Staff Reporter

Marketing coconut-based food and non-food products

KOCHI: The Kochi-based Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation, an NGO, has launched a scheme for women's empowerment. The project is intended to provide support to women's groups for producing and marketing coconut-based food and non-food products at the farm household and community levels. The project has opened up new opportunities for income and employment for educated but unemployed women. Women are equipped with appropriate technologies for income generation in diverse enterprises, according to P.K.Thampan, president of the Foundation.

The Foundation is concentrating on Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts. The major project site of the Foundation is Vayalar. Around 45 per cent of the households there are engaged in traditional coir processing. Women constitute 80 per cent of the workforce and they are exposed to unhygienic and hazardous working conditions, according to him.

The Foundation has taken steps to replace the traditional hand spinning wheels with motorised spinning wheels. The new ones are capable of producing more yarn and are less hazardous to operate.

The higher yarn output ensures better income generation. More than 100 families are being covered under a project approved by CAPART (Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology), an autonomous agency under the Ministry of Rural Development. Women are imparted training in food and beverages production, soap making, coconut-based handicrafts, vermi-composting and nursery management in coconut and medicinal plants. The trained women have organised themselves into self-help groups.

These groups are engaged in activities ranging from production to marketing of food. The self-help groups are also involved in integrated farming practices.

The Foundation has launched extension education methods to villages in a bid to popularise sustainable farming. Organic management of coconut holdings is part of the programme. Recycling of organic wastes is an important requirement for sustainable farming.

As many as 100 tanks were constructed in select farm households under a CAPART project.