Bright minds huddle to solve coconut pluckers shortage [Feature : Herald]

As featured in Herald

They converged at Majorda for a week long interaction with a very close touch to the Goan environment.  Their aim was to understand and solve a problem very close to Goans – the shortage of coconut pluckers.  

They visited various entities in the coconut business which includes the coconut pluckers, toddy tappers, coconut sellers and government agencies. They brainstormed for the entire week and used ‘design thinking’ to simplify and reduce the burden on coconut pluckers and make their business more profitable, hence getting the next generation interested in continuing the profession.

The entrepreneurs that attended the interactive programme were 14 brilliant minds, from artificial intelligence, travel, tech, fashion and creative domains -- based in Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and the US.

While the group documented their weeklong research, the design thinking methodologies were used to understand and define the coconut pluckers’ challenge better.

“The design challenge was carried on in 3 parts - immersions, in this phase the entrepreneurs grouped in circles of 4 with a translator visited different stakeholders in the coconut business - right from pluckers who are at bottom of the pyramid, all the way to the big vendors doing sales of 1lakh+ coconuts in a season,” said Jay, the founder of TheExCo.

“The second phase was about brainstorming and collectively drawing insights from their experience researching with the coconut pluckers. The bank of insights was then grouped into defining the big challenges of the coconut pluckers and the third phase of the design challenge is prototyping ideas the group came up with,” added Jay.

“The first two phases were completely undertaken during this week while the prototyping session would need more resources and time, for which we plan to put our research and challenges online as a document that can be downloaded and viewed by anyone who is either working towards solving this challenge or who are enthusiastic towards diving deeper,” said Charan.

When asked if they would approach the government for funding, the organisers said that in case the government shows interest, they are more than happy to work with them and find ways to enable the coconut pluckers community.

Speaking on the challenges the traditional occupation faces,  they felt the process could be more efficient while there is a need for training for the new generation. They also remarked that machines can help solve these problems. They observed that most of the coconut trees in Goa are bent and that the machines don’t work very well if trees aren’t straight.

Coconut pluckers also lamented about payments and pointed out that fair pay isn’t an option as coconut pluckers are making as little money as Rs 50 for every tree they climb on an average.

There was also this perception that the coconut pluckers are at the bottom of the pyramid- with not enough knowledge on what happens to the coconuts they pluck and how the supply chain controlled by farm owner and people above them.

Among contemporary issues, coconut pluckers feared the declining size of coconuts. They stressed that the need of the hour was for the government to assist in providing education for the younger generation to keep their legacy and methods alive.

Jay Ahya