A Taste of ‘Sweet’ Success
The people of the village of Pandaththeruppu in Sandilipay, Jaffna have been dependent on a single source of income which has been derived from toddy (toddy is the natural alcoholic sap of the Palmyrah tree) tapping for many years now and have been marginalized due to the negative factors associated with this profession such as the alcohol trade and the traditional view of those engaging in the sector being ‘low caste’. However the lives of these families especially the members of the Pandaththeruppu Palm Producers’ Co-operative Society (PPCS) have undergone a transformational change.
Before the intervention of UNDP the PPCS was mainly involved in the production of toddy, with smaller quantities of sweet toddy and jaggery. The low productivity of sweet toddy resulted in a poor demand for the product. “Before we started making all these products, we were only able to sell some of the toddy that we tapped, to a sales centre. Since we could not sell all of it, most of the toddy got wasted. In many cases the men would consume the toddy without throwing it out, get drunk and cause a lot of trouble and social unrest” says Mrs. Jesurasa Doritta.
- The NLDP was implemented over a two year period starting 1st July 2012 to 30th June 2014 with a focus on enhancing the self-sufficiency of communities in the Districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, thus contributing towards the post-war rebuilding of the local economy.
- In total, the Project reached approximately 2,058 direct beneficiaries and 19,810 indirect beneficiaries.
- 15 Producer Organizations were supported through the Project to increase production, processing, value-addition capacities and access to markets and services and this paved the way for the introduction of 19 new products and an increase in production of existing products. Also new self-employment opportunities as well as new jobs were created for 59 persons.
- An average monthly earning of Rs. 9,127 was recorded amongst those engaging in income generation for the first time.
With the PPCS expressing interest to increase value added products (and reduce the production of toddy) UNDP with the financial support from the Government of Canada, through the Revival of Agricultural Livelihood Project supported the Producer Organization to undergo training on business planning, management and supported the development of a business plan. The Project also provided the PPCS with a factory, production equipment and relevant training to commence the production of value added products in a hygienic manner.
While production commenced for various value added products (mostly jaggery) the PPCS was slow in reaching the targets they were aspiring for, due to low capacity. With the support from the Northern Development Project (NLDP) funded by the Government of Norway, the staff received further training on hygienic production methods. They were also provided with a palm fruit pulp extractor and solar dryer for production of other value added products like pinnatu. The number of value added products has now reached seven and includes pinnatu, sweet pinnatu, odiyal flour, pulukodiyal flour and boiled odiyal. Jaggery production has also increased by 152% creating a significant increase in the demand for sweet toddy.
Mrs. Jesurasa Doritta like other members of the PPCS says that “those days we used to do this same job and we got a low income, but now after the factory was opened and jaggery production is taking place there is no waste in the sweet toddy which has been collected, and the income for the family has also increased. Now we can sell as much as we tap.” She also noted that there are less alcohol related social issues, since the consumption of left over sweet toddy is more or less non-existent. A survey conducted on the income increase of the PPCS members also reflect a 96% increase in average monthly income, with each tapper earning close to Rs. 41,000 a month.
While production levels started picking up and the demand for sweet toddy increased, the toddy tappers, a majority of who live 7 kilo meters away from the factory, faced difficulties in transporting larger quantities of sweet toddy to the factory in a timely manner. Through the NLDP Project, a collection centre closer to the tappers, as well as a vehicle for transportation was provided. Over 80% of the sweet toddy used in production is collected at this centre.
The introduction of various value-added products has proved to be a great success in the case of the PPCS. Not only have members for the society been able to move away from the negative associations with the toddy trapping trade but have also been able to see a significant increase in disposable income and make many positive changes in their lifestyles. In addition they are also able to invest in the savings plans, retirement plans and education funds available to them through the PPCS ensuring financial security for the future as well.