Marico is striving to make a measurable difference to the life of the coconut farmer through its flagship programme “Kalpavriksha”.

The year-old programme, which kicked off on September 2, 2017 with 125 farmers and a team of six agronomists, has on its rolls over 3,500 farmers from across 100 villages at present. The company is said to have reached out to over 1.3 lakh farmers through digital channels.

“The focus is on increasing the yield and boosting the coconut farmer’s income. Farmers have experienced an 18 per cent rise in productivity in the initial phase. Our plan is to reach out to at least 14,000-15,000 farmers during the current year,” said Udayraj Prabhu, Executive Vice-President and Head – Procurement, Marico.

Focus on Kerala, TN

The company has focussed on traditional coconut producing States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu by imparting pest-control practices and nutrient management techniques. “We only give recommendations, not inputs,” Prabhu clarified.

“But this is more than sufficient as the agronomists visit our farm, study the intensity of the problem before advising us on the best possible solution,” said Nakkeeran, a chemical engineer-turned-farmer from Pattukottai in Thanjavur district.

Nakkeeran’s holding comprises 500 trees. “When I took over the management of the farm, the trees were in a pathetic condition. I used to take recommendations from my aged father and seek the help of experts from the Coconut Research Station in the vicinity. The officials would suggest some pesticide to tackle the Black-Red Caterpillar menace,” he said.

“When the agronomists from Marico visited the farm a year ago and offered advice, I did not take them seriously. I instead suggested that they take care of 50 per cent of the trees, while I manage the rest. I watched them root-feed and tackle the pest menace with ease. While the trees that are under their care have started giving a yield of 18-19 nuts/ tree, I get just 8-9 nuts. I have since decided to follow their practices,” he said.

Marico officials said that they neither charge for the recommendation nor seek an assurance (from the farmers enrolled with the company) for buy-back of the nuts.

On-field support

To propagate Kalpavriksha, Marico has deployed Farm Care Personnel (FCPs), who not only conduct training, but provide on-field support and interact with farmers on a daily basis.

Marico has also developed an IT solution with the roll-out of an app, an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) toll-free line, so farmers can reach out 24x7, Prabhu said and pointed out that while the app download was around 1,500, there was more traction on the IVR toll-free line, with an estimated 50,200+ calls.