We all love to have coconut water, coconut milk, sweets, and other coconut-based delicacies. But about the husk of coconut trees? What happens to them, what happens to the shell of tender coconuts after the content is consumed? To find the answers to these questions, head to the International Coir Museum in Alappuzha when you are in Kerala next time. Nestled close to the tranquil backwaters, the first-of-its-kind museum in the world takes you on a journey, acquainting you on coir’s journey from being the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut to being used to create ropes, doormats, mattresses, floor tiles and sacking.
The idea of setting up such a museum was conceived by Coir Board chairman Prof G Balachandran. The museum showcases the history of the coir industry, beginning from the setting up of the first coir factory, Darragh Smail & Company, to the latest technologies developed in coir which aim at bringing about a total revolution in the industry through “mechanisation, modernisation, diversification and commercialisation.
The premises has five halls that enlighten visitors about coir, its uses and the industry over the years along with latest developments which have brought about a revolution across the world.
The history hall takes you to the bygone era of James Darragh and Henry Smail whose busts are placed alongside a wall that signifies the first coir factory established by the duo in 1959. Darragh came to Alleppey, the chief port of the state, and started the first coir factory, Darragh Smail & Company, with Henry Smail. Visitors also get to know that ropes made from coconut fibre were used in ancient times and Indian navigators who sailed the seas to China, Java, Malaya and Gulf of Arabia used coir for their ship ropes. A coir industry in the United Kingdom was recorded before the second half of the 19th century.
The retting hall tells about the traditional method of natural retting practised in India consists of soaking the husk in backwaters for around a year. This hall showcases the traditional methods of fibre extraction by retting of coconut husk and fibre extraction by rural women.
The spinning of coir fibre was earlier carried out by hands or charkhas (spinning wheels). The spinning hall displays traditional spinning as well as spinning units known as ratts. The latest version of motorised ratts is also exhibited here.
The machinery hall showcases all the equipment used for extraction of coir fibre from coconut husk, spinning into coir yarn and weaving into coir products. The Central Coir Research Institute, Kalavoor and the Central Institute of Coir Technology, the R&D centres of Coir Board, successfully developed different types of machinery which increased the output with minimal efforts.
Coir fibre, when impregnated with phenol-formaldehyde resin, produces composite boards which can be used as wood substitutes. The products are cheaper than commercial plywood, are fire retardant, boiling waterproof and can be sawed and drilled. A Coir Wood House has been erected in the museum which makes use of the coir composite panels and has been furnished with furniture using coir composite boards.
An array of products have been displayed along with traditional Kettuvallom which informs of the diversification and commercialisation potential of coir.
The souvenir shop displays an array of products for tourists which they can carry as souvenirs from their visit to the Coir Museum.
Images courtesy: Coir Board of India
Text by Team THN