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Updated: August 26, 2013 09:00 IST

NRI sights steady income on treetops

G. Prabhakaran
Comment (10)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
After working in the Gulf for 17 years, Keshavan has taken to coconut tree
climbing. So has his wife.
After working in the Gulf for 17 years, Keshavan has taken to coconut tree climbing. So has his wife.

Keshavan returned to Pattambi two years ago after spending 17 years in the Gulf and soon realised that life wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. He tried his luck in business, drove an autorickshaw, but gave up both, for lack of regular income. Then, he hit up on a ‘lofty’ idea.

Keshavan underwent a week-long training in machine-assisted coconut-tree climbing under the ‘Friends of coconut trees’ scheme of the Coconut Development Board at the People’s Service Society in Dhoni. His wife, Rajitha, and her sister Lakshmi followed suit. “We found that there was none to pluck coconuts. The traditional climbers have vanished, and their next generation is not interested in the occupation, which has stigma and risk associated with it,” he says.

Rajitha says the decision was easy for her since she hails from a farmers’ family at Varode near Ottappalam.

“We have coconut trees in our farm but there are very few coconut pluckers. Even for our cooking we have to go without coconut though there are plenty of trees. This gave me the idea of learning coconut-tree climbing using machines.”

Lakshmi, whose husband is in the Gulf, says the training made her self-reliant. “Now I can pluck coconut from my garden. There is no strain,” she says.

The other youngsters in the training camp, Baiju of Nemmara and Sharafudeen of Nattukal, are traditional climbers. However, they welcome mechanisation, through which they earn more and climb up to 100 coconut trees daily as against the 60 manually. The risk is also less while using the machine.

Twenty people were trained in the camp. The trainees intend to form groups of four or five, and undertake coconut plucking from groves on contract for a year. The board provides them subsidy and interest-free loans to buy motorbikes, to respond to customers’ calls, and vans to transport coconut.

The major problem faced by coconut farmers in Kerala is the acute shortage of tree climbers, who form a vital link in the production line, says master trainer P. Unnikrishnan. Consistent supply of raw nuts for the market and for the copra and oil processing sectors is crucial for the farmers to earn steady income, he says.

The Coconut Development Board’s training scheme includes training in climbing technique, harvesting operations, crown cleaning, pest control, pollination, hybridisation techniques, identification of tender nut, mature coconut and seed nut.

This is very entrepreneurial as they say in the west. However, they should least they should wear work style clothes, with proper shoes, helmets and goggles. Climbing trees and making money is good, but they should tether themselves to the tree and follow as many safety measures as possible

from:  Satish
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 00:57 IST

When the government is offering more subsides and freebies and Food security, we shall see more and more labour shortage. If the shortage of labour on account of movement from low income earners to mid and high is very welcome, but the schemes do contribute to lazy and free money for TASMAC spend will be a problem. Even now, it is very difficult to get domestic help in places like Chennai.

from:  Gopalan R
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 13:59 IST

Very good initiative . The next step is to improve and improve the machine absorbing the spirit of western technology.

from:  Param
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 13:17 IST

It's very little known in other parts of kerala. Please propagate the technology through Grama Sevakan, Krishi Bhavan......

from:  Sebastian
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 13:15 IST

The traditional climbers has left for gulf countries and are domestic help (cleaning the toilets) there now. This gentleman who has returned and has the courage to face the reality. Excellent piece of news and thank you for that. This is what I call true journalism. Keep it up.

from:  Soman Nair
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 08:45 IST

There was a plan to train monkeys to pluck the coconuts. Don't know what happened to that idea.

from:  V L Subramanian
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 08:17 IST

Good as i was wondering when i heard about this while traveling Kerala. I believe science and technology can help exploit this business.

from:  catindia
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 06:58 IST

Its really a need for the farmers to increase their production and reduce their stress in climbing a too tall trees.....

from:  Shahieeth
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 06:58 IST

schoolkids in kerala are also doing tree climbing as a part time job.

from:  sabita
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 05:30 IST


from:  Nripinder
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 04:41 IST
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