The manager of Homadola Estate, in Udugama, Gamini Ratnayake has won the Plantation Human Development Trust’s, ‘Best Manager’ award for ‘Quality of Life Improvement of Workers,’ for 2010.
Homadola Estate won the award after competing with 430 estates across the country, from 22 Regional Plantation Companies [RPCs], the Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation and the Janatha Estate development Board.
In keeping with the policy of Watawala Plantations, Homadola Estate designates its employees as ‘associates’ of the company. The latest award is attributed to the people management practices at Homadola and many innovative initiatives for its associates and their families.
“This is another occasion of people power at Watawala Plantations. This achievement is again due to the contributions from our associates,” said Dr. Dan Seevaratnam, the CEO of Watawala Plantations.
The management of Homadola, Sri Lanka’s only large scale multi-crop plantation, says its multi-crop system has helped improve incomes and quality of life of estate families. In addition to the traditional tea, rubber and coconut, Homadola Estate, that has a workforce 861, has diversified into oil palm, dragon fruit, vanilla, cinnamon, areca nut, banana, citrus and pineapple cultivation.
“The diversification provides year round employment and the opportunity to earn higher wages. This directly contributes towards improvements in lifestyles. For instance, during the rainy season, rubber tapping is not possible. However, during this period there is employment in harvesting other crops,” said Ratnayake.
Homadola Estate’s tea factory was the first low grown tea factory in Sri Lanka to achieve Fair Trade certification and is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership. The factory is also ISO and HACCP certified.
Estate productivity has also shown sustainable improvements due to the mutually supportive relationship between associates arid management. The win—win relationship between management and associates has been a catalyst for improving productivity, says the estate management.
Homadola estate’s yield per hectare of tea increased from 1,045 kgs in 2005/6 to 2,356 kgs per hectare in 2010, making the estate one of the highest yielding among low grown RPCs. Oil palm yield per hectare also improved from 6,399 kgs in 2005/6 to 11,360 kgs in 2010.
The estate has also managed to significant improve productivity of tea harvesting. The management says productivity improvements are a direct result of not only good physical working conditions on the estate, but also due to all the associates working as a team.
Our labour productivity is very good and unlike many other estates in the country, we do not suffer prom labour shortages. This is because our employees are not treated as workers, but as associates of the company and we do not merely provide guaranteed employment but guaranteed, sustainable incomes said Ratnayake.
In recognition of the contribution of its associates, particularly female associates, on International Women’s Day, the estate recognised and presented merit awards for female associates that have worked on the estate for over 30 years
To improve nutrition and food habits of its resident estate population of 1,829 men, women and children, the estate has introduced a fresh water fish project and a prawn farming project with the assistance of the Inland Fisheries Department. The fish and prawn will be available for estate families for consumption at affordable, lower than market prices.
Homadola Estate has excellent health indicators with zero child, infant and maternal mortality rates. The estate says it has many ongoing projects to improve health, safety and nutrition of its families. The estate also provides access to loans to improve housing or to build new housing and special attention is paid to improve education, particularly IT facilities, for estate families. In addition, the estate has built around 18 kms of concrete road, which has benefited both estate families and villagers by reducing travel time and costs and by improving mobility.