk makes excellent mulch that can be used across the Pacific to improve poor soils and increase agricultural prospects for islanders.
There is good money to be made from old coconut palms. In Europe there are buyers eager for cocowood flooring, and in Australia there is a growing demand for high-density veneer for use in plywood, which could be produced from senile coconut palms, instead of traditional forest timbers.
This cocowood industry in the pacific not only reduces pressure on local forests, but also reduces reliance on timber imports from other countries.