Sharing traditional skills in toddy tapping
TCDC often means sharing new technologies and the skills that they require. But it
can also mean passing on traditional skills. Toddy tapping - the collection of juice
from the bud of palm tree flowers - has been practised in Southeast Asia for
centuries. British explorer Captain James Cook found the islanders of Sawu, in the
Indonesian archipelago, tapping toddy from palm trees in 1770 and using it as a drink
and an animal feed. "It is given with the husks of rice to the hogs, and ...
they grow enormously fat without taking any other food ... the inhabitants themselves
have subsisted on this alone for several months, when other crops have failed,"
Cook wrote in his journal.
Mr Pieris and toddy tapping trainees build a "ladder"
from coconut shells
More than two hundred years later, FAO's Animal
Production and Health Division (AGA) is investigating the potential
of toddy as a modern day animal feed, and an FAO TCDC expert from Sri Lanka has visited
Viet Nam to teach them the art of toddy tapping. In Sri Lanka toddy is tapped from
the coconut palm. Known as the "tree of life", the palm is grown as a plantation
crop in more than 400 000 ha and as a domestic tree in almost every garden.
Thammahetti Mudalige Pieris of the Sri Lankan Coconut Research Institute spent four
weeks in Ho Chi Minh City in October 1996, providing practical training in toddy
tapping. The first task is the selection of suitable trees, then the construction
of ladders from coconut husks, a precise sequence of binding, beating and pounding
before cutting the bud, and twice daily collection of the sap once it begins to flow.
In some countries in Southeast Asia, the use of fresh palm sap as an animal feed
is being promoted as an alternative to processing the sap into sugar, as had been
done previously. Since the processing into sugar requires fuel, which is often prohibitively
costly for many small farmers, toddy tapping had been on the decline. Recent FAO
experiments in Cambodia have confirmed the historical evidence of the value of fresh
palm sap as a basic feed in intensive pig-rearing. Several trials showed that, from
the economic point of view, the profit from using palm juice for pig feeding was
much higher than for sugar production.
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