• J-Palm Liberia

    Transforming 'Waste' into Jobs and Economic Opportunities for Liberian Communities

  • Our Story

    Can We Lift Thousands of People Out of Poverty Through Responsible Oil Palm Production? That's What we are Trying to Do.

    Liberia's Oil Palm Abundance

    Globally, when most people hear of oil palm, they automatically think of multinational corporations clearing large swathes of land and destroying animal habitats to create oil palm plantations.

     

    In Liberia, oil palm grows naturally in the wilds (dura variety), without anyone having to plant, due to the country's agro-ecological profile - high rainfall, moist soil, and tropical climate. In rural areas, palm trees are communally owned, and governed by local chiefs and elders.

     

    As palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable fat in Liberia, the majority of the country rely on about 220,000 smallholder households to produce palm oil for daily consumption as well as for semi-industrial purposes such as soap production.

    Manual palm oil extraction.

    Rural Processors Remain in Poverty

    Sadly, most of Liberia's smallholder oil palm producing households (predominantly rural) remain in poverty. While there is no shortage of palm fruit supply, smallholders lack access to modern processing technologies.

     

    As a result, over 35% of Liberia's palm fruit go un-harvested every year. During processing, smallholders suffer an additional 50% oil loss due to inefficient manual processing techniques.

    Palm Kernels go to Waste, Too

    After processing palm oil from the outer layer of the palm fruit, smallholders waste almost 100% of the palm kernels - the inner layer. Enclosed in hard coconut-like shells, palm kernels are even harder to de-shell and process into oil.

     

    Most smallholder communities lack access to processing machinery and markets for their palm kernels. As a result, they largely throw away the palm kernels, further losing thousands of dollars in foregone income.

     

    Smallholders stand to miss out significantly on development opportunities due to this technology gap.

    We Bridge the Gap By Providing Access to Mini Oil Palm Mills

    J-Palm Liberia works to empower smallholder oil palm processors in rural communities by providing access to modern, more efficient processing technologies. Our machines reduce processing time by 90% and extraction rates by 50-100%.

     

    We manage and operate our mills in partnership with rural communities. Oil palm processors within a certain radius harvest palm fruit from communally-owned trees, and use our machines to process palm oil at no up-front cost. In return for using our machines, they pay us 15% of the oils produced.

     

    Additionally, we provide an option to purchase palm oil from smallholders at going market rates, providing quick access to cash when needed.

    We Have Also Created a Market for Previously Wasted Palm Kernels

    In addition to creating access to more efficient palm oil processing mills, J-Palm Liberia has also expanded the market for palm kernels. We purchase hitherto wasted palm kernels from smallholders, and process the kernels into palm kernel oil.

     

    We use the kernel oil to create a range of beauty and clean energy products, including Kernel Fresh, a multipurpose body moisturizer and hair conditioner. We are also working to create SuperCoal, which are smokeless and more energy-efficient charcoal briquettes made from palm kernel shells. We plan to position SuperCoal as a viable alternative to wood charcoal, so as to reduce deforestation resulting from wood charcoal production.

    We are Helping to Lift Liberians Out of Poverty 

    We started this journey in 2013 with one overarching goal: to develop a sustainable model to create premium quality consumer goods for Liberians while simultaneously creating income-earning and employment opportunities for Liberians. Thus far, we have build a robust network of over 500 smallholder suppliers across 5 counties in Liberia, and have created over 500 jobs. On average, the smallholders with whom we work have seen their incomes grow by 250 percent.

     

    We are incredibly proud and humbled to be able to create products that not only add value to our customers' lives, but also enhance the lives of hundreds of our suppliers and employees.

     

     

  • 40 Chances Fellowship

    In October 2014, we received an award that changed the trajectory of our business.

    AllAfrica.com Press Release

    Liberia: J-Palm's Founder and CEO Mahmud Johnson Awarded 40 Chances Fellowship

     

     

    Des Moines, Iowa — J-Palm’s CEO Mahmud Johnson has been selected as one of four recipients of this year’s 40 Chances Fellowship. The 40 Chances Fellowship is a global program in partnership with Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative, the World Food Prize, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The Fellowship seeks to spur innovation in developing market-based approaches that address food insecurity, conflict or poverty in Rwanda, Malawi, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

     

    These fellowships provide US$150,000 each to four individual social entrepreneurs under the age of 40, from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, and Rwanda, who submitted the most compelling application for a start-up program that can produce and enhance economic development and poverty elimination in that country and thus ensure greater food security.

     

    Mahmud will use his 40 Chances award to scale up the Kernels for Peace Initiative (K4P), post-war Liberia’s first large-scale palm kernel oil processing factory, which will help bridge the gap between Liberia’s wasted palm kernels, and growing market demand for palm kernel oil.

     

    As a socially conscious enterprise, K4P will work directly at the frontlines of socioeconomic transformation in rural Liberia. By purchasing hitherto wasted palm kernels from smallholder oil palm producers, K4P will help increase their incomes by an average of 25-35%. Additionally, K4P will create an estimated 225 additional permanent, full-time jobs for rural women and youth, and will invest up to 50% of its profits into the community after the first two years of operation.

     

    According to the World Food Prize Foundation, the selection process was extremely competitive, with 267 applications received for the four available fellowships in Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. In total, 48 applications were received from Liberia. The winners were selected by a blue-ribbon judging panel for each country that included leaders in government, civil society, and economic development.

     

    The Fellows were announced at the 2014 Bourlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, USA on Wednesday October 15, 2014.

