Male domination in Sri Lanka’s plantations challenged by ex-chief

ECONOMYNEXT – An ex-plantations chief in Sri Lanka has challenged the gender norms and operational practices the industry inherited from its British colonial rulers, which are still prevalent today.

"I’m intrigued by the fact that planters are thoroughly male dominated," former Planters’ Association of Ceylon chairman Rohan Fernando said at the annual general meeting held last week.

"Is that because we have let ourselves dominate the profession, or is it because we have not let ourselves open up to female professionalism?" he questioned.

Reports had said that the first female planter started her career in 2016.

Fernando said every other profession in Sri Lanka has successful women, be it doctors, pilots, lawyers, politicians, bankers or bus drivers.

"Is anything wrong with us? I was just thinking." Fernando said.

He also said that the industry is slow to adopt innovation.

"Over the last 50 years, we have been doing the same things we had been doing in the good old days," he said.

"Is there a need to change or do we want to change?"

He asked whether plantations are incorporating technologies which are now common under the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biometrics and internet of things.





"How much has our industry changed? Do we want radical change in the industry?" he challenged.

He said planters have to enhance the value of the industry’s contribution to society and continue to build up the brand of planting.

"Today life is all about brands, and the planter is all about brands. The future lies in what we do with that brand and how versatile we are," he said.

Current chairman Sunil Poholiyadde said that changes are happening in the industry, but they may not be that visible yet.

He said some plantations are adopting technology well, and have started spraying plants with drones.


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