Expert's view on incentives towards for boosting coconut production

By R. Bourdeix & al. (in construction)
A brainstorming session was conducted during the meeting (see the related report).

In the expert opinion, planting material should not be free. It seems that this kind of incentive is not always efficient. At least in some cases, farmers give little importance and take little care of seednuts and seedlings that are delivered free of charge. Moreover, it may jeopardize the development of a private market for coconut seednuts and seedlings. In some countries as for instance India, private company, such as Umapathy farms and Deejay farm, are selling hybrid seednuts. These private companies have many customers and make good profit. Sometimes, Indian farmers have to wait six month to get their seednuts because of over demand. Even a private company from Solomon Islands ordered planting material from these Indian private companies.
Some incentives are related to the planting of new coconut palms. In the expert opinion, not all those incentives should be given prior to the nursery and planting activities. At least part of these incentives should be conditional on the farmer achieving tangible results, such as the survival and proper maintenance of the new coconut palms. This requires more accurate and time-consuming monitoring of activities by agricultural officers. This also supports more effectively the farmers who are generally better advised. Moreover, it allows the constitution of farmer’s database that will give a real appraisal of the efficiency of these incentives and the linked development programs.
Thus, incentives such as one of the “stimulus packages” developed in Samoa seems particularly interesting: the selected farmers have to pay 100 WST to join the program, and then receive free planting material and advices. An interesting aspect is that this does not restrict to coconut, but include also cocoa and other tree crops. Thus, it is not limited to one crop species and takes into account the farm in a more integrated and holistic way. Another way of promoting new planting could be: the farmer pay seedlings for 1$ each, but 2$ are given back to farmer for each coconut palm surviving and well managed one year after the planting.
What could also be free is assistance for installing a leguminous cover crop in coconut plantations. Such cover crop can fix naturally up to 100 kg of nitrogen per hectare. Our feeling is that in the pacific region, farmers are killing themselves to weed manually wild plants that are growing and invading plantations very quickly. This weeding is extremely gruelling and discourages many planters who abandon their coconut groves and sometimes do not even harvest the fruits.
About donation and tradition
In traditional societies, for which most people interactions remains presential and not virtual, it seems that purely philanthropic acts are rare; when the gift is practiced, an intangible return is usually expected in terms of social benefit: the gift publicly values the donor, contributes to generating positive interactions or easing tensions.

In projects of limited duration, if the seeds are delivered free of charge, the gift must be presented as connected to its social context and rather formulated in terms of exchange: the seeds are given, but in exchange the farmers undertake to respect good management practices, and to provide information and feedback. In this case, the management practices required of farmers must be clearly expressed. It may or may not be the subject of a written and signed contract. The levels and methods of such contracting require to be studied and optimized according to the different cultural contexts, and may engage traditional chiefs and leaders, as recommended by the participants of our meeting.