India’s Rubber Board is collaborating with Kudumbasree Mission, an all-women self-help group, to form women labour groups under the Rubber Producers’ Societies to increase the participation of women in the rubber tapping sector across the state of Kerala.
Out of the 100,000 rubber tappers in India, only around 5% are women. In Kerala, which produces 85 per cent of latex, women’s participation is 7.5%.
The Rubber Board has plans to expand the project in major rubber-producing areas in the state such as Kottayam, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta districts. The rubber tapping sector is facing acute worker shortage and the project is aimed at reviving the sector by increasing the number of female workers.
As part of this, a labour group called ‘Haritha’, the first of such groups has been formed under Ramamangalam Rubber Producers Society in Ernakulam, Kerala. The first group, comprising of 15 women workers, has already been deployed. The roles of these women labour groups include finding out areas where tapping does not take place and implement rubber tapping.
“Unlike larger plantations, many small growers have stopped tapping due to a fall in prices and unavailability of workers. In order to boost production and to decrease dependency on rubber imports, the board has explored opportunities to use Kudumbasree for tapping,” said P. V.Claramma, coordinator of the project.
“Many women have come forward and we had given training for a month. The first batch is now at work. Now we are looking at long-term collaboration with Kudumbasree to boost production. Immediate plans are to set up four such groups of 15 members each to deploy in other rubber producing areas,” Claramma added.
She pointed out that it would increase women’s representation in rubber tapping, which is dominated by men. “There was a decreasing trend in the production of natural rubber for the past few years owing to untapped holdings, climate change and shortage of tappers,” she said.
“The Board has taken various measures at field level, including mass contact programmes to improve production and productivity. Ten thousand tappers were trained under the skill development programmes under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana,” said Rubber Board in a recent statement.
According to Hari Kishore, executive director of Kudumbasree, the setting up of Kudumbasree Labour Groups in the rubber plantation sector would provide regular income to women.
“A tapper can earn up to Rs30,000 per month by doing tapping. Besides, it will help the rubber sector as shortage of workers is a serious issue there,” he said.