Design Research | Goa, India

Photo by Irina Blok

The most sustainable craft | Coconut Craft

Traditionally, crafting objects out of coconut shell to make household objects was practiced by coconut farmers. Coconut is one of the fruit that can grow in plenty in its climate. The edible part of the coconut is called flesh and when dried it is referred to as copra. Coconut milk and oil used for cooking, frying, soaps, cosmetics, hair oil and massage oil. Religious and cultural significance in society. Husks and shells are used as a source of charcoal. Marcel and the surrounding places in Goa supports the making of various types of products from the coconut shell.

Objective

The objective of the project is to create design intervention, so that the craft of coconut shells and state of art could be increased. Idealization and strategic designing was carried forward along with the artisans so as to achieve the goal of a mutual understanding of the urban market and the rural way of the making of the craft.

Coconut craft in India
Coconut cultivation in India

History of Goa

The first literary reference to Goa is in the Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata as Gomanta which translates as the region of cows. Moving on, in the 3rd century BC Goa formed part of the Mauryan empire. Later it was ruled by the Satavahanas , to the Chalukyas , the Muslims and then ruled under the Vijayanagar empire. Jesuit missionaries led by St Francis Xavier arrived in 1542 from whom the rule was passed on to the Marathas. It wasn’t until 1987 that Goa was officially declared India’s 25th state by Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandhi.

Goa

Demographics

Religion, culture and population

As per the 2012 statistics, there are 1.817 million people in Goa. The artisans who practice the craft are mostly Hindu with spoken language being Konkani and Hindi. Fish curry with rice is their staple diet. In addition to this, Goans also like pork as well as chicken. Feni is the most preferred and liked drink of the Goans.

Production of Coconut

Coconut is a popular fruit in Goa and consumed by them on a daily basis.

Production-

Area: 25.70 (000 Hectares)

Production: 138.58 (Million Nuts)

Productivity: 5394 (Nuts/ha)

Goa artisans produce decorative and utility items made out of coconut fiber.

Raw Material, Machines & Tools

Screw driver, Hand drill, Hacksaw, File, Knife, Screw driver, Coconut hand scraper and Sand paper, Grinder

Process

Collecting & removing the husk, Sanding and Polishing

Conceptualization

Our concept was keeping both, utility, design and aesthetics in mind. The idea was to create a need for the product, create a market for it. The reason we thought of using coconut shells as utility items was because it is a sustainable and an organic product. The addition of natural, organic elements in our interiors can make us feel calm, at peace, and above all, welcomed. Natural materials are also a healthier choice for interiors as they are non-toxic with little to no VOCs, thus ensuring better indoor quality.

Design Development

Ideation

Rendered designs

Prototype Process

The coconuts are first collected, The external husk is then peeled out, Coconuts selected according to the size and design, A drill is punched, Dispenser is put in to check the fitting, Sanding is done, Vanish for glossy finish. Tentative marking, Checking the height with the bottle, Marking is rectified, Coconut is been cut according to the marking, The kernel is removed and shell is cleaned, Fitting of the top and bottom of the dispenser with coconut is checked, Checking the height and closure, Marking for the position of nozzle.

Following the same process a circular base for the dispenser was made

Final Products

Toilet paper
Soap Dispenser
Tooth brush holder
Soap dish
Tissue paper holder case
Planter

Sustainability

The coconut tree is a type of a palm tree. All the parts of a coconut tree are sustainable as they are organic and natural products. Coconut shell, being hard and durable is used as a raw material for handicrafts. Coconut craft is one of the most sustainable craft, which has almost zero wastage of materials, almost all the materials derived from it can be used as something or the other. There are no artificial materials being used during the process. Coir and jute are also used for the craft, which are also sustainable.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

Coconut being a natural product has a lot of scope of production.

With the introduction of various machines, working on a coconut has become easier than before.

As coconut is a natural product, it is sustainable.

It is also durable when it comes to decaying, as it does not decay easily even when it’s exposed to sunlight and water for a long time.

Though it isn’t completely shock proof, the hard shell gives it a durable feel and a long lifespan.

Weakness

Very often the machines prove to be harsher than expected on the coconut shell resulting in its shell breaking midway. The work that goes into making it goes to waste.

The costing is not too profitable as the work that goes into making it is more than the market it is supplied in. People prefer appreciating the product from afar but not buying it ultimately resulting in less sales.

The noise pollution while cutting the coconut is immense. Also the lack of safety measures taken while working on the coconut shell.

Since decayed coconuts are used, the decayed material smells making it difficult for the artisans to work on it easily.

Opportunities

Being a coastal product, it can be used as a representative product in restaurants, when it comes to utility products as well as decorative items.

It is a fairly new craft that is now upcoming with a great scope especially with the introduction of machines that can be used to hone it into various designs.

Since there are a lot of options when it comes to the design of cutlery made out of coconut shells, people opt to use the durable products made from it.

Threats

A major threat to the craft is the growing apprehension to climb up on trees to procure coconuts. Nowadays, it is found difficult to find somebody to climb up on trees because of which the cost of coconuts has increased significantly.

The sale of the selling coconut has gone down due to the labour required and involved in procuring it because of which tourists who were the main source of buying these coconuts refuse to buy a coconut for more than the costing.

Since there is limited profit, not a lot of artisans want to take up the craft or take it forward as only the bare minimum is covered.

Branding

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S H A I L J A S I N G H

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