Worldaware Award for Sustainable Development
The Winner: Ceylon Tobacco Company
W.M.Kalubanda earns 3,000 rupees (£30) a month from hill slopes once given up as useless. He is one of 90 farmers at the hamlet of Dadayampola in Sri Lanka's high hills who have taken up SALT, sloping agricultural land technology, with the help of the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), a member of British American Tobacco.
Planters used to plant their tea and coffee bushes up and down slopes without terracing. Where tea-growing ceased, peasants moved in and sometimes grew tobacco. But the soil washed down the slopes and the land became too poor. With no income from tobacco, people became impoverished. Then Ceylon Tobacco took up SALT to help some of the farmers who had once supplied it with tobacco.
SALT was introduced to Sri Lanka from the Philippines by Ray Wijewardene, an aeronautical engineer and environmentalist. Earlier, the government, and Ceylon Tobacco, had tried terracing. This was expensive and it did not restore fertility to the soil.
Wijewardene had little luck with SALT until Ceylon Tobacco took it up.
As applied in Sri Lanka, SALT means planting fast-growing hedges of gliricidia, a Central American plant, across the slopes at five-metre intervals. This stops the soil from washing down hill. Gliricidia also fixes nitrogen. Farmers can cut off leaves and branches and use them to mulch and add fertility to the land between the hedges, which also provide fuel for cooking.
Leucaena, used in the Philippines, is easier to establish but unsuitable. Ceylon Tobacco had to devise ways of propagating gliricidia and distributing it to farmers who had no motorable roads. To persuade them to plant, it paid 3,250 rupees a hectare.
Three years after the gliricidia was established, there was a noticeable build-up of soil. Farmers began growing coffee, pepper, bananas and maize. The next stage is to introduce farm animals.
Success at Dadayampola, a barren area, was particularly convincing for the farming community. CTC has begun another demonstration with 21 families at Serupitiya. It has encouraged the use of SALT on 3,000 hectares in all.
CTC has worked closely with farmers' organisations and local communities and held training programmes to tell people about SALT. The technique is now spreading, thereby curbing the washing of silt from the hills into the Mahaweli hydroelectric scheme which produces over half of Sri Lanka's power. SALT has become an accepted part of Sri Lankan farming.
CTC, 70 years old in 1997, employs directly or indirectly 400,000 people. Apart from tobacco, it has interests in insurance and in the export of houseplants and foliage to Europe and Japan.
British American Tobacco, of which CTC is a member, operates in over 50 countries where small-scale farmers grow tobacco for it. Conservation of the environment is a key policy of the group.
Ceylon Tobacco Company, PO Box 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Fax: 00 94 15 41 255