In December 2006, Community Friends, along with our local partner, acquired 40 acres in upcountry Sri Lanka. This former colonial tea estate is located in the cloud forest of the Knuckles Range. The plantation was established by the British in the late 1800s when ethnic Tamils were imported from India to pick the tea. Since that time and continuing until Community Friends arrived, these villagers, now fourth and fifth generation tea estate workers, have lived in oppressive conditions with no electricity and no access to health care. When there is work, the hourly rate is about 25 cents. They cannot even afford to buy the tea they pick.

The condition of the land was in about the same shape as the condition of the local population. Decades of soil erosion, overuse of chemical fertilizer, monoculture and seasonal field burning has left a legacy of a severely damaged ecosystem.

Community Friends is working to improve conditions through economic development. This means transitioning from the tea economy, which has damaged the land and mostly benefits absentee plantation owners, to the more sustainable model of agro-forestry. So fruit-bearing trees are now replacing tea. This transition is being supported through consultations with the local university. With their guidance we have been able to implement a strategy that addresses the holistic needs of the community. This includes the nutritional contribution of the fruit trees, employment opportunities, micro-entrepreneurship and equitable distribution of yields from the land, at the same time as soil restoration, water and topsoil management, and the return of native flora and fauna.

Villagers have joined us as partners in this enterprise of land restoration, using the profits from carbon offset sales to invest in social programs benefiting their community, like our health clinic and a micro-hydro electricity project. Eventually the profits from fruit production will continue to provide capital for these and other social programs.

Through community land stewardship and economic development, villagers will be empowered on the land they manage for themselves, benefiting future generations.

 

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