About the crucial importance of building databases of coconut farmers

By R. Bourdeix, draft version to be validated, 1st March 2018. 

Farmers receiving seedlings of the famous variety niu afa
after a public lecture held in Upolu island, Samoa
Many public and private stakeholders are speaking about coconut farmers - and sometimes even on behalf coconuts farmers - but it is important to know who these farmers actually are.
It is of crucial importance for each country to build a comprehensive coconut farmers' database. This will help to better implement and evaluate the impact of R&D programs. Such a database should be hold in trust by the Extension services on Ministry of agriculture. The farmers will have to agree their data to be included in the database when participating to and benefiting from R&D programs. This data is to be strictly controlled; it can be used to generate statistics and global analysis, but individual data regarding each farmer remains strictly confidential.  
Presently (2018) it seems that the coconut industry (copra millers, buyers of virgin coconut oil) is often much more advanced on this topic than governmental services. Many private stakeholders already hold quite comprehensive databases of more than thousand coconut farmers, when Governmental services generally have only list of farmers names, without any other information, and frequently scattered by region or province. Thus, negotiation would need to be conducted between private sector and governmental bodies to exchange the data but also protect its confidentiality and the interests of coconut farmers.
The structure of this database would be finalized in collaboration with national and regional organisations but should contain at least the following information:
  • Date of data acquisition
  • Officer or company responsible for data acquisition
  • Name, given name, date of birth and gender of the farmer
  • Identity card number
  • Phone number
  • Email of the farmer (or of somebody from his/her family)
  • Facebook account of the farmer (or somebody of his/her family) if no Email available
  • Location of the farm (latitude and longitude in decimal degrees)
  • Estimated surface of the farm (hectares)
  • Main, second and third cultivated crops
  • Date of first counting of living coconut palms
  • Estimated number of living coconut palms - first counting
  • At this first date, does the farmer sell his/her produce to the coconut industry?  
  • Date of second counting of living coconut palms (two years later)
  • Estimated number of living coconut palms - second counting
  • At this second date, does the farmer sell his/her produce to the coconut industry?
Analyzing this database will be crucial to assess the real impact of R&D programs. For instance, in several  countries seednuts or seedlings have been delivered to farmers without any follow-up. Some of the assessments conducted by the expert indicate that, four years later, no more than 40% of the seednuts delivered to farmers were seen as living palms in the fields. In some islands, seednuts were only delivered to inland farmers cultivating sugarcane. These farmers have well planted the coconut palms around sugarcane fields, but the coconuts are only used for local consumption (family and animal feeding). Thus, this R&D program had no impact on coconut industry.