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Women learn finer points of coconut plucking

Naina J A Mangalore: Mar 8, 2013 DH News Service 1:41 IST

Participants will get palm climbing machine free

Women of Dakshina Kannada district are literally scaling new heights by climbing coconut trees. Meet Bhavya, Snehalatha, Pushpalatha and Veena, who are undergoing a six-day training along with other 16 men to pluck coconuts, at Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kankanady.

The women, who are on the verge of mastering the art of climbing, said initially the task looked daunting. With two days of training, it has become an effortless job.

At a time when farmers are facing acute shortage of skilled labourers to pluck coconuts and clean the trees, the Coconut Development Board in association with Krishi Vigyan Kendra has come up with a scheme to train groups of people, including women, to use the devices to climb and pluck coconuts.

The KVK training programme in palm climbing and plant protection is meant to develop a professional group of youth as ‘friends of the coconut palm.’

Participants will be trained not only in climbing trees and plucking coconuts, but also taught about diseases, treatment, method of applying fertiliser, making value-added products, coconut nursery and other information related to coconut farming, said KVK programme coordinator Dr H Hanumanthappa.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Bhavya from Mangalore, who has just completed her BE and is waiting to join a prestigious institution to take up her career, said “I had enough time before I start my career. With traditional coconut pluckers vanishing, getting the coconut from atop had in recent years turned out to be a headache for the growers. In fact, I have noticed my father finding it difficult to get a skilled labourer to pluck coconuts. At the same time, labourers demand hefty wages for climbing a tree. So, I thought of learning the skill and help my father. The training is a kind of adventure camp which is helpful for all those who have coconut trees in their vicinity.”

Snehalatha, Pushpalatha and Veena said “We did not have any knowledge on climbing a tree. However, within two days, we could climb a tree of 35 feet and pluck tender coconuts with help of a climbing device.”

Dr Hanumanthappa said: “We had already trained a group of 20 members in January. We have identified a few from the first batch as master trainers, to train other groups. “Candidates between the age group of 18 and 40 are allowed to take part in the training programme. Another batch of 20 will be trained in the art of climbing coconut tree from March 11. In fact, many aged above 60 years had approached us to get trained.

However, we could not help them as we had fixed the age limit. For those who could not take part in the six-day programme, a one-day training will be held in April," he added.
Reji Paul from Belthangady, who had mastered the skill during the first camp and is a master trainer for the present batch, said “Apart from making me financially secure and independent, this helps me gain self-confidence and self-esteem. In fact, the labourers charge Rs 60 for climbing one coconut tree. The palm climbing machine works out to be cheap for the farmers. One can climb the tree without any fear. It is safe to climb even during rainy season,” Paul added.

Dr Hanumanthappa said “In Kannur KVK, the government of Kerala has identified master trainers as coconut technicians. They have formed a group and are offering their services on demand. I want to encourage all those who have undergone training to form a group, so that they can take up self-employment and make coconut-based, value-added products besides providing services to the farmers on demand.”

Each participant is paid Rs 150 as daily allowance. A climbing device worth Rs 2,500 will also be given free to them at the end of the course.

KVK subject specialist Shashikanth Kattimani said as part of the training, the participants were taken to Kidu farm near Subrahmanya on Wednesday.

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