Livelihood Initiatives of Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation

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					     Livelihood Initiatives of Peekay Tree Crops Development
         Foundation (PTCDF) in Alappuzha district, Kerala


This case is about an intervention that helps to strengthen a traditional non-farm
livelihood in ways that increase the income per household and reduce the drudgery
of the women involved in it. Coir spinning is a traditional activity that has developed
along the coconut growing tracts of coastal Kerala. Family groups comprising two
women and one man perform the activity. While the women members engage
themselves in spinning, the male member helps in the procurement of coir fiber from
external sources and the selling of the coir yarn spun by the women. The
involvement of the male member, however, is only part-time. The families that
depend on coir spinning for their livelihood belong to different caste/religious groups.

Vayalar is a village Panchayat in the Alappuzha district of Kerala where women in
over 60% of the households toil in the coir-spinning sector to earn a daily income of
not more than Rs. 50/-. These women utilize manually operated spinning wheels to
make coir yarn and are exposed to unhealthy working conditions. The families
engaged in the profession are economically poor and most of them fall below the
poverty line. Because of unsteady availability of coir fiber the family groups could
derive regular employment only for 15-18 days a month. Studies have shown that
the average annual income of a family engaged in coir spinning is below Rs. 20,000/-

PTCDF’s intervention

Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation (PTCDF), an NGO in existence since
1991, introduced motorized spinning wheels in over 150 households providing
regular employment to 300 women workers. This activity received funding support
from CAPART. The daily earnings of the beneficiary women went up to around
Rs.75/- per head as against Rs.50/- earned previously. Apart from this, the drudgery
has also come down.

Although the economy of Vayalar village is linked to coir spinning and related
industries, the essential raw material, coir fiber, was not produced locally and for its
supply the village has been depending on the fiber-producing sector in other States.
This dependence has been causing uncertainty in the supplies and other problems.
To surmount this problem PTCDF has facilitated the establishment of a Fiber
Extraction Unit named as ‘Vayalar Fiber Mills’ in the year 2006 under the aegis of
a Self Help Group with capacity to process about 20,000 coconut husks a day for
fiber extraction. The project cost is Rs. 30 lakhs. The fiber produced in this unit is
being distributed to household spinning units. Action is also under way to make 150
households to whom motorized spinning wheels were supplied as shareholders of the
defibring unit. They have already contributed Rs. 300 each towards this purpose. For
these activities PTCDF could get assistance from UNDP-Global Environmental Facility
-SGP. Other women-centered livelihood programs are also being executed.

The coir yarn produced by the beneficiary households is procured by Vayalar Fibre
Mills and sold to the outlets of Kerala State Cooperative Coir Marketing Federation.
Because of this arrangement, there is no difficulty in the marketing of coir yarn
produced by the household units.
The ongoing project in Vayalar has now been scaled up to cover eight Village
Panchayats, including Vayalar, falling under the Pattanakkad block in the Alappuzha
district. Under this project funded by UNDP-GEF-SGP 125 additional households will
be provided with motorized spinning wheels benefiting 250 women. These
households would also be made shareholders of Vayalar Fibre Mills. Thus, the total
number of women who would be benefited from PTCDF’s intervention will be 550. In
addition to this, 275 male members of the beneficiary families will also benefit from
additional income and employment.

In order to move up the value chain in coir, PTCDF has facilitated the establishment
of one geotextile and mats and matting unit named as ‘Vayalar Coir Fabrics’ under
the aegis of a 10-member SHG. In addition to this, one spooling unit and one
geotextile unit will be integrated with Vayalar Fibre Mills shortly to further process
coir yarn into diverse value added products.

The setting up of one coir pith-composting unit attached to Vayalar Fibre Mills is already
under way. This will help in waste management and generation of additional income and
employment. When the coir pith-composting unit starts functioning within the next three
months, it would have the capacity to process an average of about four tones of coir pith a
day yielding around 2.5 tonnes of compost. This much compost will have a value of Rs.
7,500 and will satisfy the average input needs of over 100 coconut palms. When in
regular production, the average annual output of compost is estimated at not less than 500
tonnes valued at Rs. 1,500,000. Apart from the monetary benefit coir-pith composting
prevents the pollution problem associated with the accumulation of coir pith in the
premises of Vayalar Fiber Mills.


As a result of the intervention of PTCDF 300 women and 150 men belonging to 150
resource poor families have been benefited. All the 300 women earn an average of
Rs. 75 per head per day as against Rs. 50 earned previously. Within another six
months another 125 households would be provided with motorized spinning wheels
thereby creating opportunity for higher income to 250 women and 125 men. Thus,
550 women and 275 men are the direct beneficiaries of PTCDF’s intervention. In
addition to higher income the women workers will also be relieved of the manual
exertion associated with the operation of traditional spinning wheels.

