Livelihoods and Land

Empowering tea communities

Many workers in tea estate communities still experience poor living conditions and lack communication channels to address grievances with their employers and hold businesses accountable.

Since 2017, we have been working in partnership with CARE International to establish Community Development Forums (CDFs) on tea estates. CDFs are like mini parliaments. They provide a space for sharing and debates, opening up dialogue between workers, management and the wider community, and enabling collective decisions to be made about community development (such as health or education) and labour conditions. Everything is negotiated and decided in a transparent way. Management, tea pluckers and workers, unions, and community are all represented. Importantly, women are given an equal role.

By establishing CDFs, we are putting the community at the heart of the solution, creating a sustainable workforce and empowering workers — especially women and young people.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) highlight the importance of enabling access to a grievance mechanism for workers, and of remediating issues when they occur. The Community Development Forums help make this a reality on tea estates in Sri Lanka.

 The establishment of a Community Development Forum in Uva Province, Sri Lanka has helped tea estate workers get toilets built, reduce alcohol abuse and violence in their community, and secure micro loans for young people to develop new businesses.

What we have acheived

  • Established Community Development Forums on 10 tea estates in Sri Lanka.
  • Community Development Forums have empowered more than 39,000 people by providing them with the tools, guidance, and knowledge to secure more attractive and fairer working conditions or gain access to extra sources of income.

Shiromani’s story

"I have been engaged with the CDF for almost three years now. I personally believe CDF is the best thing that has ever been introduced to our estate. Before the CDF it was me who single-handedly attended to all kind of welfare issues in the estate. But now I am supported by a team of good divisional leaders who bring up issues to the CDF where solutions are sought amicably through collective decisions there itself. CDF has made my job easier and more effective. CDF in Nayabedda bridged the gap between the estate management and the community."

K.P.B. Shiromani,
Welfare Officer, Sri Lanka