South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Production Systems of Coconut Palm (Cocos Nucifera) in the Nicobar Islands

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) is the main cash plantation crop in the Great Nicobar Island and a product of two distinct production systems. The Nicobari tribal production system entrenches advantages and limitations of the island's ecology and society, as exemplified in the siting, creating and managing of plantations. Critical factors include crop damage by monkeys (Macaca fascicularis umbrosa), proximity to sea for transport, and social organization privileging reciprocal arrangements of family labor. This is unsurprising as Coconut and other local ecological produce have been important historically in the Nicobari way of life, livelihood, and culture. However, communities resettled in the island by the Indian State since 1969 had a mixed experience of agricultural experimentation and extension prior to taking up the Coconut palm like the Nicobari. State policy had shaped key issues of the settlement, crop selection, land preparation and input provision, which was important for communities with limited prior experience of the tropical forest island ecosystem.


Through an ethnographic analysis of these two production practices, I highlight the differences among the two heterogeneous communities in their relationship to the island ecology. I argue that these differences are paradoxically a by-product of state efforts towards integration of its national populace. The resulting in/dependencies have imbrications for life, livelihood, and identity in the island and therefore the future of island development. 

Shaina Sehgal

Ambedkar University Delhi, India

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