Did you know that there are many communities in South Asia that entirely depend on coconut farming for their livelihood? The lives of these people are based in and around coconut farms. Whole families are involved in farming, plucking of fruit, preparation for oil extraction and use of by-products in making ropes and mats. More often than not, coconuts are their only source of income.
Coconut farming is very difficult work. A single tree may yield upto 75-100 coconuts over a year and they are needed in huge quantities in order to extract sufficient quantities of oil. The quality of the oil greatly depends on how good the crop is. Coconuts are susceptible to many diseases and to ensure a fair crop, farmers have to care for the farms throughout the year.
The traditional way of coconut plucking involved trained climbers climbing to the top of tall trees and cutting down bunches of fruit. This is a very risky affair. This labor, although very specialized in nature, is not sufficiently compensated, considering the risk involved. More modern methods involve the use of climbing machines. Even so, the traditional method is still practiced in countries like India and Sri Lanka.
The removal of the husk and shell of the coconut is a tedious task which is performed manually. Several thousands of coconuts are prepared for oil extraction after each crop. Oil is extracted from the soft white inner portion of the fruit by either squeezing it directly from copra which is dried coconut. This process is performed in an oil mill. Coconut farmers use the husk and shell to build roofs, make ropes, mats and handicrafts. The residue from the oil extraction process is used to feed cattle.
Most of the work is manual. In-spite of the effort that goes into farming, plucking and extracting coconut oil, the livelihoods of the farmers are far from comfortable. With people opting for vegetable oils, there isn’t much local demand for coconut oil. Although coconut oil has a good international market, many sellers exploit farmers into providing their produce at very low prices. Hence, they are often stooped in poverty. It is unfortunate that coconut farmers often give up coconut farming and turn to other crops or jobs for better remuneration. Coconut is a valuable crop that cannot be cultivated elsewhere. If the farms are lost forever, so is this wonderful product!
Fortunately, there are ethical traders who ensure that coconut growers are paid directly and they receive good wages. This motivates them to hold on to their trade and work harder to improve their farming practices. They can also afford to attend training programs and use more efficient methods to produce coconut oil. Buy your coconut oil and you can help the coconut farmer continue his mission and enable his family to lead a good life. You will reap the benefits of obtaining a better product in return!