Once a male-dominated profession, coconut tree climbing saw the entry of many women in the past decade. This is chiefly owing to government initiatives that aim to train them in skills that would help them lead a better life. However, it still needs someone on the ground to train the women and execute its plans.
That’s where Shyamala P M comes in. Over the past decade, the 48-year-old native of Balussery has trained over 5,000 women in Kozhikode and other districts in the use of the coconut climbing machine.
She was first introduced to the coconut climbing machine in 2011 when she got a job in an industrial company.
“During break time, when other employees would be busy having lunch, Shyamala would pick up a machine on the sly and try climbing coconut trees. “Rather than falling from the tree, I was more scared of being caught and scolded for using the machine without permission or supervision,” says Shyamala.
She says the machine has made coconut tree climbing easier as there has been a massive change in the technology used in the equipment. “I have seen several hundreds of women make good money from coconut tree climbing and leading a happy family life,” says Shyamala.
She is approached by the agriculture wings of various panchayats in different districts of Kerala, besides people from Lakshadweep, Sri Lanka and other countries to conduct training programmes. “Many who approach me are those who want to climb the trees in their own plots. Their numbers have increased due to the unavailability of traditional coconut tree climbers,” she says. Her husband Rajan T P also learned the skill from Shyamala. He too trains others now.