|Hayleys and USAID bring farmers of different communities together in the East|
|Friday, 13 February 2009|
Sunfrost provided the farmers with more than Rs. 1.1 billion worth of material inputs during the six months of the pilot project. These included seeds, fertiliser and crop protection chemicals. Produce worth over Rs. 3.2 billion was purchased in the same period. USAID supplied additional material inputs, plus equipment for training, soil fertility testing and disease identification. In addition, they organised training for the farmers on cultivation techniques, post harvest operations and other farming best practices, at the expense of Sunfrost.
The farmers involved in the pilot project realised that their goals and challenges transcended ethnic barriers. As one participant remarked, ‘We all have the same problems, like how to get better yields from our crops and how to sell our produce at a reasonable price.’
One of the unique features of the experience was the use of the concept of ‘Peer Learning’, whereby the farmers swapped experiences rather than undergoing classroom style training. The pilot project saw Tamil speaking participants visit the fields of Sinhala farmers and vice versa, which helped to iron out reservations about getting together to learn, as well as bringing in an extra income.
The organisers said that key stakeholders from the government sector, such as the District Secretary, officials of the Department of Agrarian Services, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Irrigation in Ampara were very cooperative, which made the transportation of the produce to their factory in Biyagama much easier. The produce sent there was subject to grading and quality checks, and then packed in crates ready for export.
The Hayleys Group did not treat the purchase of produce from the farmers as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. This was done on a commercial basis, keeping the longer term sustainability of this work in mind.
The pilot project has contributed to the revitalisation of the agriculture sector in the Eastern Province, while helping to strengthen links between communities in mixed ethnic areas. It should be highlighted not only to emphasise the change it has brought to the farmers of Ampara, but also to commend the efforts of the Hayleys Group. Since the fundamentals of the pilot project can be applied to many other sectors, it would be good for more organisations to take up similar challenges, thereby contributing to the establishment of a durable peace in this country.
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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