Coconut Tree climbers are a rarity these days in Kerala and other coconut growing states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Goa, with very few taking on the traditional profession. Coconut climbers are a very vital link in the production chain. The consistent supply of raw nuts for the market as well as for the processing sector can be ensured only by strict adherence to the regular harvesting schedule. ‘The scarcity of labour disrupts harvesting cycles thus causing loss of income to the growers.As per an estimate, Kerala has over 15 crore coconut trees and a minimum 30,000 climbers are required to tend them.
With a serious view to tackle this problem, the Coconut Development Board(CDB) would be conducting a massive training program to train about 5000 underemployed youth in developing special skills and confidence in coconut palm climbing and plant protection activities for the benefit of the coconut community as a whole.
During training period,they would be given food, accommodation and a stipent of Rs 950. An insurance coverage of Rs lakh for a year for each coconut plucker would be an added attraction of the programme. The training, conducted with the support of Krishi Vigyan Kendras, would cover the aspects like entrepreneurship capacity, leadership qualities and communication skills also, sources said. CDB prefer healthy, unemployed youth-aged between 18-40–for imparting training. It also insists that the participats should have a minimum education of seventh standard. Various government and non-government agencies and voluntary groups like Kudumbasree, Nehru Yuva Kendra, Coconut Growers Cooperatives and other self-help groups have been helping the CDB to identify coconut climbers in each district.
With non-availability of coconut pluckers becoming a big problem in Kerala, the CDB has come out with a novel idea of preparing an online directory of trained workers for the coconut growers to call them when necessary. The list has the contact numbers and addresses of a group of coconut climbers whose services could be requisitioned by growers by calling them. Under the programme titled ‘Friends of Coconut Tree’, the CDB has given a district-wise list of around 1200 pluckers on its website http://coconutboard.nic.in/Friends-district.htm. CDB sources said the initiative was meant to develop a database of a professional group of youths for harvesting and coconut plant protection operations. A total of 1593 unemployed youth were trained so far under the programme.