The Greening Batticaloa Project, pioneered by Dilmah Conservation in 2011, recently reached its third phase upon successfully meeting its annual target of planting 50,000 cashew plants.
This initiative which was implemented in partnership with the Sri Lanka Army, the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation and the Vakarai Divisional Secretariat is aimed at restoring ecosystems by improving the forest cover in the Batticaloa District and mitigating the detrimental impacts of deforestation practices, while economically empowering local communities.
Prior to its commencement, Dilmah Conservation also undertook a feasibility study with technical assistance from the Cashew Corporation and the Eastern University of Sri Lanka. Major losses to the greenery in the region caused by natural disasters has been identified as a key factor contributing to the excessive heat experienced in Batticaloa, which has further exacerbated the depletion in the local forest cover.
Aside from its ecological benefits, this project will provide a stable and sustainable income generating opportunity for beneficiaries by facilitating links to local sales and exports. The potential for profit in planting cash crops ensures that future efforts for planting will be sustained by the community while positively contributing towards the restoration of degraded land. It is anticipated that the cashew trees will form a protective green canopy that will adjust the ecosystem by restoring and normalizing carbon sequestration and absorption, as each mature cashew plant will sequester carbon equivalent to 50% of its woody biomass.
As in the previous years, Dilmah Conservation will be assisted by the Vakarai Divisional Secretariat in selecting suitable recipients. Additionally, quarterly evaluations will continue to be conducted by a consultant from the Cashew Corporation to offer the beneficiaries with the necessary information on nurturing a healthy plant through to maturity. These consultants travel throughout the district and provide their valued technical inputs where necessary.
The plant nurseries for phase three of the project have been established and distribution is scheduled to commence in early 2014. Following the success of the previous years and in line with its objectives, the project has been extended to Elephant Pass in the Jaffna Peninsula, where 25,000 plants will be distributed among selected communities.