Veddah Community Upliftment Programme

Veddah Community Upliftment

Dilmah Conservation endeavoured on a unique initiative to preserve and foster Sri Lanka’s indigenous community known as the ‘Veddah’. The Veddahs are said to have descended from the island’s first inhabitants, and their lives and livelihoods are deeply rooted in living in harmony with nature. They have specific methods of hunting, gathering and other traditions which are as unique as they are fascinating. These methods include their ways of setting traps for animals, various charms for wild animals including elephants, and methods of poison fishing herbs. The religion of the Veddahs is centered on a cult of ancestral spirits and various rituals and ceremonies. These include the famous ‘KiriKoraha’ ceremony which is performed for their ancestral spirits. Calling themselves “People of the Forest,” the Veddahs speak a distinct language which is of Indo-Aryan descent. The Veddah communities live in various parts of the country including in Bintanne, Rathugala, and Mahiyangana and in coastal areas as Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

As with many indigenous communities around the world, the Veddah community is made up of traditional hunter-gatherers, but deforestation and national development have greatly contributed to the shrinking of their traditional lands. This has caused a progressive decline in their number, and the community is at risk of losing its ancient traditions, which have been handed down from generation to generation.

Veddah Community Upliftment

In keeping with Dilmah’s commitment to supporting community upliftment and the environment, Dilmah Conservation has stepped forward to assist the indigenous Veddah community of Sri Lanka to maintain their cultural identity.

  • Objectives

    Dilmah Conservation’s Veddah Community Upliftment Programme is aimed at aiding the preservation of the indigenous Veddah community culture and identity, while facilitating opportunities for dignified means of livelihood.

    • Renovation of the Aboriginal Museum
    • Providing basic infrastructure facilities to build the “Thisahami Memorial Centre” at Ulhitiya
    • Fostering the identity of indigenous people of North and East Sri Lanka
    • Enhancing self-employment opportunities in selected and identified areas
    • Organizing a ceremony for Aboriginals in Vakarai  
    • Documenting Sadangu Programmes
    • Construction of the Pottery and Handloom Centre
  • Progress

    • The Veddah Handicraft and Pottery Centre was declared open in August 2013 and training on handloom has been provided with the support of the Industrial Development Board.
    • Support was given to the communities’ clan gathering, or Varigasabha, in 2011 and 2014, where members of the Veddah Community from across Sri Lanka gathered to discuss significant issues that they are facing.
    • Support was given to the Coastal Veddah Community in the Eastern Province through assistance extended for the community’s Sadangu festivities.
    • First ever survey of the Eastern Veddah Community towards identifying livelihood needs was carried out.
    • Butterfly host plant nurseries were set up to support the communities and further support was given to maintain other SEP projects.
    • University based research on the Aboriginal community is also being initiated by Dilmah conservation.
    • A publication titled Indigenous Communities in Sri Lanka: The Veddahs was released
    Veddah Community Upliftment
  • Partners

    • Centre for Indigenous Communities in Sri Lanka
    • 233rd Brigade of Sri Lanka Army