Program to build capacity of 6,000 rubber smallholders | Sunday Observer

Program to build capacity of 6,000 rubber smallholders

19 March, 2023

The Rubber Improvement of Value Chain and Embedded Smallholders Resilience (RIVER) project, supporting capacity-building for 6,000 natural rubber smallholders in the Moneragala and Ampara districts was launched in partnership with the Ministry of Plantation Industries, the Government of France, the Michelin Group and Michelin Lanka (formerly Camso Loadstar) recently.

This three-year project is a public-private partnership co-financed by the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, through a grant of 565,000 euros dedicated to green innovations.

Michelin Group will co-finance the project and the implementation of operational activities will be carried out by its local subsidiary Michelin Lanka. The project will be designed and implemented by the French mission-driven, private liability company Ksapa, with guidance from the Ministry of Plantation Industries.

The project aims to assist 6,000 natural rubber smallholders in improving their livelihoods through training, in the cultivation of rubber and other diversified crops, clone selection, rubber tapping, fertilising, chemical use, and by building soft skills such as entrepreneurship, human resource management, leadership, and promoting responsible labour practices. Following Michelin Group’s sustainable approach and the grant requirements, the project will also focus on social responsibility and environmentally friendly practices and is expected to benefit approximately 30,000 people in Sri Lanka.

A mobile application called SUTTI developed by Ksapa will be introduced, which will share agricultural knowledge, help to measure production, analyse income performance and the impact of the project itself.

The RIVER project is an avenue to develop the technical and management skills of 6,000 rubber smallholders in the non-traditional rubber growing areas, with a special focus in the Moneragala district.

This project will also help to improve the social status of rubber smallholders and contribute to the development of the natural rubber industry in Sri Lanka. The project›s implementation will be facilitated by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and its aligned institutions, mainly the Rubber Development Department and the Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Michelin Group and Ksapa in France.

“The RIVER project is also in line with the ‘Sri Lanka Rubber Industry Master Plan’ implemented by the Ministry of Plantation Industries, which has a vision to develop the rubber industry in Sri Lanka. I express my sincere gratitude to the Government of France, Michelin Group, Ksapa and other coalition partners for assisting to uplift the rubber sector in Sri Lanka,» said Minister of Plantation Industries, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana.

Managing Director, Ksapa, Raphaël Hara said, “Social impact is part of our core DNA and working for the benefit of the 6.000 rubber smallholder participants while strengthening the rubber supply chain in Sri Lanka using our SUTTI solution is a promising opportunity to fulfil it.

“Access to professional education and digitalisation are key to supporting farmers’ livelihoods, increasing and diversifying revenues and fostering social and environmental action. Ksapa has gathered a leading multi-stakeholder coalition combining public authorities, industrial corporates, academics, and experts in agronomy, IT and impact measurement that will co-design the project,» he said.

Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka, Jean-François Pactet said, “I am delighted to see French grant instruments being mobilised to support the Sri Lankan rubber sector in its transition to a sustainable model ensuring better incomes for smallholders and environmentally friendly cultivation practices.

“The RIVER project is a testament to France’s willingness to assist Sri Lanka to develop its economic potential beyond the current crisis, for the benefit of both its population and its environment,” he said.

CEO of Michelin Lanka, Koenraad Pringiers said, “Michelin is conducting this project as part of Michelin Group’s commitment to transform the country’s natural rubber supply chain towards sustainability.

“Smallholders make up a majority of the natural rubber supply chain, and it is essential that they are able to secure decent livelihoods while farming rubber in an environmentally and socially responsible way.  It is also part of the Group’s approach to its duty of care, where risks throughout its supply chains are assessed and mitigated,” he said. Besides supporting the 6,000 farmers, the project is expected to benefit the families of smallholders through improved income and advancing skills within the household. At large, the project aims to increase the resiliency of natural rubber farmers and to set the standard for the natural rubber industry in the country.