Institutional Arrangements

The women engaged in coir spinning are not organized into SHGs. Instead they belong to family
groups. Vayalar Fibre Mills, organized under an SHG, has been registered as a Small Scale
Industrial Unit. It has arrangements to procure the coir yarn produced by the household units
and to market the same through the outlets of Kerala State Cooperative Coir Marketing
Federation (KSCCMF), Alappuzha. This facility is being availed by many spinning units in
Vayalar Panchayat. Through this arrangement the producers are saved from the clutches of
middlemen and helped in realizing market prices for their products. Although the women spinners
are not organized under SHGs they are members of Vayalar Community Development
Centre (VCDC), a registered CBO under the Literary, Scientific and Charitable societies
Registration Act, organized by PTCDF. This organization has a paid membership of over 1,000
families comprising coir workers and coconut farmers. VCDC extends technical and financial
support to the members to strengthen their income earning opportunities. Among 24 such CBOs
spread over eight Asian and Pacific countries under an ADB-funded coconut project, VCDC has
been adjudged the best by an international assessment team comprising representatives of ADB
and International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT), Malaysia in the year 2004 and
awarded a prize of US$ 2,000.

PTCDF has instituted two 10-year endowments in 2005 and 2006 respectively by
name Peekay Prizes and Dr. P. Rethinam Prizes in favour of the coconut farmers
and the coir workers residing within the limits of Vayalar Panchayat. The endowment
comprises two prizes to coconut farmers, seven prizes to students belonging to the
BPL families of coir workers who have secured higher grades in the 10th standard and
plus two examinations and financial support for treatment/marriage of members of
three poor families of coir workers falling below poverty line. These prizes totaling
Rs. 13,000/- are awarded annually and managed by a seven-member committee
headed by the President of the Panchayat.

PTCDF is a non-profit organization registered in 1991 under the Literary, Scientific
and Charitable Societies Registration Act (Act xii of 1955). The Foundation has
functional linkages with Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), Jakarta;
International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT), Malaysia;
Coconut Development Board; Council for Advancement of People’s Action
and Rural Technology (CAPART); UNDP-GEF-SGP etc. Through these
organizations over 10 rural development projects have been implemented over the
last decade. In July 2007 UNDP-GEF-SGP has sanctioned a second project costing
Rs.2.25 million.


Presently, PTCDF is promoting the cultivation of medicinally important tree species
as intercrops in coconut holdings in about 2,500 individual farm-households in eight
Panchayats to cover an effective area of not less than 350 ha with the intention to
generate productive benefits to the participating households and protective benefits
to the local community in the forms of carbon sequestration and conservation of the
natural resources. The tree species introduced are: Acacia catechu; Aegle marmelos;
Azadirachta indica; Cesalpina sappan; Emblica officinalis; Garcinea Cambogea;
Myristica fragrans; Pterocarpus santalinus; Sesbania grandiflora; Aloe vera and
miscellaneous tree species. This programme is being carried out with the financial
support of UNDP-GEF-SGP and technical support of PTCDF through trainings and
workshops organized occasionally. The individual households will start deriving
socioeconomic benefits after 5-6 years.

With the availability of medicinally important tree species in compact areas the
locally flourishing Ayurvedic Medical System will find it convenient to procure their
requirements from the project area. This will open up marketing opportunities for the
participating households.

PTCDF is also promoting intensive integrated farming in coconut holdings involving
compatible combinations of agricultural crops and tree species with or without
livestock components for multiple benefits. This programme has been introduced to
cover around 75 ha as part of two projects supported by COGENT and UNDP-GEF-
SGP. The number of farmers covered exceeds 400. Opening demonstration farms on
farmer’s holdings, conducting competitions and extending financial support to groups
and individuals form the operational components. In an economic analysis covering
over 80 operational holdings with average size of 0.27 ha, the share of intercrops to
total income was 40%. This recorded income was derived from the sale of
marketable surplus after satisfying the household dietary needs. Thus, apart from
cash income, intercropping contributed to household food and nutrition security of
the members of the families involved.

 Promoting organic agriculture is another thrust area of PTCDF. Towards this
direction 100 households were assisted for the construction of permanent
vermicompost tanks under a project funded by CAPART. Training programmes are
being conducted on a regular basis in agroforestry, organic agriculture, medicinal
plants, coconut-based processing technologies etc. International meets are also
organized and the latest one is the ‘International Coconut Summit 2007’ organized at
Kochi on 7-11 May 2007.

Self-help groups of women have been organized to undertake income-generating
activities. These include dispensing community nurseries for coconut and medicinally
important tree species and production and marketing of coconut-based foods and
beverages and other value added products. There are presently 14 such groups with
over 140 members and they are benefited from the activities both socially and


PTCDF has brought out several books on tree-based farming systems, coconut-based
agro-ecosystem models, sustainable agricultural practices and efficient product
utilization. Some of the widely appreciated books in this regard are (1) Organics in
Soil Health and Crop Production (1993 ISBN 81-900340-06), (2) Trees and
Tree farming (1994 ISBN 81-900340-1-4), (3) Facts and Fallacies about
Coconut Oil (1994), (4) Organic Agriculture (1995 ISBN 81-900340-3-0), (5)
Coconut for Prosperity (1996 ISBN 81-900340-4-9), (6) Farmer’s Assessment
of Coconut varieties in Kerala (2000) and (7) Management in Agriculture and
Rural Development (1997 ISBN 81-900340-5-7). PTCDF has also been involved in
the editing and publishing of the books (1) Coconut for Rural Prosperity (2003)
and Coconut for Rural Welfare (2007).

