"The idea was that this sanitizer was very easy to produce, you can make it within just one day. it’s a bit like Rukuraa," said Professor Paolo Galli, a marine biologist from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy and the man leading the team of Marine Research and High Education Center (MaRHE Center) based in Magoodhoo, F. Atoll, Maldives.
Professor Galli and his team, currently in Italy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have come up with a product very much needed for the situation in the world today. A sanitizer that could be produced using natural elements easily and cheaply available in the Maldives.
Professor Galli said that he and his team wanted to take a positive aspect from the virus instead of all the negativity when they decided to come up with the sanitizer.
"When the crazy COVID-19 first started to appear in our lives, our first thought was that we cannot go back to Magoodhoo. The island is like a family to us, the residents are so friendly and warm, it's like we are a huge family."
"The idea was that this sanitizer was very easy to produce, you can produce it with glycerin extracted from coconut and spirits just only starting from coconuts, and more or less it's finished. After this, you have to just put something in for the smell. And for that, we used the frangipani (Plumeria). I asked a friend of mine, a person working with chemistry. a lady working with farms. This, this and there you go, the recipe for the sanitizer," said Professor Galli.
The professor said that even though the situation in the world has not fully calmed down yet, he and his team were more than happy to share the product of their research as soon as they are back. They are more than ready to return to the Maldives.
"We are able to produce the sanitizer here in Italy. The same product we have in Magoodhoo. The first day we are able to come back to the Maldives, we will start to teach others how to produce the sanitizer as well," said Professor Galli.
"At first, you boil the coconuts in a pan, after which you can produce glycerin with distilling equipment and you can produce spirits. you have Rukuraa? It is just like that. Just one day, you can produce all the sanitizer you want."
The professor said that it is a very good idea since it is very cheap and simple to produce in the Maldives.
"We are lucky to be able to produce from coconut. you can produce it here. It is a good opportunity and we have to think and take positive things from COVID-19."
He also said that it could be very interesting if the people of Magoodhoo could come to produce the sanitizer and in turn, sell to resorts and businesses.
He was firm in saying that it was not the target of MaRHE Center to do anything more with the sanitizer and that they just wanted to give the opportunity for people to be better during this time of hardship.
Professor Galli said that the island of Magoodhoo is indeed a very pristine area where he and his team enjoyed working with the local community.
"They are very friendly people. After so many years, we can say that we are a very big family. We enjoy each other and we miss each other."
"Around the island it is amazing. When the virus started, every day they (locals) started to call us, asking how things are in Milan. Like a family, we miss a lot of our people and every day. Every day, we speak about Magoodhoo, about when can we go back to the island. Because it is an incredible experience," reminisced Professor Galli.
The team has already begun to receive requests from several resorts such as Soneva Fushi and Diamonds Athuruga for their innovative product.
"We cannot go back yet to explain how to start the project. Even Diamonds Thudufushi among other resorts has expressed interest. Hopefully, we will be able to show it once we are back," said Professor Galli.
The team of MaRHE wants to share everything with everyone and they are more than happy to share the recipe and the process of the sanitizer.
"When COVID-19 started, we donated masks to the community. But after that we asked whether there was anything else, we can we do. Then we thought that we could share our results and our research, and we decided to share this product with anyone that requests," said Professor Galli.
Regarding the other projects of MaRHE Center, the Professor said that there were some that may sound even a bit far-fetched.
"We have plans to try and curb coral bleaching. A previously unthought idea to circulate hot water at the surface of the ocean with the cold water at the depths of the sea. It is crazy you see, but very possible," said Professor Galli.
The MaRHE Center was commenced with the initiative of many. Professor Galli said that since there was no university focused on marine research in the Maldives, discussions were held with several figures such as Italian Ambassador Giorgia Marazzi, Dr. Abdulla Naseer who is the current state minister at the Environment Ministry. The center is especially grateful to the support of the Italian embassy in Sri Lanka and the government of Maldives.
MaRHE Center is a place of prospective and current students and community members to find dedicated workshops, thesis opportunities in many marine-related issues, events, fascinating scientific exploits, and research breakthroughs.
In 2019 alone, the center hosted 43 professors and researchers, and 223 students. The affiliated staff published 12 articles in international journals, participated in 15 scientific congresses, took part in three international expeditions, supported 23 Master’s thesis, and organized 17 national and international events.
A center such as MaRHE is very much needed in a country surrounded by the ocean. It could even be the most important educational institution in the Maldives due to its promising work on the surrounding ecosystem. With the Maldives providing a location of nature rarely seen throughout the world, the country and the center are very much in need of each other.