The Financial Express, 13th March 03

New Delhi, March 12: The possible areas of intervention for the betterment of tea estate workers include effective land and natural resource management, housing, skill development, micro-financing, social mobilisation and networking with mainstream organisations, says a study conducted in Sri Lanka.

Anura Herath of the economics research unit in Sri Lanka’s department of export agriculture presented the study at the session, “Livelihood Security: What Are the Issues,” of the CUTS Partnership Conclave, “Governance and Its Relationship with Poverty Reduction.” Wage labour fluctuated because of fluctuation in tea yields, and prices and real wages were anti-poor, he said, adding that housing policy was inappropriate and resource ownership was insecure.

Progress has also been low in direction of giving workers ownership of shares. In any case, profits are uncertain, one reason for which is that government holds golden shares in tea estates, which results into unnecessary official intervention in commercial activities, Dr Herath said. Tea is an important sector of the Sri Lankan economy. The sector employs more than one-tenth of labour force. The study was intended to provide in-depth understanding of poverty in tea estates and suggest directions of intervention.

David Kuria of Intermediate Technology Development Group, Kenya, pointed out in his paper that policy framework was essential for housing of the poor. The housing policy should enable the use of inexpensive materials and appropriate technologies.