The Fading Fields

April 27, 2023

Farming has been supporting our economy for ages. But do we know what farming is entirely? Do we know who farmers are and what they do? It's about time we do.

farmers of india

Farming is a tough and challenging job. Agriculture is not a job for the one who is not physically fit and has no patience.

The negative impacts of global economic recession and the narrowing margin between life and death have forced farmers to be professional in their agricultural activities for having a better standard of living. As it is evident from the statistics, coconut farming is one such field in which there is a huge supply of jobs but very few qualified people. This has forced many to not be able to get any time off even during harvest season period. However, despite all these challenges faced by farmers, they still manage to produce quality coconuts adding even greater value to the technological advancement made by them.

We asked our local farmers some questions and here are their answers.

farmers of India

1. Can you describe any local agricultural practices or techniques that are unique to Palakkad and contribute to the quality of coconuts produced?

Compared to the highly organised agricultural practices followed by coconut plantations in our neighbouring areas of the Pollachi belt in Tamil Nadu, coconut plantations in Palakkad District are generally smaller and are more intercropped with cocoa, arecanut, nutmeg and other such crops. The usual pre-monsoon and post-monsoon organic and inorganic fertilisation of the palms is the usual practice. Pest and disease prevention measures are also usually followed in the standard manner as followed elsewhere.

2. How important is the use of organic farming methods in producing high-quality coconuts in Palakkad?

Organic farming is practised widely in Palakkad, especially amongst small farmers who follow the integrated farming practices of also raising cattle, chicken, goats, and their manure is widely used for fertilisation purposes.

3. How have these traditional practices changed or adapted over time to keep up with new technologies or environmental challenges?

Harvesting of coconut has seen a change over the last 30 years, with highly skilled climbers being replaced with simple climbing contraptions that are fitted on to a person that makes it easy for even unskilled personnel to climb the trees with little effort. Shorter hybrid varieties have also meant that harvesting from the ground is also now feasible.

4. How has the younger generation in Palakkad become involved in agriculture, and what role do you see them playing in the future of coconut production?

Unfortunately, no. Most have moved on from agriculture.

5. What are the main expenses involved in coconut production, and how do they vary from season to season or year to year?

Harvest Wages – increases percentage wise every year irrespective of the price of the commodity.
Dehusking Wages – increases percentage wise every year irrespective of the price of the commodity.
Fertilisation and Pest Control – Price of fertiliser and pesticides increase every year irrespective of the price of the commodity.

6. Can you discuss any specific challenges or obstacles that impact the financial viability of coconut farming in Palakkad, and how they are being addressed?

Unless the market price of the commodity increases every year to cater to increase in production and harvest as well as cater to market inflation, coconut cultivation, just as any other farming operation is not going to be financially viable as the years go by.

7. How do coconut farmers manage financial risks such as weather-related crop losses or fluctuations in market prices?

No such management is possible other that reducing input costs such as fertilisation and irrigation, which in turn impacts the production. It is a no-win situation for the farmer.

It is clear that there is a very real disparity in the lives of farmers and farmhands. Efficient, sustained agricultural practices are vital to both local economies and global initiatives to combat malnutrition. However, these initiatives are continually undermined by the prevalence of regularly-spiked produce which is ultimately harmful to individuals who buy it and sell for poorer farmers.

We can continue to consume the products that are harming us and the environment, or we could change our buying habits and support real, natural products. It's up to you.