Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw
She assumes charge over as Executive Director of the International Coconut Community, Jakarta, Indonesia since 2020. Prior to this appointment she was working as head of Collaboration and Dissemination Division of the Indonesian Division for Estate Crops Research and Development, Indonesia. She is an Entomologist by profession and with her 27 years of experience in the field of agriculture development, she is frequently providing technical assistance and consultancy for coconut development to farmers, coconut industries, students, lecturers and other governmental organizations. She is the author of many informative articles on coconut which were published in renowned international journals.

Speeches |  December, 2023

Transforming Coconut Farming for Sustainable Livelihoods

Coconut, as a perennial crop, ensures a consistent yield over an extended period, reducing the need for annual planting. This guarantees a reliable and sustainable supply of food and non-food resources, leading to cost savings and a diminished environmental impact. Integral to numerous global agricultural economies, coconut farming significantly contributes to the economy, society, culture, and the environment. However, the sector in several regions still faces various challenges, including low productivity, monoculture practices, insufficient infrastructure, unavailability of efficient harvesting technology, low involvement of youth, lack of bargaining power, lengthy supply chains, and vulnerability to price fluctuations.

Comprehensive strategies are crucial to enhance the livelihoods of coconut farmers. This involves promoting climate-resilient farming practices, embracing polyculture systems, improving infrastructure, introducing efficient harvesting technology, youth involvement programs, transitioning from small-scale individual ownership to professional farmer groups, shortening supply chains, value addition and market linkages. Implementing best agricultural practices, including palm rejuvenation, efficient and globally accepted fertilization standards, and quality control measures, ensures globally accepted, high-quality coconut products.

As awareness of climate change and sustainable farming practices continues to increase among consumers, there is a potential for a rise in local and global market demand for products produced through climate-resilient methods. To meet this demand, collaborative supports are essential, involving supports for research to develop high yielding and drought- and pest/disease-resistant varieties, as well as the provision of extension service to transfer knowledge and innovations among farmers.

Designing a successful polyculture planting system in a coconut plantation involves critical requirements. These include determining the optimal coconut planting distance, implementing effective pest and disease management plans, carefully selecting compatible intercrops, and conducting market analyses to identify crops with high demand and market potential. To ensure ongoing success, regular assessments will be essential, allowing for the identification of adjustments needed to achieve optimal results in this diversified planting approach.

Addressing the lack of essential infrastructure, such as roads and ships, is crucial to ensuring smooth transportation of coconuts to processing units. It is crucial to advocate for government supports in developing essential infrastructure such as roads and irrigation systems for enhancing overall sector efficiency and fostering sustainable growth. Collaboration with coconut industries is key to establishing hubs for easy access, facilitating favourable prices for farmers. Simultaneously, a comprehensive youth engagement program, encompassing vocational training, entrepreneurship workshops, and mentorship initiatives, seeks to empower the younger generation for active participation and contribution to the coconut industry.

Shifting from individual ownership to establishing professional farmer groups is vital for pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and enhancing bargaining power. The encouragement of cooperative farming models further emphasizes collective decision-making and resource optimization, as exemplified by successful systems in countries like India. 

While these strategies are not novel, their implementation may differ among countries. The most important point lies in a sustainable commitment by key players to revolutionize the current situation of coconut farmers, fostering sustainable livelihoods, environmental stewardship, and enhanced global competitiveness. As we conclude the year 2023, let us aspire for increased collaborative efforts from governments, agricultural organizations, local communities, and coconut industries. Such collaboration is essential for the successful implementation of these transformative measures.

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