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Sunday, 19 June 2016

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Sustainable agri program to alleviate poverty

Program marks decade of rural empowerment:

Promoting organic farming and enabling a steady monthly income to a family are two aspects that support healthy living. This has been achieved through a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC).

The CSR project, Sustainable Agricultural Development Program (SADP) was launched at a time when poverty levels were at 15% in Sri Lanka, to support a national priority, achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals - alleviating poverty.


Some of the beneficiaries of the SADP program.
 PICTURE: SALIYA RUPASINGHE

The program, which recently celebrated a decade of rural empowerment has thus far showcased positive results, going beyond self-sustenance to achieving economic benefits amongst rural communities.It empowers families with agriculture knowledge and resources such as seeds, plants and poultry thus encouraging home gardening in addition to bee-keeping, mushroom cultivation and goat raring.

The focus is on creating a long-term engagement between the beneficiaries and their path towards self-sustenance. The selected families are part of SADP for a period of two and half years and regularly monitored by a dedicated field officer.

A team of media personnel visited Deegoda in the Galle district where some of the beneficiaries under the SADP reside, along with field officer Anslem Nanayakkara.

"We are happy to be a part of the SADP as we have been able to improve our monthly income since we joined the program. We also get to eat more fresh vegetables now. We have made use of our garden space economically and this has created an eco-friendly environment," D.G. Siriyalatha, one of the beneficiaries said.

Sriyalatha, with D.G. Soorasena and K.H.A. Karunawathie have been with the program for five and half months. Some of the families we met have reached the expected level in organic farming and animal husbandry under SADP. Hence they receive no further assistance.

S. Indralatha said, "Our income is at a satisfactory level and we do not have to do odd jobs to meet our ends any longer.

We are self sufficient and excess produce is sold at the market to earn extra income. Our lives have become more fulfilling due to SADP and we are grateful to the program offered by the CTC." Pradeep Kumara Lanka and B.B. Inoka also shared similar views.

CTC's Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Michael Koest said, "At a time when the country's national priority was alleviating poverty which was at 15%, CTC brought in the company's expertise in agriculture to empower individuals through SADP. The program started in 2005 as a pilot project with 100 families and thereafter fully launched in 2006. SADP envisioned guiding beneficiaries towards achieving self-sustenance through knowledge and resources, with a strict policy of no cash assistance and has aptly done so in the past 10 years. We are confident that SADP will continue to sustainably empower underprivileged communities in the future."

CTC's Legal and External Affairs Director Dinesh Dharmadasa said, "With the continued expansion of SADP, the CSR arm of the company decided to set up a separate company to establish better control and governance over its development. As such, Outreach Projects (Guarantee) Limited was launched in 2007 with a Board of Directors, Chief Operating Officer, General Manager and a well-designed structure to ensure effective achievement of the project's objectives."

The program operates with a concept 'helping those who are willing to help themselves', by providing the necessary inputs, raw materials, knowledge and guidance to start-up and operate successful home gardens.\The SADP was aimed at families whose monthly income is less than Rs. 3,943 and with a land area of 20-40 perches for cultivation with access to water for at least 10 months of the year.

The benefits of SADP include enabling self-sufficiency, mitigating malnutrition, promoting organic farming and agriculture knowledge development.

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