In Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast of India, women are entering the previously male-dominated world of harvesting coconuts.
Time is of the essence when it comes to picking coconuts; according to NPR, coconuts usually should be picked when they are still green and they are too ripe if they’ve already fallen to the ground. That means picking coconuts means scaling really, really tall trees. Men of lower castes have typically done this work, but changes to the Indian economy (including more opportunities opening up for lower-caste workers, due to increased social mobility) mean there’s an opportunity for women to learn the trade.
The tree-climbing clinics started seven years ago; Ratha Krishnan, who helped start the classes, told NPR: “We start at 6 o’clock in the morning with yoga, then slowly train them on how to climb the trees [...] There may be fear, but on the third or fourth day, that fear will go.”
Unlike the days of yore, when men scaled trees by using a rope to help hoist themselves, the women in these classes learn to climb trees using machines. This has helped previously unemployed women find work and allowed the coconut industry in Kerala (which means “land of coconuts” in Malayalam, the local language) to continue despite a recent labor shortage.
Now I will have the song “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)“ stuck in my head of the rest of the day.