Sri Lanka's tea estate community provides a major contribution to the economy of the country, with fifteen percent of foreign income accrued from the plantation sector. The plantation sector directly employs 31,000 people and is home to nearly 1 million (nearly 5% of Sri Lanka's population). However, the community has not been able to enjoy the due benefits of the trade. The majority of plantation workers are descendants of waves of workers brought from South India by the British in the late 19th century. These plantation workers were provided accommodation in 10" by 10" small rooms built in one block, had common toilets and majority had no access to clean water. They were totally dependent on the plantation companies for their basic needs.
However, after management of the plantations were handed over to local plantation management companies and establishment of the Plantation Housing and Welfare Trust, conditions improved in the estate's with around 30% of people gaining access to housing, and around 50% to clean water and individual toilets.
However, poverty levels in the plantation sector have been persistently higher than the national average. The plantation sector still makes up 8.9% of the population living below the poverty line and multi dimensional poverty is even higher in the estate sector in comparison to rural and urban sectors.
Hence, both state and non state actors have a duty to assist these workers and support Sri Lanka's plantation sector and enable these workers to satisfy their basic needs such as housing, sanitation and water. Berendina has been assisting with this process for the last 10 years commencing since 2004 by providing a number of development solutions through the Berendina Development Services (BDS) and Berendina Micro Finance Institute (BMI) in consultation with respective plantation management companies.
Beneficiaries in the estates in which Berendina operates, have benefited in the form of access to safe drinking water, health, access to credit, capacity building, new livelihood options and improved infrastructure. Most importantly plantation managers and workers have been able find solutions to persistent long term problems in the sector. By end December 2014 , the number of estates where Berendina was active increased up to 61 . All work is done in partnership with the plantation management companies and credit work though the plantation co-operatives.
WORK DONE BY BDS IN PLANTATIONS IN A NUTSHELL (2007 TO 2014)
||Provision of scholarships for bright students
||Repairing and construction of Houses for extreme poor
||Construction of toilets
||Assistance for cataract operations
||Provision of spectacles
||Provision of food ration for malnourished mothers
||Provision of food rations for malnourished children
||Water projects completed in partnership with estate companies (tap for each house)
||Families benefited from water projects
||Community projects in estates (roads, bridges, buildings)
||Income generation projects for non workers
||Number of child cots given to estate créches
||1093 child cots
||Number of Créches given child cots (in 60 estates)
||Number of Elders participated for sport meets
||Elders sport meets
||Number of Elders who participated at picnics
||Elders trips to Kataragama etc
||Provision of school bags and learning materials for plantation students(annually)
||Number of medical clinics conducted in estates
||Total participants for estate medical clinics (no longer done)
||Number of educated plantation youth provided employment
Berendina currently works in 65 Estates partnering with 10 plantation companies as well as 5 privately owned plantation companies.
Budget for Plantation Sector
||Number of estates working
||Rs. 36 million
||Rs. 46.5 million
Bds has implemented a number of programmes in order to improve the mental and physical well being of the elderly. Activities conducted with the active participation of elders' clubs include picnic / pilgrimages, shramadana campaigns, livelihood development activities, elders' sports meets, yoga and meditation classes, drama and music, exposure visits and health clinics. Presently, bds has formed 155 elders clubs consisting of over 6900 members.
Safe drinking water projects
The objective of the safe drinking water supply programme of bds is to ensure access to safe drinking water at household levels and also to improve the sanitary conditions in communities living in estates. Bds constructs water supply schemes in the plantations and these water projects follow an inclusive approach taking care not to marginalize any groups within the project coverage area. The beneficiary communities are also directly involved in all aspects of the project, supported by the estate management and local private or non-governmental sector involvement. A water committee is also formed in every estate to facilitate the participation of beneficiaries including women and estate management in an organized manner. The water committee is also responsible for collecting a monthly sum from each beneficiary family for the maintenance of the water project and also takes on responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the water scheme.
The palm foundation has been the main implementing partner in these projects providing the required technical assistance for these projects.
More than 1900 plantation youth have also been provided jobs through the Berendina Employment Center
Credit is provided for line repairs, re-roofing and electrification and now for toilet construction. In addition, income generation loans are given for vegetable cultivation, livestock and small trading where this is possible. The average loan size provided to individuals range from Rs. 25,000 to 75,000. All beneficiaries are initially selected by the Plantation Management and all loans given through the Plantation Co-operative. Bulk loans are given through the co-operative to clients approved by management and the co-operative is given a percentage of the interest to strengthen same. Berendina charges interest at 11% and 12% flat rate which is the lowest amongst private non subsidized micro finance agencies. Berendina was the first agency to provide credit to plantation workers through the estate co-operatives managed by planters and the first to give sanitation loans to build toilets. Loans are also used for electrification of homes and line repairs including re-roofing.
In addition in 2013, Berendina commenced a new housing and latrine loan scheme to help estate workers construct partially or fully built houses and latrines.
Summary Of The Plantation Credit Programme (As Of 31st December 2014)
|Number of Active Borrowers
|Percentage of Females
|Outstanding Loan portfolio
|Total value of loans disbursed during the year
Improvement of sanitary conditions among estate communities
BDS in collaboration with BMI and Watawala Plantations launched a program to construct a latrine for each estate worker family in estates belonging to Watawala Plantations from 2014 -2017.
In 2014, BDS conducted 6 programs to create awareness on the importance of latrine use for better health in several estates belonging to Watawala Plantations. These programs benefitted over 100 Estate Union Leaders, Estate Welfare and Community Development Officers and estate workers.
Loans to re-roof estate line rooms
In 2013, BDS digressing from its existing practice of providing roofing sheets on request, encouraged plantation companies to obtain a loan to carry out re-roofing in a more systematic manner. Watawala Plantations took the initiative and obtained Rs. 17.5 m with repayment within a maximum of 4 years to re-roof more than 400 estate line rooms in 8 estates. This was the first such instance of a plantation company obtaining a loan from an NGO to provide benefits to workers. In 2014, another 3 loans worth of Rs. 4,036,900 provided to re-roof 165 line rooms of three estates of WPL.
Early Childhood Care and Development ( ECCD) Program
BDS recognizes the importance of ECCD programs to help develop the attitudes and behaviors of young children. In 2014, BDS implemented a comprehensive ECCD program for children in selected plantation estates of Watawala Plantations targeting over 300 children. 14 pre-schools were identified for assistance and initial assessments were conducted to identify existing problems in these pre-schools. Some of the problems identified through these assessments were lack of separate buildings for child development centers and creches, lack of properly trained pre-school teachers, inadequate payment to pre-school teachers and lack of in-door and out-door learning and play material.
Through this program, BDS assisted in re-modeling and renovating the 14 selected pre-school buildings creating separate pre-school, creche and play areas. Further training was also provided to 23 pre-school teachers and child development officers of these pre-schools. Parent committees were also formed in all the 14 selected pre-schools to monitor the activities and progress of these pre-schools.