Harvesting Coconuts

“Sure I would love to try a coconut.”

I assumed the coconuts were inside the house and all that was needed was to go inside and pick one up. Not even close. The coconuts were at the top of a large tree (about 25 feet tall) without branches. Only one way up, climb like a monkey. That is precisely what Banjo did.

Banjo is the 12-year-old son of a goat raiser named Marina. Their family has raised goats for almost a year. Marina said that goats brought a source of dignity and pride to their family. Before they relied solely on the wages the father would bring in as a construction worker, which fluctuated often. But now they have seen financial increases as well as improved self-worth.

Banjo began to climb the tree in a way that would make safety officials from the US cringe. Forget safety harnesses, helmets, nets, or any type of aid that would have made this easier. To Banjo, they would only be hindrances slowing him down.

He skirted up to the top of the tree in a matter of seconds. This had become second nature to him, his brothers, and many other children living throughout this part of the world. If they wanted a coconut, they had to climb the tree to get them.

One thing I forgot to mention, he did all of this while carrying a machete in his mouth, which he would use to harvest the coconuts from the treetop.

After a minute or two, down came 8 coconuts with a loud thud. Banjo’s siblings quickly gathered them up and began preparing them to eat and drink. The efficiency was remarkable. Each child knew exactly what to do. Girls as small as 4 or 5 were lowering a basketball that had been cut in half to use a scoop into a well to retrieve water.

Banjo made his way back down the tree. It was graceful. He looked like a fireman sliding down a pole on the way to an emergency.

The coconuts were split in two with another machete. I drank the milk inside that tasted much sweeter than other coconuts I have tried in other countries. I do not know how much is inside each one, but it will fill your stomach.

Then we split open the coconut to eat the inner pieces. Rather than using a metal spoon, we fashioned part of the outer husk into a spoon-like device that worked perfectly for eating the insides.

After we finished, we said our goodbyes and traversed through the woods to visit our next goat raiser and learn how their lives have been affected by the gift of one free pregnant goat.

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK