Nedoil is a Sierra Leonean company committed to the sustainable production of organic fair-trade palm oil. Established in 2007, Nedoil is a member of the Natural Habitats Group of Companies, with a marketing presence in the US and the Netherlands.

With the arrival of COVID-19, Nedoil faced two major challenges. The first revolved around organic certification for its network of smallholder farmers. Successful certification means higher export prices, and the disruption to this process in 2020 threatened to impact farmers’ earnings. In response, Nedoil shifted from in-person field assessments to remote audits conducted via WhatsApp video calls with an office in Ghana. By maintaining communication with the official certification body, the team conducted the audits to EU standards, ensuring successful certification for 2,150 farmers in the Yele region.

The second major challenge was the loss of regular annual export volumes to the Netherlands, caused by COVID-19 freight and travel restrictions. To overcome this issue, Nedoil turned to the local market, transferring the sales of palm fruit and crude palm oil to a newly built refinery in Freetown. In total, Nedoil produced 199.85MT of organic crude palm oil in 2020, combined with oil carried over from 2019 to deliver 239.9MT to the local market.

While the loss of exports during the year was potentially damaging, the shift to in-country sales delivered localised development and kept over two thousand smallholder farmers in business, as Nedoil CEO Mohamed Kamara reflects: “We didn’t collapse. Through our efforts we secured the local market for our farmers’ produce. Thanks to the AECF COVID Relief Fund, we purchased trucks for farmer outreach, fruit collection and certification. If we had not collected the farmers’ fruit, it would have increased their vulnerability, so our actions greatly limited the negative impacts on them.”

Fatmata farms 3.2 hectares in Gbonkolenken, Yele, Sierra Leone, producing palm fruit, pineapples, timber, rice and groundnut. In September 2020, Fatmata’s father died, placing additional pressure on the family business.

“When my father died, I was forced to abandon my college studies and return to the plantation to run it and look after my sick mother. I had to help with the harvesting so we could sell our produce to Nedoil, who were buying our fruit bunches. We sold over 2 million Leones (US$ 200) of fruit to Nedoil in 2020. I used to disagree with my father about selling fruit to Nedoil. But now I appreciate the workload they have relieved us of and the profit we make. I also observe that most of Nedoil’s profits are retained for the benefit of the people of Gbonkolenken. If Nedoil continues to purchase our fruits, this will enable me to continue my studies in the future.” Says Fatmata