The government Womens Poly-Technical College, Thrissur was surprised at the response for an advertisement for a two-week training course in coconut tree climbing. Contrary to expectations, the college received encouraging response and that too from educated and employed women.
Pradeep CN, project officer at the College told FE that the college has so far trained 14 women and will start the training for the third batch in June. The only barrier for the women applicants is an age limit of 45. Pradeep said that the usual courses of computer training, book binding and candle making was getting useless, as regular and sustainable income was not possible. The College gets funds from the ministry of human resources development for job-oriented training programmes.
Pradeep came upon the idea of training women to climb coconut trees as he personally had trouble in getting a skilled man to do the job in his native place. A skilled man can get up to Rs 500 a day for four hours of work, he said and added that even at this wage youths are not coming forward for the job. The asking rate is Rs 10 for a tree or Rs 5 and a coconut, even then getting a man to do the job is more tiresome, Pradeep said. Coconuts are cultivated on nearly nine lakh hectares of land, constituting almost 30% of the states cropped area. More than 95% of coconut trees are grown in the front and back yards of homesteads. The paradox of the Kerala development model has been the co-existence of labour shortages with high employment. According to Joseph Tharamangalam, a critic of the Kerala model of development, the shortage is due in part of the perception that these jobs are not worthwhile.