Dearth of climbers forces farmers to look for alternative
Shortage of coconut tree climbers is forcing farmers to train youth from Vadipatti and Sholavandan to learn tree climbing using a device.
Now that coconut climbing devices are available, youth from Vadipatti and Sholavandan are ready to learn tree climbing. Speaking to The Hindu, K. Balaji, a member of Vadipatti Coconut Farmers’ Association, says they had mobilised around 10 youth to be trained as tree climbers. “We have written to the Coconut Board in Kerala where the training is given,” he says. Elaborating on the need to equip themselves with the skill, Mr. Balaji says dearth of tree climbers has caused total dependency on available workforce. “There are only 10 to 15 people in our area who can climb trees to pluck coconuts. Initially, we paid them ₹15 for a tree. Now they are charging ₹17 to ₹20. This is a bit expensive for people with small-scale farmers,” he says.
S. Manimaran, another coconut farmer in the block, says it is difficult to bring the climbers in time as their service is always in demand. “Even if we clear our entire day’s schedule to ensure that the plucking is done as and when they arrive, they never show up and later give us excuses. They cant’t be blamed too as after all they have to cover about 300 hectares in our block,” he says.
However, it is a challenge to inspire the youth to train themselves in tree climbing, says D. Ganesalingam, a farmer from Sholavandan. “These youngsters think that it is beneath them to climb trees. We have been scouring our area for volunteers but have gotten a very few,” he says.
Mr. Balaji says it may take a couple of ‘live examples’ to prove that tree climbing is easy, accessible and cheap. “For Vadipatti and Sholavandan, the Agriculture Department has allocated a 10 tree climbing devices, costing ₹5,000 each. Farmers can avail them at a subsidised price. This will be very helpful to our farmers,” he says but adds that there is a dire need for more such machines.
Tamil Nadu Coconut Farmers’ Association president, P. Nagendran says such initiatives will save time and money and should be widely encouraged. “The State government should also start a training centre in Tamil Nadu so that we need not travel all the way to Kerala,” he says.
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