Overcoming Poverty in Coconut Growing Communities
Duration: September 2005 – September 2008
Countres: 10 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America
Project summary: Like many poor farmers in developing countries, smallholder coconut farmers – the backbone of the coconut industry – face limited landholding, declining productivity and low, unstable price of coconut. They live in poverty, are food-insecure and have a low nutritional status. The project entitled Overcoming poverty in coconut-growing communities: Coconut genetic resources for sustainable livelihoods was implemented by Bioversity International through the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) to develop and test strategies for incomegeneration in coconut-growing communities. The overall goal of the project was to help developing countries overcome poverty among marginalized coconut farmers through improved coconutbased farming systems and the diversification of coconut products.
This study’s research hypothesis was that coconut farmers can overcome poverty through coconut-based interventions that generate income and improve the food security and nutrition status of their households, which, in turn, will motivate them to conserve coconut genetic resources. To test the hypothesis, the project focused on three major components (1) Community empowerment, relying on collective action through community-based organizations (CBOs) to integrate physical, natural, financial, social and human capital; (2) Income-generating interventions; and (3) Knowledge dissemination and networking. The interventions consisted of the production of intercrops, livestock and fodder and high-value products from all parts of the coconut. These interventions were supported by a microcredit system through a revolving fund and technical training (including CBO and microcredit management) provided through the CBOs.
The study involved communities in 10 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America which were surveyed to assess the socio-economic status of individual households at the start and at the end of the project, and to assess the effects of the project interventions on the households’ food security and nutrition status. At the global level, the mean annual income per capita was 795 international dollars1 before the project. Out of 14 communities, more than half (8) had less than 2 international dollars per capita per day and of those, three had less than 1 international dollar per day. In none of communities did the average income per capita reach 5 international dollars per day. On average, farm households had 2.19 hectares of farmland with means per community ranging from 0.08 hectares (Thodiyoor, India) to 9.88 hectares (Mexico) before the project.
For both income and food security, clearest impact has been reached at the global level and in India and the Philippines at the individual country level. Impact on food security of poor households was also clear, showing significant improvement in their ability to cope with food security shocks. At the global level, the results show a decrease in the number of short-term strategies used and an increase in number of long-term strategies which are similar to the project interventions, such as the use of home gardens, livestock, poultry and fisheries, and food processing. These long-term strategies are those that lead to more structural improvement.
Income diversification positively influenced household income in most countries. At the global level and in four out of seven countries, food security also improved. The project positively influenced expected annual household income at the global level, increasing it by 1778 international dollars, and at the national level, in four out of seven countries, with increases ranging from 836 (Philippines) to 1996 (Thailand) international dollars. A comparison of means of income diversification by country and community before and after the project shows that six out of 14 communities saw a significant diversification of their income while one community became more specialized. A significant diversification of income was seen at the global level. Three out of seven countries and seven out of 14 communities saw a significantly positive change in income derived from intercrops. At the global level the project has helped increase the income derived from intercrops by 192 international dollars per annum. Two out of four countries showed that the production of coconut high-value products had a positive influence on off-farm income.
Of the farmers who participated in trainings on intercrop production, livestock rearing, high value product production and marketing, nursery establishment and plant breeding, and CBO management, 55% was female. Participation of women in total training was highest in India at 72% and lowest in Indonesia at 13%. At global level, lowest female participation was found for training on nursery management at 41%, and highest for high value products at 64%.
The nurseries served as models for efficient and effective production of planting materials, supporting on farm conservation of coconut genetic resources. By identifying, characterizing, and documenting local, varieties, and by improving access to high-quality planting materials, on-farm conservation of coconut genetic resources was improved. A total of 48 coconut varieties were identified in ten countries through participatory processes, characterized and documented in this