Farmer Field Schools Initiative on Sri Lankan Tea Plantations

Dushy Perera, at  where the title is Taking Farmer Field Schools to Sri Lankan Tea Plantations”

A few days ago at the hundred plus year old DMCC Planter’s Club in Dickoya (central Sri Lanka), ETP initiated a momentous programme that will train a group of trainers who will be responsible for establishing and running a farmer field school (FFS) programme on Sri Lankan tea plantations.ToT attendees  ToT attendees

My mind goes back to September 2013, when together with World   University Service of Canada (WUSC) we organised for senior management from Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) in Sri Lanka to visit Kenya on an educational and learning trip. There they would see the Kenya Tea Development Agency’s (KTDA) highly successful FFS programme that works with 550,000 smallholder tea farmers and the many benefits it brings including: higher yields, better quality tea, adapting to climate change, and business skills amongst other thingThe Sri Lankan tea industry, desperate to change the existing tea estate model with a view to improve productivity and profitability saw the benefits of the FFS concept as a stepping stone towards achieving an out grower model. The Government’s Minister of Plantations has given his support to this envisaged change. Inspired by what they saw, the management group has since been working on ways to bring a similar FFS model to the Sri Lankan tea sector.This week is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and I have to admit I’m pleased with the role that ETP has played – from those first conversations with Taylors of Harrogate and ITC at TEAM UP, to actually seeing it take hold on the ground.

After singing of the National Anthem and the traditional lighting of the oil lamp under the patronage of the Chairman of the Planter’s Association of Ceylon, Deputy Director of the Tea Research Institute, and the CEO of Wattawala Plantations and in the presence of representatives of 10 RPCs, two smallholder estates, Rainforest Alliance representatives, and Director of CARE International, the training of trainers (ToT) programme was inaugurated.

Joseph Wagurah and Francis Namara travelled from Kenya and Uganda respectively to give training on the FFS concept. The 4-day progamme shows trainees how to run a successful FFS including setting ground rules, generating and prioritising training topics, and scheduling training.

The FFS model is a cost efficient, bottom up, needs based farmer-training approach that runs over a 12-month period. Classes are often conducted out in the field so that farmers can see how good practice farming (GAP) leads to higher yields and better quality of crops.

At the start of each FFS farmers are asked to define the curriculum, making sure that key farming practices and key issues affecting both their tea crop and farmers’ quality of life and livelihoods are addressed.

 Participant with folder and notebooks

The day’s progamme was well received by the participants and the CEOs present from Kelani Valley, Talawakalle and Watawala PLCs, whilst an email message from the CEO of Kahawatte PLC paid a glowing tribute to ETP for bringing this model to the Sri Lankan plantation sector. My sincere thanks to Taylors of Harrogate and Mother Parkers with a matching grant from ITC who helped to fund this progamme. It has made a dream come true for me.

My colleagues John Qin and Jame Yu from China and Nelia Latief from Indonesia are also here following the training so they understand what it entails in preparation for running similar programmes in their respective countries.

Watch this space for further updates about how the week unfolded….




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