© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Occupations Food Production Market Small Business Building Other Occupations

Coconut Rope and String

The husks with the fibres are soaked, often at the edge of the tide line or a pool beside an irrigation ditch, to soften them. They can then be separated more easily from the coconut husks. The fibres are then dried in the sun. The dried fibres are gathered up into bundles which can be twisted into string either be hand or on hand operated machines that tighten up the twists. Thicker rope is made by twisting several strands of string together.

The fibre can be “hand- spun” and then twisted into string. To tighten up the twists, it is fed into a hand operated machine. Several strands can be twisted together to form thicker ropes

Small groups of relatives or friends may make string and rope. The small boy is winding the wheel to twist the strands of “spun” and twisted fibres. The seated woman is one end of the process - the two women in the background are spinning and feeding the fibre into the twisting machine operated by the seated woman.

Coconut mat making

The husband and wife by their machine that twists the coconut rope before it is made into mats. Their granddaughter is one end of the hand operated machine that combines the coloured twists of  the dyed string for the coconut mats.

Some examples of their completed coconut mats

The coconut string and rope is formed into coiled bundles and sold to wholesalers such as the merchant on the motorbike. Motorbikes are ideal transport as they can more easily navigate the narrow paths and lanes in the rural areas where much of the string and rope is produced.

The wholesaler then sells this  bundles on to the small stores from where it is retailed to customers such as households and fishermen.

N.B. These children all attend school regularly. They help AFTER completing their homework. The families can use the extra money generated to pay for the extra tuition that Sri Lankan school children attend after school to enable success in “O” and “A level examinations. Education is seen as the key to social advancement.