Sri Lanka, Save the Children tackle poverty, anaemia on estates

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government and plantations companies have begun working with Save the Children to improve living conditions of women and children on estates, where rates of anaemia and stunting are high.

The international non-governmental organization promoting children’s rights has proposed co-ordinating different projects with an estimated 100 million US dollars in funding available, while also linking welfare measures to certification by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.

It aims to communicate welfare measures on estates to buyers of Sri Lanka’s tea so that the product can command better prices, a statement said.

The Planters’ Association of Ceylon, representing Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT), Sri Lanka Tea Board, the Ministry of Upcountry New Villages, Estate Infrastructure & Community Development and the Ministry of Plantation Industries are to work with Save the Children on the project.

The pilot project is already underway on 14 tea estates.

“When we look at the living conditions of people living in tea estates, especially mothers and young children, it is clear that while things have improved remarkably since privatization in 1992, there is still a substantial way to go,” said Will Lynch, Save the Children Sri Lanka Director and the project’s mastermind.

“Despite the best efforts of many stakeholders, we have identified a number of issues including chronic anaemia and stunting among children and uneven access to water and sanitation facilities in tea estates,” he said.

“We strongly believe that the creation of an industry-wide value proposition can solve these issues in a sustainable manner while also revitalizing Ceylon tea globally, especially in high-income markets with low penetration at present.”

The programme was envisaged following research in eight countries – US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Australia and South Africa.

It found that Ceylon tea was not well-known, not identified as being Sri Lankan and that tea drinkers are interested in a value proposition relating to premium quality and relating to health of female tea pluckers and their children, the statement said.





Lynch noted that large amounts of funds are committed for the improvement of living standards of the estate community by the government, multilateral institutions, donor agencies, the PHDT and the Regional Plantation Companies.

 “The issue is often the ad-hoc nature of the programmes and lack of coordination between these efforts,” he said. “The government has the ability to coordinate all these funds to a programme to uplift the community while creating a value proposition for Ceylon tea.”

Save the Children alone has committed 1.4 million dollars in 2015 for the improvement of child and maternal health and nutrition in Sri Lankan tea estates and expects to commit a further 4.5 million dollars over the next three years.

In addition, funding which has already been committed or is in the pipeline from all stakeholders such as the World Bank, European Union and international NGOs for all development projects in Sri Lankan tea estates amount to 100 million dollars, Lynch said.

Rather than allowing these funds to be invested in isolation, the government could better o-ordnate the use of these funds to increase tea export earnings and benefit workers and their families through increased incomes, he said.

He also suggested the project directly link welfare of women and children in tea estates to Ceylon tea certification given by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.

Standards with regard to the wellbeing of mothers and children in tea plantations can be included in addition to the present requirements to obtain Ceylon tea certification, the statement said.

“We believe that this highly commendable initiative by Save the Children is most timely and can benefit the entire local tea industry,” Planters’ Association chairman Roshan Rajadurai said.  (Colombo/December 15, 2015)

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