  • How the 40 Chances Fellowship Transformed Our Venture

    Larger Factory Space, New Machines, Expanded Product Line

    New, Larger Factory Space

    A tripling of our factory floor

    We have leased a 3-times larger factory space to accommodate increase in production volume.

    More Efficient Processing Machines

    12-fold increase in processing capacity

    In 2014 when we won the 40 Chances Award, our processing capacity was at 500kg of palm kernels per hour. Now, our processing capacity is 6000kg per hour, due to investments in larger, more sophisticated machinery.

    Expanded Product Mix

    26-fold increase in value of palm kernel oil

    In 2014, our key product was crude palm kernel oil, which trades for $633 per ton. We have integrated forward in the supply chain, by creating a range of health and beauty products based on Palm Kernel Oil - face and body soaps, moisturizers, lotions, facial scrubs, hair butters, and baby oils. As a result, we have increased the value of one ton of palm kernel oil to $16,667 - a 26-fold increase!

    Rapid Revenue Growth

    2900% revenue growth

    In 2014, our revenues were less than $10,000. This year, we are on track to generate more than $300,000 in sales. Rapid revenue growth has enabled us to create more almost 500 additional new jobs, and improved benefits and amenities for our employees - including health insurance.

  • Social Impact Videos

    J-Palm Liberia seeks to maximize impact at all points of our supply chain - from farmer to salesperson.

    #KernelFreshImpactStories: Jonathan Gao

    Previously, farmers wasted the palm kernels after processing palm oil because they lacked access to markets for their palm kernels. Now, J-Palm Liberia purchases hitherto wasted palm kernels from more than 500 smallholders, creating opportunities for them to grow their incomes my more than 250%. This is the story of Jonathan Gao in Kparnebu Town, Todee District, Lower Montserrado County, Liberia.

    #KernelFreshImpactStories: Prince Power

    We have increased the value of Liberian Palm Kernel Oil 26-fold. Due to value-addition and increased demand for our products, we have created employment for more than 500 young Liberians who work as Field Sales Representatives at J-Palm Liberia. The average wage for each person prior to working at J-Palm was $53 per month. Currently, it's $120. In addition to sales commissions, our Sales Reps also receive medical insurance, tuition assistance, and daily meals.

    #KernelFreshImpactStories: Elizabeth T. Kamara

    We have increased the value of Liberian Palm Kernel Oil 26-fold. Due to value-addition and increased demand for our products, we have created employment for more than 500 young Liberians who work as Field Sales Representatives at J-Palm Liberia. The average wage for each person prior to working at J-Palm was $53 per month. Currently, it's $120. In addition to sales commissions, our Sales Reps also receive medical insurance, tuition assistance, and daily meals.

    #KernelFreshImpactStories: Savina Sackie

    A customer, Savina Sackie, Shares how J-Palm Liberia's Natural Moisturizing Oil (Kernel Fresh) helped her clear acne and pimples from her face.

    Made in Liberia: Beauty Product with a Purpose

    Kernel Fresh is more than just a health and beauty product. It is a movement and a lifestyle. It is a strong example of Liberians working together to empower ourselves and strengthen our communities. The palm kernels that make up Kernel Fresh come from hundreds of smallholder farmers in rural communities across Liberia. By trading palm kernels, many families are improving their lives, increasing their incomes, and sending their children to school. These women and men are our unsung heroes.

    Watch this short video to see the many faces behind the product. And don't forget to share the video!

  • Other Opportunities

    The 40 Chances Fellowship Positioned Us for Other Opportunities

    African Entrepreneurship Award (AEA)

    In 2016, we won first place award at the African Entrepreneurship Awards, out of more than 4000 applicants from across Africa and the Diaspora. The investments we made with the 40 Chances Fellowship positioned us to be very competitive at the AEA. With the 40 Chances Award, we established credibility and proof of concept in terms of social impact potential.

     

    URL: https://africanentrepreneurshipaward.com/case-studies/changing-a-narrative-in-liberia/

    JNJ Africa Innovation Challenge (AIC)

    In 2017, we were one of three winners of the Johnson and Johnson Africa Innovation Challenge. In addition to financing, the JNJ AIC comes with incredible access to mentors across JNJ. Experts at the company have mentored us to improve our product packaging and branding, strengthen our supply chain, negotiate better deals with suppliers of packaging equipment, and developed our oils into new products such as lotions and soaps.

     

    URL: https://www.jnj.com/innovation/3-entrepreneurs-3-big-ideas-meet-the-winners-of-the-africa-innovation-challenge

    Equity Financing

    The 40 Chances Fellowship and the other awards that followed provided seed capital that we needed to fully develop our business model, build up our supply chain, deepen our social impact, and grow the business to become profitable and cash-flow positive. At this stage, we are looking to scale our model across West Africa. Due to the strength of the business model, we have (for the first time) attracted equity financing from some high-profile investors. We are currently in the final due diligence stages of the investment process. The investors come with a wealth of industry experience, having built multiple global businesses with billions of dollars in revenues.

  • My team and I remain eternally grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the World Food Prize Foundation and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative for the 40 Chances Fellowship. Four years on, and the award continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Liberians. It is the greatest joy of my life every day to see firsthand how this venture - that was just an idea in my head a few years ago - has grown into something truly transformative for many individuals and communities in Liberia. In so many ways, this experience demonstrates the power of philanthropy and business in solving some of the world's seemingly intractable social problems. THANK YOU for seeing the potential in us and at such early stage, and providing the jumpstart we needed to make this vision a reality. We are and will always be grateful!

    Mahmud Johnson, 40 Chances Fellow

  • Connect With Us

    We'd love to hear from you!

    info@jpalmliberia.com

    +231.777.550.008 or +231.880.061.978