The coconut is one of the main plants found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. In some islands, it even occurs as natural forests. According to scientists, while the plant is cultivated in the valleys and coastal areas of the Andman group of islands, it is grown in the coastal areas and beach forests in the Nicobar islands.
According to a research paper titled ‘Genetic relatedness of coconut populations from Andaman and NicobarIslands traced to the Indian sub continent using microsatellite markers’ (authored by Deva Kumar, K., Jerard, B. A., Dhanapal, R., Damodaran, V., Niral, V and Naganeeswaran, S.), “The Andamans are high islands, and had few if any coconuts, so the early settlers werenot cultivating coconuts when the Europeans arrived. The Nicobars are low lying, coral islands and probably had wild type coconuts before the first human settlement. Subsequently, the domestic type would have been introduced to both groups … The Nicobar group of islands is one of the natural repository of coconut genetic diversity in the world.” Reference to the plant and the fruit have been found in the folklores and in the oral narratives of the Nicobarese people.
So while travellers are struck by the beauty of the plantations and enjoy a sip of the cool water while travelling through the islands, not many are aware why the coconut plant is important to the ecology and economy of the islands. Therefore, the Agriculture Department of the union territory (UT) in collaboration with the tourism department and non-government organisations has decided to organise a Coconut Festival on September 25 this year at the Corbyn’s Cove and other areas, including Shaheed Dweep and Swaraj Dweep, Diglipur, Hutbay, Campbell Bay, etc.
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Corbyn’s Cove, about 6km from Port Blair, the capital town, is known for its coconut palm fringed beach and is a popular tourist destination. It is also a place to enjoy thrilling water sports. The nearby Snake Island is popular with scuba divers.
Among the non-government organisations invovled with the festival, Hand in Hand India, is actively involved in mobilizing farmer participants for the festival. The ngo in collaboration with Agriculture Department and funding support of NABARD through the 10K FPO scheme is working towards promotion of Horticulture Farmers Producer Company including coconut farmers in Andaman. They had also organised a World Coconut Day in Andaman - Ograbgunj village on September 2 among the potential FPO members to sensitize the importance of Coconut as a "Kalpavriksha" and how the FPO can contribute to improve the farmers incomes. The FPO to be promoted is expected to provide forward and backward linkages in enhancing farmer incomes.
The Coconut Festival is not only focused on empowering the farmers but also to build a bridge between the visitors and the coconut growers and others who are directly or indirectly dependent on the coconut plantations. Visitors will learn why the sustainability of coconut forests is important for the islands. There will be both demonstrative and competitive events. Visitors will be able to observe how the coconut trees are climbed to gather the fruit, enjoy a competition based on coconut-based recipes, etc. You may also pick up a thing or two from the stalls showcasing value added products from coconuts.
For more details, you may contact the Andaman and Nicobar Tourism office in Port Blair.