S Arulmageswaran, I M N Chandrasiri and J V Culas
Extension and Training Centre, Department of Agriculture, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Tha palmyrah palm (Borassus flabellifer L.) is a multipurpose tree of great utility, occurs extensively in Northern and Eastern part of Sri Lanka. This tree engages human labour in the industries around it irrespective of gender or age. This survey was carried out to study utilization pattern of palmyrah tree and assess the socioeconomic parameters of randomly selected 60 families registered in five co-operative societies of Mannar district.
This study revealed that 93 % of males and 7 % of females entirely engaged in this industry with the average of 1.2 persons from each family. The average monthly family income of study population was RS 11320 ± 318 rupees, comes under higher income group. When comparing the family income with the average household number of 5.8 ± 1.3 showed inadequacy to meet present expenditure. Further more, study showed that these families did not show much interest on children education and most of youngsters leave school before sitting General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examination. 58 % of families were living in small or medium size cottage made up of timber and palmyrah leaves as roofing material.
Tapping of mature tree was main source of income. One male tapped 14 ± 2.7 trees per day with the average of 8 ± 1.2 liter of toddy per tree. They did not produce sweet toddy (unfermented sap) because of low demand. They normally market toddy (fermented sap) to their customers for drinking, co-operative society under palmyrah development board and for vinegar production. The price of toddy also varied from RS 6 to 20.00 rupees depending on quality. Apart from that, most of the tappers had to travel about 3 km out of co-operative boundary for tapping and selling their product. During off season and free time, they do timber carving, animal raring and palmyrah tuber production. Women did not actively engage in this industry except few workers in coir factory. Based on this study, it is concluded that this industry provides vast opportunity for further exploiting labour force in respect to production of beverage, sugar , alcohol, fibre, fuel wood, timber and row materials for handicrafts. As well as this study clearly stated that implementing innovative technologies with product diversification and opening new market channels are the necessary pre requisite of this industry in future.