Batticaloa, situated in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, has seen a dramatic reduction in its forest cover over the last century. The devastating aftermath of the cyclone in 1978 and the Asian Tsunami in 2004 coupled with unsustainable deforestation practices resulted in considerable damage to the district’s socio-economic fabric, ecosystems and greenery. This has been identified as a key factor contributing to the excessive heat experienced locally, also exacerbating the further depletion of the forest cover. It has also been regularly subjected to extreme weather including droughts and floods, and the local economy which is dependent on agriculture and fishing has floundered as a consequence. Acknowledging this, Dilmah Conservation undertook the planting of 50,000 cashew plants annually to improve Batticaloa’s green cover and to help mitigate the detrimental impacts of deforestation practices, while economically empowering the local communities.
The main objective of the project is to improve the forest cover in the Batticaloa district and restore the environment to a sustainable ecosystem by reaching the eventual target of 1,000,000 trees by 2020. This will improve the climatic conditions in terms of reducing the soaring temperatures experienced throughout the year.
- Planting a cash crop such as cashew will provide an additional means of livelihood to the growers, generating a sizable income from both local consumption and export
- Establishing a supportive initiative towards training local communities in processing raw cashew towards making the most of the harvest and adding value to both cashew nuts and typically discarded parts such as the cashew apple
- To encourage land owners to plant other cash crops in addition to cashew plants such as manioc and green bean, which allows them to diversify their income generation in the period between the cashew planting and harvesting
- Monitoring of plots from the previous year to assess threats, challenges and the success rate of the project
- To help facilitate carbon sequestration (removal and long-term storage of CO2 from the atmosphere) and reduce Dilmah’s carbon emissions and overall carbon footprint of the Dilmah Headquarters in Peliyagoda, Sri Lanka
- 500,000 cashew plants have been distributed and successfully planted within the Batticaloa District as of January 2017, marking the halfway point of this project
- Following the success of the previous years, the project was also extended to Elephant Pass in the Jaffna Peninsula, where plants were distributed among selected communities
- Establishment of a Cashew Processing Centre, which consists of a cashew drying oven, cashew nut roasting machine and a cashew peeling machine
- Establishment of a regional agriculture network linked to an online marketplace allowing for wider, equitable access
- Helped Dilmah Headquarters in Peliyagoda, Sri Lanka achieve carbon neutrality through carbon sequestration. The carbon sequestration potential of a cashew plant over 10 years with a rotation of 60 years of an average quality site with optimal climatic conditions is 37.4tC/ha. 37.4 tonnes of carbon is equivalent to 136.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide, thus through this programme 136.9 tonnes of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere by each cashew plant over a period of 10 years
- Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation (Technical support)
- Sri Lanka Army (Maintaining nurseries and organizing distribution)