Community Development Forums on Sri Lankan tea estates

Plucking tea leaves in Sri Lanka Plucking tea leaves in Sri Lanka CARE / Lucas Veuve

Arguably Sri Lanka’s most important industry, the tea sector accounts for 19 per cent of the nation’s foreign earnings and provides direct employment to over 310,000 people, the majority of them women.     However, the largely Tamil workforce is among the poorest in the country, only having gained citizenship rights in 2003.  The poverty and isolation of the estate communities, as well as animosity between the largely Tamil workers and Sinhala managers, has meant that even basic forms of worker-managed dialogue are rarely practiced, to the detriment of both workers and the estates themselves.

CARE Sri Lanka’s Community Development Forums (CDFs) were designed to benefit both workers and plantations. CDFs are in effect ‘mini-parliaments’ with one CDF set up on each participating tea estate. The model opens up new channels of communication between stakeholders in the plantation sector, serving as a forum where collective decisions about community development priorities and workers’ labour conditions are negotiated and decided in a transparent way.   Management, tea pluckers, unions and community leaders are all represented.  CDFs also form subcommittees to identify needed changes within their communities and build linkages with local government authorities.

Workers on estates with CDFs have benefited from: improved working environment, improved access to key services such as health care and voter registration, increased ability to represent themselves democratically in and outside the workplace, and improved gender equality. Overall, an assessment showed that as a result of these changes for every dollar invested in CDFs, over 42 dollars of social value was produced.

  • Countries: Sri Lanka
  • Area: Plantation Sector
  • Start Date: January 1970
  • Donor: DfID, EC, ETP
  • :

See all
Delivering formal financial services to savings groups: A handbook for financial service providers
This handbook is a reference guide for financial service providers, for the effective design and ...
Briefing paper to the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group on Financial, Digital Inclusion and Property
Over the past year CARE has been advising the United Nations High Level Panel on Women’s Econom ...
Resilient markets: Strengthening women’s economic empowerment and market systems in fragile settings
Functioning market systems and a responsible and responsive private sector are critical to liveli ...
Women’s leadership in Cocoa Life communities
Emerging best practices of women’s leadership within cocoa farming in Ghana and Cô ...
Growing together: Strengthening micro-enterprises in value chains
A guide for companies to strengthen micro-enterprise market systems This guide i ...


Featured Private Sector Engagement Projects

  • Jita' Social Enterprise in Bangladesh

    Jita' Social Enterprise in Bangladesh

    Jita is a social enterprise which brings employment to women from among Bangladesh’s extreme rural poor through door to door sales of consumer goods. Its goal is to empower women who previously had never earned their own income, and open a channel for basic personal hygiene and nutritional food products to reach remote villages.

    Read more

  • Community Development Forums on Sri Lankan tea estates

    Community Development Forums on Sri Lankan tea estates

    CARE Sri Lanka’s Community Development Forums (CDFs) were designed to benefit both workers and plantations. CDFs are in effect ‘mini-parliaments’ with one CDF set up on each participating tea estate.

    Read more

  • Microfinance innovations in Zimbabwe

    Microfinance innovations in Zimbabwe

    This IMF project seeks to link mature groups, who have demonstrated financial literacy and successful development of income generating activities through their VSLA, to formal micro-finance institutions.

    Read more