Women scaling new heights: Transcending gender barriers for pollinating coconut

Women climber pollinating coconut at CPCRI KasaragodAt Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasaragod, Kerala, trained women serve as 'skilled coconut pollinators' for coconut hybrid production under the revolving fund scheme on Seed Production. Coconut climbing and pollination was Men’s territory so far, since the practice involved considerable drudgery and the risk involved. Owing to this, number of palm climbers has been on the decline and coconut communities were experiencing severe shortage of skilled climbers-cum-pollinators. The drudgery in climbing was largely reduced with the introduction of climbing machines and safety consciousness is addressed by the addition of safety device to the climbing machine.

Artificial pollination is the most important and crucial activity in the production of quality hybrids in coconut. It demands fine-tuned scientific procedures along with skilled labour force for climbing the tree and pollinating the female flowers at the right stage. The pollinator is required to climb over the crown manoeuvring through the coconut leaves with power, courage and skill. Artificial pollination for hybrid production includes emasculation, bagging, processing of male flowers to collect pollen, dusting pollen on female flowers for 3 to 7 days, bag removal and labelling of bunches. On an average eight to ten times of climbing is required to complete the pollination of an inflorescence within a period of one month. Thanks to the climbing machines, the ‘Friends of Coconut’ programme sponsored by the Coconut Development Board (CDB) in Kerala and to a greater extent, training programmes of CPCRI through its KVKs is helping to overcome the situation.

Women have learnt the steps in coconut pollination with ease and carried out the work with confidence. Time taken for completion of pollination work by women pollinators was same as that of male workers. They are able to manage 60 tall palms for pollination work, just like their male counterparts.

Women climbers pollinating coconut at CPCRI Kasaragod

Success of women pollinators in coconut hybrid production will hopefully encourage more women to take up this profession as it is much remunerative and improves their social and economic status. Moreover, the Institute is planning to utilise them as women master trainers to train other women in coconut hybrid seed production and increased production of quality planting material. This venture could be one of the best options as a trend setter for augmenting hybrid seed production, overcoming acute labour shortage, women empowerment, gender equality, agricultural and rural development in the coconut communities of Kerala, which will be a model for other coconut growing states.

(Source: CPCRI, Kasaragod)