Karnataka is witnessing a form of reverse migration at its coffee plantations. Youngsters are back to tend to the coffee plantations they grew up in. It’s a welcome new trend not seen in the last 15 years.
Unlike children of potato, ragi or coconut growers, well-educated members of coffee-growing families now see opportunities to earn well in a sector they are already familiar with.
Take B.M. Manoj of Ballupete in Sakleshpur, who studied MBA in Australia and worked for a couple of years in Bengaluru. The 32-year-old, who was heading a team in an event management company, chucked his job to return to his village in 2011 to look after the estate along with his father, B.A. Mohan Kumar. “I had travelled to many countries. I never regret my decision to return to my village,” he says.
Mr. Kumar is happy with his son’s decision. “His modern thinking and my experience in coffee cultivation have helped the estate well. Now, he is adopting newer techniques, including drip irrigation methods to tackle the shortage of labourers and other problems,” he says.
T.C. Hemanth Kumar, Joint Director of Coffee Board, who has been serving the board for 32 years, says: “A decade ago, planters wanted their children to get a higher education and become professionals. This is changing. During my visits to plantations, I have seen many youngsters looking after estates. They have returned after studying BE, M.Tech., or MBA.”
“There are growth opportunities in the coffee plantation sector,” says N.K. Pradeep, member of the Coffee Board, and one of the big planters in Hassan. Mr. Pradeep, being a doctor, had to give up his practice at the age of 24 to look after the estate after his father’s death. “I was forced to return home. But, I am happy with what I am doing today,” he said. He believes many more youngsters will return to villages provided the government improves both digital and physical infrastructure. “We require good roads and power supply, besides access to the Internet,” he says.
Karnataka is one of the major coffee producing States with cultivation spread over 2,36,340 ha against the 4.19 lakh ha in the country. In the last 10 years, the coffee growing areas have been increasing.
The former Minister and planter B.D. Basavaraj said many youths had come back after working in the private sector because they wanted peace of mind, which they did not get at their workplaces.
“Here, they have a good environment and enjoy good health. Moreover, they can work independently; there’s no need to listen to anybody,” he adds.