‘Stronger Together’ – a first of its kind initiative aimed at building collaboration among the Ceylon Plantation Community towards a more sustainable tea industry, was launched on March 17 at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The project was introduced with a ceremonial auction and the launch of ‘Wisdom in the Leaf’ publication authored by tea industry veterans and eminent scientists, of which the MJF Charitable Foundation doubled all proceeds, amounting to Rs. 6.9 million, for the benefit of the plantation community.

Wisdom in the Leaf is an evolution of ‘The History of Ceylon Tea’ project which began in August 2003 as part of Merrill J. Fernando’s commitment to making ‘business a matter of human service’. This service to the industry preserves its knowledge, enhances the appreciation of fine Ceylon tea and offers wisdom and context to future generations of tea planters. It has evolved into what is today the world’s largest free and online information resource on Ceylon tea. The book is a tribute to the generations of men and women who have made Ceylon tea possible; it pays homage to labourers, tea pickers, factory workers, field & factory officers, estate managers, scientists, visit agents, brokers and tea drinkers.

Present at the event were the authors and contributors of the publication, from tea industry veterans to eminent scientists, and members from The Tea Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and Tea Companies. The publication was intended to coincide with Merrill J. Fernando’s commemoration of 70 years in tea last year, however, due to the pandemic, the formal launch was delayed to his 71st year, which on his suggestion, has now grown into a tribute to Ceylon Tea. Going beyond this tribute, the MJF Charitable Foundation has put forward a call to action through the ‘Stronger Together’ initiative.

Addressing the essence of wisdom contained in this book and how the ‘Stronger Together’ project will benefit the wider plantation community, Tea Grower and Dilmah CEO – Dilhan C. Fernando said,

“You cannot look into the future without understanding the past. As we look to the future as an industry, this is the MJF Foundation’s open invitation for collaboration towards a sustainable tea industry, because we have a shared future … The ‘Stronger Together’ project will enhance the industry and country’s capability connected with health and nutrition, livelihoods, education and climate change adaptation amongst others … the intention is to strengthen collaboration, to understand the changing socio-economic and environmental dynamics of our plantations and work together, so that we can confront the challenges of the future and build a sustainable industry.” Supporting these sentiments, Anselm Perera – Founder and Managing Director of MLESNA spoke on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tea Exporters, expressing that, “If we don’t go forward as one industry, we don’t have the strength … we should support each other … we should bring forward demands that are common to the trade.” On behalf of the Plantation Fraternity, Dr. Rohan Fernando – Executive Director of Plantations & Business Development, Aitken Spence Group shared the following words,

“My humble appeal to you – The [Tea] Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and the [Tea] Companies here – all associated, not only with the tea industry, but the entire plantation industry… There is a lot that all of us can do together. We can take the Ceylon tea industry to the next level and grow together to ensure that the next 150 years of tea in this country will be right up there – second to none in the world. I think we all owe it to the industry.” The MJF Foundation was established by Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando in fulfilment of his pledge to make making business a matter of human service, it’s activity is evident today in the work done to offer dignified empowerment to less privileged children, youth, women and men, with a specific emphasis on vulnerable communities including children with disabilities – approximately Rs. 300 million is annually dedicated to support these communities. The ‘Stronger Together’ initiative is designed to amplify the current efforts across plantations to build a united and sustainable industry.

This article was taken from The Island

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