Bringing back the Lost Glory of Coconut Learning the Art of Coconut Plucking in India

English: A view of coconut tree having tender ...

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By Sudha S. Namboothiry
The author is a Media & Communications Officer, PIB, Cochin

Cochin, India, Jan 11, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) Kerala known as “God’s Own Country” in the Global Tourism Map is also known as the Land of the Coconut Trees. But in recent times many coconut farmers have shifted to cultivation of other more profitable crops. Among other reasons, the worst is dearth of coconut tree climbers. Till some time ago coconut climbing was restricted to certain strata of the society but today’s youngster’s goal for better white collar, less dangerous and better rewarding jobs, has resulted in making the coconut climbers almost an extinct species in Kerala. You cannot trace them and if you can catch hold of one they will charge exorbitantly, will pluck down even the tender coconut in most unscientific  ways and whats more they will even get away with the best coconuts from your own farm as self realized favour! But not anymore, thanks to the initiatives of the Coconut Development Board(CDB), scores of youth, middle aged people and even women are acquiring coconut–tree climbing skills and their contact details are available on the Board’s website.

Shortage of labour is a general  phenomenon in agriculture sector but it is all the more severe in coconut which requires skilled labour for crown cleaning, plant protection application and harvesting informed Chairman, Coconut Development Board.  Understanding this fundamental problem  in  the sector, the Board chipped in with its “Friends of Coconut Trees” a novel concept. The Kerala Agriculture University, the Krishi Vigyan Kendras(KVKs) in the State  and a few NGOs came forward to take  up this challenge and to help the Board. After detailed discussions and planning the training for the “FoCT” is on track. The Board embarked on this training programme in the state  of Kerala on August 17,2011 covering 11 districts in the first phase. Today there are 2651 trained FoCTs out of which  118 are women, who are adorned in their uniforms and functioning in the field . Apart from the free six day residential  all round training  which include yoga, safety, financial security, communication skills, coconut farming and remedies for the disease which afflict coconut trees, the Board also gives them a daily allowance, coconut climbing machine and two sets of uniforms free . The Board has even standardized the rates for FoCTs. A charge of Rs. 10 for a normal tree(40 ft high) Rs. 15 for taller as well as those trees in the city limits. A hard working trainee can earn Rs.3 lakhs per annum.

The aim is to train 5000 FoCTs in Kerala this year but the Board is also giving a helping hand to all those traditional coconut climbers who also wish to become FoCTs. Till date we have also trained 102 people from Lakshadweep.

The Coconut Development Board had been thoroughly researching on the reasons behind people shying away from coconut plucking job . One of the major reasons was the occupational risk. So Board in association with the United India Insurance Company Limited  launched a pilot scheme for providing accident insurance  cover for coconut tree climbers . The Scheme known as Kera Suraksha Insurance is implemented in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry. The Board bears 75% of the premium and the climbers  have to bear the rest 25%.The insured coconut tree climber is entitled to get maximum financial benefit of Rs. 1,16,750/- against accident related death, permanent total disablement, permanent partial disablement, hospital expenses reimbursement, ambulance charges, weekly compensation, bystander expenses in case of hospitalization and funeral expenses in case of death. The Premium payable per person is Rs.146/-(inclusive of service tax). But again  the FoCT trainees are insured free of charge as the Board pays 100% of the Premium. They are given the insurance coverage from the very first day of the training.

FoCT project is an attempt of the Board to bring back the lost glory of coconut sector. The training is a an opportunity for an unemployed youth  to realize a better income and livelihood at his own place. If he is willing and hard working he can definitely earn like a government or a private employee said Shri Jose. He also added that if the attempt succeeds in coconut sector, similar experimentation may spread to other agricultural crops too.

According to Shri Thankamani, age 51 yrs, who attended the training one month ago in Palakkad, the training has helped him to earn additional income of approximately Rs. 4000/- during the  month with his limited time. He is already working in a private firm and earns 4,200/- per month. He was so much impressed by the training and the machine that he has advised many of his friends for attending the same. He said the machine is really good and does not make you feel the fatigue of climbing. Shri Thampy V A who has taken the job full-fledged earns Rs.15,000/- per month. He is planning to buy a two wheeler to reach out more. He says they are in great demand and is unable to cater all the demands. Well! That is not at all a news!!! So need not say Friends of Coconut Trees are going to flourish and just as the CDB Director believes they will bring back the lost glory of the coconut sector.

- PIB Feature

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