15th May 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka – A publication documenting the lives of the Veddahs of Sri Lanka was launched recently during the 5th Dilmah Global Partner Conference held from 7 – 9 May in Colombo. The first copy of the publication was presented to Professor Ron Sanchez, Senior Professor of Management at the Copenhagen Business School by Dilhan C. Fernando, Director Marketing and son of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando. Professor Sanchez was one of the distinguished speakers at the event which saw the gathering of over 200 members of Dilmah’s Global family from across the world.
The Veddahs are identified as the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka with a history spanning many thousand years. Their lives are intertwined with nature and forever dependent on the forests and the beasts that live within. However in the recent past, changing times and development have influenced and affected the continuation of the traditional lives that the Veddahs lead, sometimes forcing members of the younger generation to choose between their old ways or to embrace modernity. Dilmah Conservation embarked on a campaign to support the upliftment of indigenous communities in Sri Lanka through its Culture & Indigenous Communities Programme.
The publication, Indigenous Communities in Sri Lanka: The Veddahs chronicles in detail the lives of the coastal Veddahs of the country. For years given very little recognition, the coastal Veddahs had integrated overtime with the mainstream communities in the East and were leading obscure lives with little recognition of their true identities. “The publication and the studies are thus very timely” says Professor Sarath W. Kotagama, former Director of Wildlife Conservation and presently the Professor of Environmental Science, Bird Ecology and Behaviour, Conservation Biology and Ecotourism at the University of Colombo in his Foreword to the publication.
Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando says in his introduction that this was an “attempt to ease the dislocation that many of these communities suffer as a result of the irrelevance of their skills in the 21st Century. In seeking to do so, we have made every effort to understand and respect the cultural, social and historic context of each of the communities that Dilmah Conservation has engaged with, in order to nurture the identity of each as we assist them in redefining their role in society”.
It is on this premise that Dilmah Conservation began its work with the coastal Veddah community, to preserve their unique identity and their ways of life. As a result, a wealth of information has been unearthed and documented for future reference regarding the coastal Veddahs. Subsequently Dilmah Conservation was also able to support the coastal Veddah community host the first ever Varigasabha or community meeting to be held in the Eastern Province in 2011.
Dilmah, the producer of Single Origin Pure Ceylon Tea has its outreach in nearly 100 countries across the globe. The Global Partner Conference is held to coincide with Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s birthday, and includes events across Sri Lanka where Dilmah is spread. This includes a number of plantations, where Dilmah’s tea is grown, the factories and surrounding areas and several locations across the country where the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation has its outreach. It was an event which celebrated the efforts of the Founder and Family to maintain the purity of Ceylon tea and was titled Goodness Tastes Great.
Dilmah Conservation was initiated in 2007 by the Dilmah Group to incorporate environmental conservation efforts into the MJF Charitable Foundation, which focuses on social justice. Dilmah Conservation works towards the sustainable use of the environment in partnership with other organisations including the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN. The pledge made by Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando to make business a matter of human service is deeply ingrained in the work carried out by Dilmah Conservation.