News Release
Release No.STELPRD4018725
ContactChris J. Kanazawa808-933-8302
Joseph M. Diego671-300-8560
Hilo, HI, Oct 29, 2012 --

@@Chris J. Kanazawa, State Director for USDA Rural Development, announced the selection of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Ministry of Finance for the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority (TCPA), to receive a $50,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG).

"These funds lend support to the Obama Administration's effort to bring increased economic opportunity to rural citizens and communities," Kanazawa said. "The grant funds will serve as an investment that will assist in building the capacity and expertise of the local farmers in the RMI by promoting a more collaborative and regional approach toward jobs creation, business development and economic growth," said Kanazawa.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a nation of about 60,000 people living on 29 coral atolls and 5 low-lying islands in the central Pacific, mid-way between Hawaii and Australia. Copra (the dried-out meat of coconuts) production remains an important source of income for locals. TCPA is a government-owned processing plant that purchases copra from individual copra farmers who reside throughout the numerous, mostly isolated coral atolls. The copra is then exported and used to produce crude coconut oil, coconut feed (a bi-product of the copra milling process), coconut-based soaps and body oils, and refined coconut bio-fuel.

Jemi Nashion, General Manager from the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority states "The Tobolar Product Development Project perfectly aligns with the primary objective of the USDA's Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) Program, which is to promote sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs.  Plus, the project demonstrates Tobolar's new emphasis and motto, "Improve the Life in the Islands."

The impacts of this project will be direct, immediate, and significant for the rural populations involved.  The needs of the outer islands are exceptional considering they have a history of persistent poverty, population decline, and drought conditions.  The USDA funds will be used to provide "professional services necessary to conduct the technical assistance, training, and planning functions" that will directly lead to greater incomes for the farmers stated Nashion.

The project to train copra farmers in improving their harvesting and processing methods is designed to not only to improve economic activity in the outer islands, but it  also has the potential to contribute to the nation's development in general by increasing income across several sectors. 

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $172 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.


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