Move aims at introducing wide-spread inclusive development program for farmer communities
Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) conducted its first ‘Farmers’ Club’ Annual General Meeting in Kandalama, recently.
‘Farmers’ Club’ concept is a brainchild of Mineka Wickramasingha, Chairman, Ceylon Biscuits Group, initiated with the objective of supporting and uplifting the living standards of farming communities through their participation in village development programmes, predominantly in the dry zone and to integrate their rustic agricultural practices with the mainstream economic practices of the island.
‘Farmers’ Club’ was established 2 years ago in Kandalama with the participation of about 300 farmer families, who predominantly cultivate green gram, soya bean, rice and corn. Plenty Foods (Pvt) Limited, a subsidiary of Ceylon Biscuits Limited has been the force behind the success and sustenance of the ‘Farmers’ Club.’ Plenty Foods (Pvt) Limited not only assist in village rehabilitation and development initiatives, it also ensures that the produce of farmers’ is purchased at pre-agreed prices, which are sometimes above the existing market rates, as a result of the Forward Sales Contract scheme it has with the farmers.
Addressing the farmers at the Annual General Meeting, Mohan Ratwatte, Managing Director, Plenty Foods Limited said: ‘CBL, through its subsidiary, Plenty Foods Limited envisages in making Farmers’ Club a model, exclusively for development of the rural communities in the dry zone. Plenty Foods will not only assist these communities, but will also get them to actively participate in social & infrastructure development work. In Sri Lanka many dry zone farmers who lived in the then called border villages got alienated from the mainstream business process as a result of the 3 decade old war. But now with peace prevailing, as responsible corporate citizens we at CBL believe in engaging in inclusive development activities in rural areas to reduce poverty and give opportunities to farmers in these areas to reap the dividends of peace, through market accessibility, social wealth generation, decision making and integrating their activities with the mainstream business practices of the country.”
Through the Farmers’ Club programme Plenty Foods has carried out projects to renovate places of religious worship in areas such as Indogama, Pahalaweva, Senapura, Kitulhitiyawa, Bulagoda and Pelwehera. Plenty Foods has provided books & library facilities to school and Daham Pasal students in Senapura and Kandalama. In addition Plenty Foods has arranged water supply schemes in Adiranigama, Thalawa and Nagadeepa. Apart from the above, Plenty Foods CBL has also provided spraying machines to farmers in Thissamaharama, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya & Buttala and has installed street lamps in Aluvihare, has distributed utility facilities to community societies in Kitulhitiyawa, Mainagama, Thalawa, Eppawala, Galnewa and Galenbindunuwewa. Most importantly, Plenty Foods has also carried out several educational workshops on sustainable farming practices for its club members.
Apart from the ongoing welfare projects carried-out by Plenty Foods, the Company also conducts an annual Sinhala Avurudu festival in a selected village in the dry zone where both the farmer families and Plenty Foods staff participate in traditional games and other social bonding activities. The unique aspect of this festival is the selection of high performing farmers and gifting them with agriculture implement equipment in recognition of their contribution towards the operations of the Company.
Farmers’ Club is a very well thought after welfare initiative which brings in incremental social and economical value to village communities through private/public sector collaborative partnership programs. Each village community will have its own strengths and threats. Plenty Foods, collectively with the farming community will identify these and introduce solutions to address any negative issues or pressing needs.
Similarly these villages will have strengths, resources and opportunities they can benefit from. In such cases Plenty Foods assists with ways and means to capitalize on their strengths.
CBL has a comprehensive agenda to expand the ‘Farmers’ Club’ concept across the island creating an equal ground for the remote farming communities to integrate themselves with the current development process of the country through enhanced opportunities in education, agriculture, market accessibility, etc.. As the next stage of this scheme, Plenty Foods will be launching this program in areas like Southern, Uva and North-western provinces of Sri Lanka.