Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
Ceylon Tobacco’s SADP goes beyond one-off direct aid
Four years into post-conflict development, poverty reduction, food security and the development of sustainable livelihoods for inhabitants of former conflict areas continues to be a key challenge.
In that context, Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) extended an invitation to Sri Lanka’s private sector to join the group in boosting its Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme(SADP).
Speaking during a media tour of SADP farms in Kilinochchi, newly appointed CTC Chief Executive Officer, Felicio Ferraz discussed the potential of the group’s flagship Corporate Social Responsibility programme to supplement the nutritional requirements and incomes of Sri Lankans living below the poverty line.
“The SADP programme is one the strongest CSR initiatives I have witnessed in my 20 years of experience. Instead of merely supplying farmers with direct one-off aid, we are teaching them how to utilize their home gardens in a sustainable manner in order to give a future to those who did not have one.
This programme is not just for CTC and we invite all interested parties to take part in this initiative which is making such a crucial difference to the lives of so many families,” Ferraz stated.
Launched in 2005 under Outreach Projects (Guarantee) Ltd, the CSR arm of CTC, SADP has now grown to cover 16 districts with over 16,100 families enrolled and a total number of beneficiaries exceeding 57,400.
SADP Plus, an expansion of SADP, was launched in 2009 to focus specifically on the Trincomalee and Kilinochchi districts where farmers.
The project currently supports 2,700 families in fruit and vegetable cultivation, poultry farming, animal husband- ry and even mushroom cultivation and bee-keeping.
Crops are cultivated utilizing the latest agricultural best practices adapted to the needs of farmers in the Kilinochchi district.
Techniques utilized include the use of compost instead of industrial fertilizer and integrated pest management over the use of chemical pesticides.
While organic methods of farming initially result in lower yields, such practices have the dual effect of enriching soil composition over the long-term while also reducing costs by keeping farmers independent of the need for fertilizer and pesticides, ultimately going a long way towards promoting sustainability, according to CTCCSRManager
Included in the programme are rehabilitated ex-combatants like 34 year old P Selvakumar. Formerly a driver for the LTTE,Selvakumar now cultivates crops and rears goats supplied under the SADP programme, helping him to support his wife and 6 montholddaughter.
Cultivating land borrowed from his sister, Selvakumar also works a second job in order to pay off a loan obtained to fund the construction of a well.
Kamala Devi, another graduate under SADP used income generated through the cultivation of multiple cash crops to complete balance payments from the construction of her home.
Devi stated that agriculture and the techniques learned through SADP had given her a stable income, of as much as Rs. 1,500 per day, enabling her to feed and support her four children.
A third beneficiary under the programme, 53 year old T. Arumugam is now completely self sufficient having to only spend money on meat or fish and now hopes to utilize agriculture to fund the education of his 5 children including his six year old daughter.
Overall the 30 month course has helped to contribute as much as 43 per cent towards household income of SADP graduates in addition to providing families with vastly improved nutritional intake.
Water supply tends to be a common problem for SADP farmers who generally require diesel powered motors to pump water out of deep wells in order to sustain cultivation in the months prior to the Northern monsoon.
SADP beneficiaries receive no direct financial assistance from CTC and therefore fund the construction of wells themselves.
CTC Corporate Regulatory Affairs Director, Dinesh Dharmadasa stated that such aspects of the project are potential areas for other partners to get involved in.
“We have taken every effort to make this farmers as self sufficient as possible. After the end of the conflict there has been significant aid that has been poured into the North however simply disbursing funds makes many of these people dependent instead of helping them to develop their own livelihoods
In order to make these funds count it is important to take the effort in developing the skills of these people and that is the real goal of SADP Plus,” Dharmadasastated.
While reiterating the need for further investments into the project, CTC CEO Ferraz stated that the group was also looking at tie ups with other entities in order improve distribution of SADP agricultural produce thereby giving farmers better access to markets.