The Foundation has also produced three video documentaries of 30 minutes duration
each titled Wealth from Waste (on coconut based agro ecosystem), Golden Fiber
(on coir) and Coconut Nectar (on coconut sap). These were produced in
partnership with the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC). In addition to
these, a number of technical bulletins and pamphlets has also been published and
distributed among the farmers and primary processors of coconut.

The linkage of PTCDF with UNDP-GEF-SGP has helped gain the interest of the United
Nations Televisions and Video (UNTV) towards the rural development activities
of the Foundation. The UNTV developed a short clipping of the project activities for
broadcasting on worldwide TV channels.

Contact Details:
Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation
MIG-141, Gandhi Nagar, Kochi-682 020, Kerala.
Ph: (0484) 2204271; Mob: 9388602105
                    Figure 1: Mapping of Institutional Arrangements

Functions                                          Levels                                  Linkages
                       Village           Cluster   Block    District    State   National   with other

Input supply     Women’s
                 SHGs for
Credit /                                                                                   UNDP-
Finance                                                                                    GEF-SGP
supply           VCDC                                                                      CAPART


Primary          Coconut farmers

Secondary        Fiber spinning
production       Women

                 Vayalar Fiber
                 Mills (Fibre
                 extraction unit; Pith
                 composting unit)

                 Vayalar Coir
                 SHGs - value
                 added coconut food

awareness &
mobilization                                                           PTCDF
Capacity                                                                                   APCC;
building                                                                                   COGENT

                                              Guide 2
                             Choice of institutions at different levels
Institution        Level            Functions                 Characteristics*              Legal
Womens’         Grassroots     Nurseries for coconut     Integrated / Specialised      Informal
SHGs                           and medicinal             Sectoral / Holistic
                               plants;                   Exclusive/ Inclusive
                               Processed coconut         Formal / Informal
                               food products             Flexible / Rigid and
                                                         Democratic /Non-
                                                         Collective / Non-collective
                                                         Self managed / Externally
                                                         Ownership: Self-owned/
                                                         Investor owned/Civil society
                                                         owned / Govt owned
                                                         /Private- CSR
Why was this form chosen:                                What other forms were considered:

Suitable for promoting group level micro-
enterprise at the village level
Vayalar         Village         Fiber extraction unit    As above                      registered as a
Fibre Mills     level           to supply fiber to the                                 Small Scale
                                members;                                               Industrial Unit
                                Pith composting unit                                   in the name of
                                for additional income                                  the SHG
                                and employment
                                from waste;
                                Buy-back of coir yarn
                                from members and
                                collective marketing
                                of yarn.
Why was this form chosen:                                What other forms were considered:

To facilitate the joining together of the women
workers in the coir spinning sector as direct
participants of a processing and marketing

Vayalar         District       Running a Geotextile      As above                      Informal SHG
Coir Fabrics    level          and matting unit for
                               value added
                               products from coir
Why was this form chosen:                                What other forms were considered:
SHG was found useful at the   initial stages for such
group enterprise.
Vayalar        Village         Providing technical       Integrated / Specialised      Registered
Community      level           and financial support     Sectoral / Holistic           under the
Devep.                         to the entrepreneurs      Exclusive / Inclusive         Literary,
Centre                         and farmers               Formal / Informal             Scientific and
                                                         Flexible / Rigid and          Charitable
                                                         Standardized                  Societies
                                                         Democratic /Non-              Registration
                                                         democratic                    Act in 2003.
                                                         Collective / Non-collective
                                                         Self managed / Externally
                                                       Self-owned/ Investor
                                                       owned/Civil society owned /
                                                       Govt owned /Private- CSR

Why was this form chosen:                              What other forms were considered:

Was considered most appropriate to operate at the
community level for stimulating group action for
solving common problems.

Peekay          State level   Promoting tree-          Integrated / Specialised      Registered
Tree Crops                    based farming            Sectoral / Holistic           under the
Devep.                        systems and              Exclusive / Inclusive         Literary,
Foundation                    practices and            Formal / Informal             Scientific and
(PTCDF)                       efficient product        Flexible / Rigid and          Charitable
                              utilization for          Standardized                  Societies
                              conferring socio-        Democratic /Non-              Registration
                              economic and             democratic                    Act in 1991.
                              ecological benefits to   Collective / Non-collective
                              the rural                Self managed / Externally
                              communities;             managed / Professionally
                              Capacity building of     managed
                              local women and          Ownership:
                              men; Promoting           Self-owned/ Investor
                              intensive integrated     owned/ Civil society
                              agriculture and          owned / Govt owned
                              facilitating linkages    /Private- CSR
                              with external
                              resource institutions
                              for technology,
                              funds, markets etc.
Why was this form chosen:                              What other forms were considered:

A Foundation was considered the best
organizational structure to address the declared
objectives and to establish functional linkages with
other agencies.

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