Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Outstanding farmer from Sri Lanka honoured at the Asia-Pacific World Food Day celebration

Sri Lanka, 14 Oct 2002 -- Today, the FAO Regional Office in Bangkok has issued the 2002 Y.S. Rao Award to five outstanding farmers from the Asia-Pacific Region. The farmers received the award from the minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand, HE Sora-at Klinpratoom, during the 2002 World Food Day Celebration in Bangkok.

Below please find the citation used during the ceremony to highlight the achievements of the farmer from Sri Lanka.

K. M. Opananda, Sri Lanka, outstanding plantation farmer

The outstanding tea farmer from Sri Lanka, K. M. Opananda is 55 years old and has a plantation in Gonawalapathana village in Nawalapitiya town in the hills of central Sri Lanka. Married and with three sons, he is a chemical engineer by training who gave up an overseas job to return to his farming roots nearly two decades ago.

Unlike his father who was a paddy cultivator, Mr Opananda decided to work on a 6-hectare tea garden he bought in the mid-1980s. Over the years, he has converted three-fifths of his low-yield seed-based tea plantation into a more productive one, with a capacity of 100 000 vegetative propagated plants. As he says, the switch is “a challenge for the smallholder” since it involves a wait of about five years before the planter gets a return on his investment.

Mr Opananda is the recognized leader of small tea farmers in Sri Lanka. For four years in succession, he has been elected president of the Sri Lanka Federation of Tea Small Holdings Development Societies, which represents 150 000 small tea farmers and has worked to obtain better deals from the tea factories. In addition, he is director of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, the Tea Research Institute, the National Institute of Plantation Management, and the Tea Association of Sri Lanka. The Tea Shakthi Fund, of which he is the executive director, assists Sri Lanka’s small tea farmers and has set up 11 profitably managed tea factories.

RAP 02/32C

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