Ariculture / Sri Lanka / Tea

Field Notes from Sri Lanka Part 3: Portraits of Farmers

Rainforest Alliance auditor, trainer, photographer and blogger Noah Jackson is back and sharing images from a recent trip to tea farms in Sri Lanka.

When I visit farms, it is the farmers – their stories and the way they care for their land – that resonate most for me. I’ve tried to capture this through a collection of images taken during a recent trip to Sri Lanka. This first grouping focuses on the people.

Diganta Kumar Kalita, a Rainforest Alliance consultant from India, leads a team to inspect practices on farms. The team is focusing on issues surrounding sustainable farm management. As part of a 12-day project, team members are inspecting smallholder farms in a tea-growing region of Sri Lanka.

A father and son look on as a team of young agricultural extension officers discuss what Rainforest Alliance certification means and the issues associated with agrochemical use. As the small holder farmers explalin, the factories who buy their tea are like part of the family. They take care of one another. So, if there are new requirements or trainings that farmers are required to attend, the factory employees need to participate.

This farmer attempts to pluck top quality leaves by taking the first two leaves and a bud, and three more leaves and a bud from each bush. This maximises both quality and productivity. The tea bushes will be ready to harvest again in seven days.

As part of an effort to practice internal farm audits, a team of young extension officers uses checklists and discusses some key areas for improvement on this farm.

etting a leg up. This father watches as his son climbs a glycidia tree in his tea garden. The nitrogen fixing glycidias help regulate moisture levels and microclimate for tea.

An enterprising young tea farmer stands in her tea field, which is shaded by timber, banana groves and coconuts.

At the end of a long day, this farmer takes stock of his half-acre garden. Glycidia trees and a forest border the image. Nearby, he keeps bees to provide some additional income and nourishment for his family.

Tea is a family affair in Sri Lanka. We met this woman during a long hike back from her family’s tea garden. As she explained, it is conventional wisdom that old women make some of the best tea pluckers. While she may have been joking, she is now plucking tea bushes she planted decades ago.

Gem mining is big business in the hilly region of Sri Lanka. On a good day, it’s possible to earn more than a years’ tea farming pay by mining. Some gem mining pits are adjacent to or even in the tea gardens. Gem mining brings up some complex issues -- including water and agrochemical use -- that the Rainforest Alliance and our partners will need to address.

One gem miner shows off a recent treasure.

Our team takes a break to sit around a farmer’s table in a traditional ritual of Sri Lankan hospitality. We eat local pastries made of coriander and jiggery. The latter treat is harvested from native trees and is a local delicacy.

This multi-generational smallholder tea farmer stands in the middle of his tea garden. Behind him, young coconut trees grow.

In a few days, Jackson will share images that illustrate land management practices on tea farms in Sri Lanka. Visit our Frog Blog again — or become a blog subscriber — to see these stunning shots.

One thought on “Field Notes from Sri Lanka Part 3: Portraits of Farmers

  1. Lovely pictures. I visited Sri Lanka in March – enjoyed seeing the tea plantaions and spice gardens. Also visited a gem mine like the one you pictured and got almost as muddy as the miners

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