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Strategies For Enhancing Productivity And Income Of Coconut Farmers

Over the years, coconut farmers have suffered from low farm productivity and unstable and low international market prices for copra and coconut oil. Because of their low income, farmers lack the resources to invest in new technologies for increasing yields. In spite of the low returns, farmers continue to grow coconut as it provides them a regular, although limited source of income. Most of the important coconut producing countries have contributed over the years to research programmes on coconut cultivation and production. These programmes have resulted in the development of technologies for enhancing productivity and the income of coconut farmers. There is tremendous potential to generate income from high-value coconut products and other income-generating activities but these activities and strategies are not yet in place. There are many reasons for that situation. Techniques for increasing the productivity of coconut palms and coconut plantations are generally developed and tested in research centres, under controlled conditions. Economic analysis is applied in order to determine if the newly developed techniques are profitable. Technology packages are formulated and transferred to the farmers. Dissemination and extension are generally a weak link in the chain from innovation to production. Difficulties in transferring new technologies partly explain the wide gap observed between average yields obtained at research centres and on-farm. Uptake by the farmers is extremely variable within countries and between countries. The reasons for these variations are not always clear. A number of explanations have been proposed, but it is still an important area to be researched. Farmers have their own way to evaluate the costs and benefits of the proposed packages. They should be associated to the whole process of developing innovation in order to make it more acceptable to them. Strategies have to be developed to convince the farmers and help them to use available technologies for their benefit and the benefit of the whole coconut industry. The present paper makes recommendations for addressing the issue, with a priority for strengthening the Global Coconut Research for Development Programme (PROCORD) launched in 2002 during the 39th COCOTECH meeting in Thailand.

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